The life of an independent filmmaker is not easy.
After first raising thousands of dollars to make your film, you then have to get it seen, usually by entering competitions to get it screened at film festivals. With luck, someone from one of the large distribution companies will see it at a festival and buy the rights to book it into theaters. If not, you'll have to raise more money to produce and distribute the movie on DVD.
It takes a certain type of stubbornness and faith to carry a filmmaker through that process. Chris Munch has those qualities.
Munch's film "Letters From the Big Man," filmed in the Rogue River-Siskiyou and Klamath national forests, was released on DVD in June.
The film, which delves into the world of Sasquatch, was shown at more than a dozen film festivals, including Sundance Film Festival and Ashland Independent Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Cinematography in 2011.
Yet despite good reviews from critics ranging from Roger Ebert to New York Times writer Manohla Dargis, no one bought the rights to his quirky tale.
Munch financed the DVD release through the website Kickstarter.com, where artists present their projects for financing by the public. Thanks to people who had seen it at festivals or heard about it and wanted to see it, Munch found 251 backers who pledged $9,660, which enabled him to make DVDs of the film.
The movie stars Lily Rabe, daughter of the late actress Jill Clayburgh, as Sarah, a young park-service employee doing a survey of backwoods areas. Having just ended a relationship, she also is doing some personal soul-searching. During a hike through the wilderness, she encounters a young environmentalist, played by Jason Butler Harner, an older logger and the creature commonly known as Bigfoot.
None of the characters fit common stereotypical assumptions, and neither does Munch's film. Some have called the film a modern fairy tale, dealing with the Sasquatch legend neither as a horror story nor for comic relief as many past films have. One thing the viewer takes away is a realization that maybe the truth is out there.
"I became interested in the Biscuit fire salvage," Munch says during a recent visit to Southern Oregon. "Spending time in the area inspired me to go further into what was happening.
"Situating this story in this region provided a powerful anchor," Munch explains. "Questions surrounding the future of the timber industry and land use in this region are very complicated — and there are heroes on both sides. I was never interested in making polarized, black-and-white characters because that's not the way real life is."
Munch says he wants people to understand that there have been Sasquatch sightings for hundreds of years for a reason.
"(To have) some understanding of the reality of Sasquatch, as opposed to the myth that has been perpetuated by movies and popular culture in the past ... an understanding they are people (with consciousness) and not some kind of ape or relict hominid," he says.
Part of the charm of the film is that, despite a subject many reject as fantasy, the film feels real. The Sasquatch costume is a wonder, while the acting and photography are enhanced by a haunting musical score by Ensemble Galilei. The production values reflect Munch's 30 years of making films.
For those interested in Sasquatch, or for those who just love the beauty of Southern Oregon's wilderness, "Letters From the Big Man" offers a unique film experience. Copies of the DVD can be ordered from www.lettersfromthebigman.com.
A. Paradiso is a freelance writer living in the Applegate. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.