After I checked out Terror In The Skies, I got a chance to talk to Seth Breedlove, a filmmaker from Ohio who runs the production company Small Town Monsters. Responsible for documenting and reporting on long forgotten cryptid stories around the country, Terror In The Skies is just one in a long line of documentary titles chasing these monsters. We talk about his craft, and dive a little bit into his latest film ventures.
FoF: First and foremost, tell us about yourself.
I’m a film director, editor, videographer, writer, and general, all-around indie filmmaker. I have no background in filmmaking and kinda stumbled into it so I’ve been teaching myself everything as I go. There’s a lot of trail and error involved in what I do but that keeps everything fresh too, I suppose.
FoF: What do you do? And why do you like it?
I act as a businessman, marketing person and general creative on all STM projects, so my tasks can shift pretty dramatically on any given day from something creative to booking hotels or renting cars or equipment at a moments notice. It’s far more suited to me than what I did before which was medical billing. I like that making documentaries draws on some of my skills as a reporter and that I get to travel so much. Travel is probably my favorite aspect of what we do.
FoF: Explain a little bit of your process? Where do you find your inspiration?
Honestly, at any given time STM usually has three projects going at once, as far as being in some form of production. We have a project in pre-pro which basically means I’m figuring out what our approach will be stylistically, as well as contacting witnesses, reading books on the subject and talking to investigators and researchers about it. Then I’m usually in the actual filming stages of another project (especially now that we have On the Trail of… which is essentially filming for 6-8 months out of the year) while editing whatever the third project might be. I’m also doing a lot of promotional work on whatever our latest release might be.
All of this is to say the process changes dramatically from project to project. The one constant is, research and contacting interview subjects. Those are typically my priority and these days my amazing research assistant, Heather Moser is helping me dramatically to balance that end of things.
FoF: What drew you to horror in the first place?
I think there’s a lot of cross-over between the paranormal and cryptids and Horror. Obviously, the subject matter itself is darker than, say, the latest social commentary doc or whatever, so we can sort of naturally gravitate into something like horror.
FoF: What is your favorite horror work? (Movie, Show, Art, Book, whatever you want)
My mom raised me on Harryhausen, Hammer Horror and Hitchcock. So I always start with those three and then build out from there but I do love a lot of the 80s slasher movies that terrified me as a kid, and I adore the old Universal Monsters and stuff like that.
FoF: What has been your favorite thing you have gotten to work on doing this?
Our upcoming MOMO: The Missouri Monster is probably my favorite right now. We learned a lot about making a narrative film while working on it, and just the entire filmmaking process on that movie was so insane and chaotic but exciting and fun. I think that might end up being my favorite experience so far but as far as looking back on a finished product and seeing it as a success it’s either The Mothman of Point Pleasant or Invasion on Chestnut Ridge. I’m really proud of how those two turned out.
FoF: What role do you think your specific style of art/work plays in the community overall?
I think we’re bringing a much-needed component to the horror genre and the paranormal community. We make entertaining documentaries about creepy subject matter independently and cinematically. Despite the micro-budgets we’re operating on I believe you can stack our work up against anything on the major networks and we come out on top. We’re honestly sort of a threat to the establishment because we do operate autonomously and are bolstered by the community that has sprung up around us. Hollywood doesn’t want to see stuff like what we’re doing succeed. That in itself means we’re offering at least a template for other indie filmmakers to follow.
FoF: How did you get started with your cryptid documentary, Terror in the Skies?
I knew going into it I wanted to make a movie about Thunderbirds because I think the lore around that particular subject is super fascinating. However, there just wasn’t enough meat on the bones to really do a move only about that subject so when we decided to open it up to what Loren Coleman calls “winged weirdies” it was off to the races.
Every subject covered in the film is almost a micro-movie inside a larger piece but never feeling disconnected. As always, the goal is to get as many people as possible to speak on the subject and this one has a number of really good interviews and then to sort of bring the whole thing to life we bring in Chris Scalf for animation and Santino Vitale to handle FX. The whole thing is tied together by Brandon Dalo’s score, as well.
FoF: The Chicago Mothman and Thunderbird sightings were super interesting to have cataloged in one spot. Do you have a favorite cryptid or phenomenon outside of the subject of Terror In The Skies?
It’s probably Bigfoot. That’s the subject that I just can’t stop revisiting no matter how hard I try.
FoF: The film itself is absolutely beautiful to watch, which is awesome to see in a documentary like this. I find so many of these types of documentaries on fringe phenomenons often are low budget and pretty grinding as far as visuals go. Tell me a bit about your approach to Terror In The Skies, both as a director and as an enthusiast.
A lot of the visual credit goes to Zac Palmisano who is our director of photography. We talked a lot going into this about wanting the film to have a much more cinematic look than our others and really wanting it to be less about “creepy visuals” and more about capturing the beauty and expanse of the midwest. We lucked out as far as weather goes, as well, since during our four days of filming it was gorgeous. Interviews we wanted to have more of a natural lighting approach than something like The Bray Road Beast which had a very stylized look. Everything was supposed to service the location and building a mood that evokes the “classic midwest” since the entire movie is about that place. I always think that with the way we work and the way we usually have to operate very run & gun due to budgets the actual directing of the movie takes place in the edit. So that was where I really found the story was once I sat down and started piecing everything together.
FoF: What’s next for you? Is there a unexplained new phenomenon waiting for you to tackle?
Our next is Momo: The Missouri Monster which will arrive in September, followed by The Mothman Legacy, On the Trail of UFOs and The Mark of the Bell Witch. All out by the end of 2020.
You can read a bit more about Seth below:
Seth Breedlove is an Ohio filmmaker. He has written, edited, produced and directed shorts and features about a variety of topics but is best known for his production company and the films they’ve produced under the Small Town Monsters banner. Before film, Breedlove wrote for a number of websites, newspapers and magazines and learned some of the skills he employs as a director while working as a reporter. Breedlove has also appeared on numerous television and radio programs.
In 2013, Breedlove began working on the concept for a series entitled Small Town Monsters. In general, he set out to capture true accounts from tiny communities often forgotten by the larger media outlets, and from the era (1960s and 1970s) of high intensity monster encounters. These cryptid sightings and stories were perfect for a documentary production company with a history of working in the Midwest. Seth Breedlove achieved his goal with sterling results. He was able to document cryptozoology by interviewing the original witnesses and re-creating/re-discovering elements of the cases at the ground level.
The first chapter in his series of documentaries was the film, Minerva Monster (2015). Breedlove wrote and directed the film. He has since worked on more projects which fall under the Small Town Monsters umbrella including, Beast of Whitehall (2016), on which he also acted as cinematographer. In 2016, Breedlove directed and edited his first full-length feature, Boggy Creek Monster (2016), working closely with investigator and author Lyle Blackburn. This was rapidly followed by The Mothman of Point Pleasant (2017), and Invasion on Chestnut Ridge (2017).
In 2018, Seth wrote and directed The Flatwoods Monster: A Legacy of Fear and produced On the Trail of… Champ; a five episode mini-series and in the Fall release The Bray Road Beast.
On the Trail of Bigfoot is the first of three projects being released through Seth’s Small Town Monsters Production Company during 2019.