During last year’s Skepticism Month, we introduced you to Seth Breedlove, the founder of the independent film production company Small Town Monsters (STM), who was in the midst of fundraising for the production of three films that promised to take an objective journey through cryptid legends like Bigfoot and Momo, the Missouri Monster. With much success on that campaign, here we find the STM team, one year later, looking to produce three more “legend”-ary documentaries.
All bad puns aside, this year’s Kickstarter started off with a bang, and was funded in just three days! The new productions, The Mark of the Bell Witch, The Mothman Legacy, and On the Trail of UFOs, seem like a bit of a different take than some of STM’s previous work, so we caught up with Breedlove via email to find out a bit more.
AIPT: Your 2020 Kickstarter is off and running! You guys got completely funded in just three days! That’s amazing and must be quite humbling. How do you feel about that? Were you surprised?
Breedlove: This year was our biggest goal by a long shot ($20,000 more than last year), so for us, there was a real thought in our minds that we might have gone too far above what our audience can support … I think it was just a huge relief to all of us when we managed to hit that first goal, and it gave us plenty of time to move on to the new stretch goal. I don’t think we were surprised because the audience is so dang supportive, but it was definitely a thrill.
AIPT: Let’s talk about the core of Kickstarter 2020. You were working to fund the production of three movies: The Mark of the Bell Witch, The Mothman Legacy (a sequel), and On the Trail of UFOs. We have so many questions!
I’ll start with the very famous 200-year-old haunting of the Bell Witch. It’s Skepticism Month here at AIPT, and out of all the stories you’ve done past and present, the story of the Bell Witch is one that seems fairly implausible; it’s highly questionable at the very least. It’s had quite a bit of press, including books, TV shows, and even film. What made this story important for you take on, and was there really more that needed to be said about it? Did the former press help or hinder your ability to form relationships with the local community?
Breedlove: I guess you could look at any STM story and ask the same question or make the same statements regarding the implausibility factor. What sets Bell Witch apart from some of our others is the historical component, in that this story is over 150 years in the past.
What surprised me in looking into this one is that there doesn’t seem to be just a straight-ahead retelling of the initial events that formed the basis for the Bell Witch legend. That is our goal going into this, to make the definitive retelling of those events.
We’re still pretty much unknown to most of the world so we didn’t have much trouble forming some relationships around Adams [Tennessee, the setting of the story], and we’ve been really excited to find that they’re very welcoming of us. We haven’t done as much preliminary work with talking to locals as I’d like, but we have a couple of months to go before production kicks off, so I’m sure that’ll happen in the interim.
AIPT: Interestingly, The Mothman Legacy is actually a sequel to your 2017 Kickstarter-funded film, The Mothman of Point Pleasant. Why make a sequel? Have there been more sightings or is there new information that’s become available?
Breedlove: This is a sequel to The Mothman of Point Pleasant in that it’s about winged creatures seen around Appalachia, but I think it’s also very much a sequel to Terror in the Skies, stylistically. We’re picking up after the collapse of the Silver Bridge and bringing the story up to the present day. There have been a surprising amount of eyewitnesses coming forward and wanting to speak with us about their sightings so, at present, I’d almost be willing to say this will end up as being one of our most witness-reliant films thus far.
AIPT: In our last chat you teased the UFO documentary when you mentioned that some of the cryptid stories have elements that can be more strange than the story you’re working on. That brings us to On the Trail of UFOs. It’s kind of a new path for you. How did you come to the conclusion that you wanted, or needed, to present UFO stories? Is there a different approach in how you go about holding interviews and locating documents when making a UFO film than one about cryptids?
Breedlove: I like the subject of UFOs and the cultural outlook on the subject has changed really drastically, so I thought it was the perfect time to focus on the phenomenon. We’ve already worked on UFO-related projects before with The Flatwoods Monster, Invasion on Chestnut Ridge, and even more recently with MOMO, but to really dive headfirst into the subject was a blast.
Research-wise, I approached this one like I did Bigfoot, and this time I had help from Shannon LeGro, who is also featured in and narrates the series. We selected interview subjects based on knowledge or experience rather than name-recognition or perceived fame, and I think that’s just the best way to go about tackling a project like this. You end up with a lot of new information that doesn’t simply echo everything you see on the garbage fire that is network TV.
AIPT: There was a lot of UFO action in 2019, from protests and music festivals with “Storm Area 51,” to shows like Project Blue Book. Even the Navy suggested that [former blink-182 frontman] Tom DeLonge’s UFO videos were real, calling them “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAPs). Are we all truly living in Tom DeLonge’s world? What is your take on current ufology?
Breedlove: The first episode of our series throws viewers right into the midst of all of this. It’s basically a catch-up episode for people who might be coming into ufology so they can see how things stand today, and how it’s changed from days past. It definitely seems like DeLonge is spearheading some really incredible advances; we just aren’t sure what the end game is.
My concern was based around the negativity that is just a constant within the UFO community today than any of the current stuff taking place. The infighting on social media is something that gets talked about quite a bit during episode 1.
AIPT: Let’s get to the goodies! There are 15 pledge levels and excellent rewards at every tier. Rewards are a bit different this time in comparison to what you’ve done in the past. You’re offering up STM coffee table books, VIP seating at your Mysteries and Monsters convention in Canton, Ohio, and even spots on the Small Town Monsters Creative Board. Can you give us a little info about what backers can expect from these unique opportunities?
Breedlove: Well, the book is BONKERS. Mark put together a very comprehensive look at every project we’ve tackled (along with his remembrances of a few important events), and that is being complemented with behind the scenes photos and artwork. There’s a really great five-year anniversary t-shirt that Sam Shearon created for us, as well. We’ve got a beautiful Bell Witch statue as part of the campaign, which was sculpted by Jean St Jean. Then there’s all the usual assortment of posters and DVDs, but this year we’ve added Blu-ray. Mostly because On the Trail of UFOs is gorgeous, and is worth seeing in the highest resolution possible.
We’ve also added a creative board level where backers can be a part of helping to determine what we’ll be doing next, and they can offer feedback on later-stage rough cuts of in-production work, as well.
On the Trail of UFOs will debut at an event we’re putting together in Canton, Ohio, at the Canton Palace Theatre called Mysteries & Monsters. It’s an all-day event with speakers (Lyle Blackburn and Shannon LeGro), showings of two of our movies, and it will all be capped off with the premiere of On the Trail of UFOs.
AIPT: You’ve already hit funding and begun with stretch goals. It’s been revealed that the first stretch goal is to produce another brand new film, The Lake Michigan Mothman. What could backers expect to see in this film if the goal is reached, and when? If successfully funded, can you drop any hints about what else you may have planned?
Breedlove: Well, this is similar in style to some of the latter episodes of On the Trail of Bigfoot. It’s an investigative look into the Lake Michigan Mothman sightings as we follow two of the people who have been involved in looking into these events since the beginning, Tobias and Emily Wayland. I think it will be the first time we’ve done a doc that is this in-the-field. I’m not even sure we’re going to attempt the traditional sit-down interview format that we’ve always done on this one. It’s something else entirely.
There’s still plenty of time to support the new Small Town Monsters Kickstarter and grab up all sorts of goodies! Head over to their Facebook and Instagram accounts for some awesome perks, peeks, and prizes. Additionally, with the stretch goal at 91%, it’s even possible all backers will get a fourth film, On the Trail of the Lake Michigan Mothman.
Every February, to help celebrate Darwin Day, the Science section of AIPT cranks up the critical thinking for SKEPTICISM MONTH! Skepticism is an approach to evaluating claims that emphasizes evidence and applies the tools of science. All month we’ll be highlighting skepticism in pop culture and skepticism of pop culture.