“When it comes to found footage horror films, I always wonder: who is this person who edited this film? If you think about it, that would be the creepiest person ever!” Bobcat Goldthwait said as he presented the Canadian premiere of his latest directorial project

As part of Fantasia, I had the pleasure of interviewing the legendary Bobcat Goldthwait about his newest film, one of the most anticipated in this year’s line up. Willow Creek, although it had to overcome the public’s blasé attitude towards the overly done found footage genre, did not disappoint in the least.

In the film, Jim, a handsome goof, and Kelly, an aspiring actress, are going on a road trip that will bring them deeper and deeper into the heart of the mountains. But this isn’t any old camping trip – they are on a search for the ever elusive Bigfoot.

Jim is a Bigfoot enthusiast and has set out to document their search for the mountain cryptid as they meet friendly and not so friendly locals. Kelly is not a believer but entertains the idea to spend quality time with her beau. Quality time that quickly turns into something unexpected.

I walked in to the interview, the fifth one Bobcat gave that morning, and offered: “I hope this isn’t going to be overly redundant for you.” To which he answered laughingly, “So long as we don’t talk about Police Academy you are in the clear.” For those who can’t place the name to the face, Bobcat played Zed in the Police Academy movies back in the 80s. He is known for his stand up comedy, dark humor and films such as Sleeping Dog’s Lie, World’s Greatest Dad (one of my favorites) and God Bless America.

“I really had a lot of fun making this movie, there weren’t really many obstacles. It was pretty easy because it was getting together with my friends and going off into the woods and making a movie,” Bobcat explained, “The obstacles for me, were the obstacles that most viewers have with found footage movies. I was trying to figure out why they keep the camera going and how we were going to do a fresh take on this. My concern was making these people really realistic and hopefully have people engage with them.” Bobcat was definitely successful.

Willow Creek boasts a 19 minute take that had me covering my eyes, squirming in my seat and jumping a foot in the air when the person in front of me let out a shrill shriek. During our interview, Bobcat admitted to also jumping at certain scenes during the screening, despite knowing the mechanics behind them – which included Bobcat hurling boulders at the unsuspecting actors.

Willow Creek is a found footage, faux documentary which includes segments that are unscripted chats with actual locals. The film is both light-hearted and funny as well as terrifying. A hard balance to strike.

The leads, Alexie Gilmore (Kelly) and Bryce Johnson (Jim), who is an actual Bigfoot enthusiast, deliver strong performances. They were also directly involved in shooting the film itself, with Bobcat often lying down in the trunk of the car giving them feedback on scenes as they tried to keep on the windy mountain roads.


Why a Bigfoot movie then? During the Q&A, Bobcat addressed the question of whether or not he believes in Bigfoot. His answer was that he was open to the possibility.

However, Bobcat is a fan of the lore and now a collector of Bigfoot memorabilia. The inspiration for Willow Creek came from Bobcat’s childhood interest in Bigfoot lore, watching films like Boggy Creek, and his trips visiting various areas with reported sightings, also known as Bigfoot country.

“I showed the film to what I call believers,” Bobcat recounted, “and one guy said ‘this is the best Bigfoot movie ever’ and another guy said, ‘after the Patterson-Gimlin film’ and they all nodded in unison.” In fact, the reception has been so positive that Bobcat has been invited to take part in the next Willow Creek parade where he shall be waving from a float next to a Bigfoot mascot.

Bobcat Goldthwait (left) and Fantasia festival co-director Mitch Davis (Right)

I couldn’t help myself but ask Bobcat a question about his polarizing film God Bless America, a very dark film which tends to be a movie that people either love or hate.

“I think the folks that don’t like it confuse the message of the movie,” he explained, “I like to say it’s a violent movie about kindness. When those characters start rattling off the things they don’t like, I agree with about eighty percent of the things but there are things they don’t like that I actually like. There’s a bonding that happens when people don’t like the same things. So, I wasn’t going to have that couple have sex, but they were going to be very close. I always say that the key to a successful marriage or relationship isn’t liking the same things but hating the same things. That’s why that stuff is in there.”

“Some people get bent out of shape about those things,” Bobcat continued, “but, I really think those kinds of people operate on a very shallow level. They take everything at face value and aren’t interested in the subtext of what’s going on. It’s like ‘How can you say you don’t like Green Day, fuck you I love Green Day’, you know, the kind of dummy who would fight with you at a bar over sports. I actually like Green Day, I just didn’t think that kid would like Green Day.” [I don’t like Green Day’s music, for the record].

For those World’s Greatest Dad fans, like myself, Bobcat mentioned working on a similar kind of script, telling a similar story from a different perspective.

As a filmmaker, Bobcat looks to directors like Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder for inspiration.

“They did all different kinds of movies sometimes they were comedic sometimes they were scary. They weren’t stuck with making the same type of movie over and over again,” Bobcat said.

Certainly Bobcat’s career hasn’t been a one trick pony either. In fact, his next project is a musical based on a Kinks album which he was proposing at Fantasia’s Frontiers market. I am super stoked.

* Photo credit Isabelle Stephen


The Dirties came very highly recommended by filmmaker friends who’d seen the small indie film at the Slamdance Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize, Best Narrative Feature, and the Spirit of Slamdance Award. I’d originally hesitated to see The Dirties, the synopsis of which describes a school shooting by two bullied teens. Flashbacks to my visceral upchuck reaction when watching Gus Van Sant’s Elephant came to mind and I was in no mood for a repeat experience. School shootings are a subject matter that really gets to me and their treatment on film and by the media is something I am particularly critical of.

Fortunately, Johnson’s The Dirties is a fresh, intelligent, insightful film about the love of films, obsession, and the relationship between two teenage friends.

Two teenage film geeks, Matt (Matt Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams), are excitedly working on a project called The Dirties for their school media class. Their project centers on two renegade cop-like characters getting rid of a gang of bad kids at the school, whom Matt and Owen have nicknamed The Dirties, using a chock-full of filmic references and plastic guns. As production advances, we are privy to the type of abuses and humiliations Matt and Owen are subjected to as well as their changing friendship dynamics. Soon, the lines between film and reality are blurred and plastic guns might be replaced for the real thing.

After seeing the Canadian premiere of The Dirties at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, I was beyond excited to meet Canadian director, writer, and co-star of the film Matt Johnson. I caught up with Johnson right as he arrived in Montreal from screening The Dirties at Comic Con with none other than Kevin Smith, who recently acquired the film for his Kevin Smith Movie Club. After seeing the film post its Slamdance buzz, Smith gave a surprised Johnson a call.

“It was so wicked because that’s exactly the kind of leverage a movie like this needed. To have somebody who is seen as trustworthy and like a cultural maven in a lot of ways. I think it helped a lot of audiences get over the fact that on paper the premise can seem tasteless and offensive,” explained Johnson.

Indeed, the subject matter of the film is a heavy one and yet, the performances and delivery remain engaging and funny. The group of filmmaking friends came to make The Dirties after Johnson’s friend Josh Boles, who’d been watching Man Bites Dog (Belveaux 1992) quite a bit, was looking to make a movie in which Johnson played a psychopath crazy killer. With further discussion they came to decide on situating it within the world of a school shooting. 

“Politically, we weren’t interested in making the definitive answer to what a school shooting movie should be or why school shootings happen,” Johnson offered, “But we wanted to explore it in a way that we hadn’t seen before. The more we talked about it, the more we realized that it was a real nexus of a lot of our childhood experiences. This idea of what a school shooting is, what the celebrity of it means, and what it means in terms of changing the dynamics of how a school works, and also, what bullying is really like. That’s what led us to the subject matter.”


In terms of researching for the film, Johnson explained that they mostly did video research.

“What I think is really funny is stealing behaviors,” he said. “I like inside jokes a lot. I really love them. Josh and I watched tons and tons of documentaries about Columbine, about other crazy young people, and about youth out of control and we tried to steal as many mannerisms and things as we could. A big thing we watched were the home videos of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. There are hours and hours of them making goofy movies. Kind of like what The Dirties is inside The Dirties; making movies where they play cops, do ridiculous things and making each other laugh. We drew a lot out of that mostly because the reality of it so much more interesting than what we could have thought of. Also, because we wanted to make it as realistic as possible.”

“The movie formally came out of the web series [Nirvana The Band The Show] that I did beforehand. They are basically the same in terms of how they are developed. So I don’t know. Movies that inspired ideas for The Dirties are like Gimme Shelter, the Maysles brothers documentary, a lot of 60s era docs and self-reflexive docs. Because this style of filmmaking is so new, not many people are doing it yet,” Johnson explained in terms of the inspiration behind his filmmaking approach. Along with the above, films like Werner Herzhog’s Grizzly Man, where he uses tricks and lies as well as French movies like La Haine and Man Bites Dog have inspired Johnson.

One of the most compelling elements of The Dirties is in the way in which it was made. This type of filmmaking is novel, blending elements of found footage, documentary film, and unscripted dynamism. Johnson explained that with such a small crew and the use of wireless microphones, they were able to capture unexpected events every day that enriched the movie as exemplified in the opening scene. Over the course of five months, the team of about four shot about five or six weeks.

Often, extras were unawares that Johnson was anything other than a teenager in the film. Indeed, some of the people in The Dirties didn’t even realize they were in a film. With no script and no plan, Johnson explained that this method was frustrating at times for his co-star Owen Williams, whom Johnson described as “so handsome” and looking “like Isabelle Rossilini” (we agree on both counts). Williams’ actual frustration with the process fueled some of the more tense scenes between the two.


Much of the directing with this kind approach, Johnson revealed, is in the editing.

“Directing a movie like this, or anything that I’ve ever done, there isn’t really a whole ton of on-set direction because I know what I want to behave like,” he said. “It’s really just my job to make sure that my acting partner – Owen, in this case – and I are constantly engaged and that’s it. I try to put myself in environments or situations where the crew and everybody acting doesn’t know what’s going to happen. That’s all I have to do. At no point do I say ‘ok guys we are going to do this like this.’ Everyone knows that the rules are keep shooting, keep following us, and don’t stop shooting.”

We’d like to thank Matt Johnson for the entertaining interview and his appreciation of John Saul books and 90s film Disturbing Behaviour.