Two Years Down: Looking back on Minerva Monster

It has been two years since the official release of Minerva Monster. The little-short-that-could debuted at a Bigfoot conference in Ohio to much fanfare in Mid-May 2015, and would have its’ “world premiere” (a status I bristle at) in Minerva in early June. Behind the scenes, the making of the film was a light-hearted, easy-going deal.

The crew, made up of my friend, Nathan Newcomer, Brandon Dalo, two acquaintances that ran a startup production company called Twisted Tree, and myself had spent the summer, and Autumn filming the movie. Of course, I’d been neck-deep in the Minerva case since 2013 when I’d first started investigating it for myself. I’d become familiar with many of the original witnesses and people connected to the case like Barbara Galloway prior to ever shooting one second of our eventual documentary.

Going into the making of Minerva Monster I had a clear idea of what the story would be like and which aspects we would focus on, and I had this sort of vague idea that I wanted the movie to “feel” like something you’d have seen on an old episode of In Search Of. But I knew jack-all about the actual logistics of filmmaking; none of us did, a fact which is apparent when you watch the movie. So here we were filming interviews and b-roll near Minerva, Ohio in the late summer of 2015.

The turning point for us came when Howe Cayton agreed to speak with us about his recollections of what had happened to his family in the summer of 1978. Suddenly, what had originally been conceived of as a 20 minute YouTube short film became a much meatier project. Though we still couldn’t foresee where this would all lead, we did begin to think maybe this little movie could go further than we’d initially thought.

In the early half of 2015 I began contacting local media in hopes of garnering some attention for Minerva Monster. The goal was to gain enough notoriety that when we launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund post-production we’d have no trouble reaching our goal. Turned out, the press loves Bigfoot. Over the whole of 2015 we were featured in over 70 separate newspaper articles, one of which ended up hitting the AP Wire and running in papers across the country. The Animal Planet blog featured a story on us, local tv stations were discussing the film during the evening news and radio stations in Stark County began taking phone calls from people claiming to have seen the monster for themselves.

The truth is, everyone involved in the making of the movie was convinced we would have some sort of network television deal by the time the movie came out in May. We were taking phone calls and emails from production houses and word on the wind was that Destination America had an interest in us. Of course, here we are, two years later and aside from a brief run that Beast of Whitehall enjoyed on a small network in NY State, none of our films have been embraced by a television audience. Some of that is due to my decision not to give up control of Small Town Monsters and some is due to not getting the right offer.

Minerva Monster’s premiere at the conference was attended by close to 500 people, a feat which none of us could even comprehend. Less than two weeks later we would be even more astonished when over 1200 crowded into downtown Minerva for the public premiere of the film at the Roxy Theatre. We took ticket requests through our Gmail account, which quickly led to a near shutdown of our account as hundreds (yes, literally) of ticket requests flooded in.

What happened after the film’s official release is something of a mystery. The team fell apart due to creative control, sides were taken, and the team split. Thankfully, a plan was in place and Small Town Monsters lives on. Looking back, the making of the movie was everything you could want from a film production. We had fun, we learned a lot about the story and about filmmaking, and we grew as people. For that, I’ll always be grateful.

But, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t plan on revisiting/remaking this movie at some point.