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'The True Believer' is 'not about Bigfoot'

JACKSONVILLE — A civic forum to halt logging and preserve habitat for Sasquatch was held Monday at Old City Hall, but the session was a scene for an independent movie.

Filmmaker Nathaniel Bennett of Medford is creating "The True Believer," a 30-minute film about two brothers from Mississippi who come to Oregon to look for Bigfoot.

"It is not about Bigfoot," Bennett said. "It's about relationships and family relationships and how things change when you go through an event together.

"They are going on a try to find Bigfoot, but it doesn't necessarily turn out like that."

Bennett, who is the author and director, compared the adventure in the story to a family trip or a road trip with friends. Primary focus of the film is on the two brothers in the cast of four.

"They are all stuck on an RV looking for Sasquatch," said actor Alex Warren of Jackson, Miss., who will portray one of the brothers. "They are being unfortunately close to each other in the span of a few days. It's kind of like forced relationship time." Warren and Thomas Shelton, formerly of Medford, will adopt Southern accents in their brother roles.

"I'm not really a redneck (in the movie)," said Warren. "My character is fairly intelligent and he's pretty ambitious. His (Bennet's) script is absolutely hilarious, but I'll also add a little bit of flavor."

Warren, 23, will return to the screen after a six-year break. He previously appeared in films produced by his father's film-production company, which is his current employer. Last week, he was in Chicago shooting a commercial.

Shelton, who now lives in Los Angeles, appeared in Bennett's first film, "Wake Up, You're Sleeping." That film was shown at the Ashland Independent Film Festival last year and also at the Sacramento International Film Festival.

Bennett will enter the new film in the Ashland and Sacramento film competitions, and also plans to enter it in other festivals around the country.

"I was interested in photography and music and film seemed like a good way to put things together. I'm not pursing it as a career. It's something I enjoy doing," he said.

Bennett, 26, was born in Ashland, grew up in the Applegate, and attended grade school in Jacksonville. He graduated from South Medford High School and is pursuing a bachelor's degree in business at Southern Oregon University. He works at a group home for developmentally disabled adults.

"My wife and I saved up for a year," said Bennett. "We are funding it ourselves." Work will be done by a small crew including Bennett, a cinematographer and a sound engineer. He advertised on Craigslist to get people for the crowd he needs at the civic forum.

Other locations will include a large ranch near Gold Hill, sites up Wagner Creek near Talent, Rogue River, Cave Junction, a donut shop on Biddle Road and the Bigfoot trap near Applegate Lake.

Shooting started Monday and will finish Sunday.

Bennett selected Jacksonville's Old City Hall because he liked the aesthetics inside, and the old pictures on the walls. The City Council approved the use of the building, and charged a $250 fee.

"If they are going to protect the spotted owl and salmon they should protect the truly endangered species, such as Sasquatch," said Bennett, summarizing speeches the brothers will give to the public.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland.