Hunting Down the Clickbait Beast in The VICE Guide to Bigfoot
Zach Lamplugh and Brian Emond are on the case at the Austin Film Festival
By Richard Whittaker,
11:50AM, Thu. Oct. 24, 2019
There are many things that can be said about Bigfoot. Whether it exists or not, whether you call it yeti or skunk ape, it seems pretty clear that Sasquatch doesn't care about clickbait.
That's why The VICE Guide to Bigfoot, the new mockumentary from filmmaker Zach Lamplugh which receives its world premiere at Austin Film Festival this week, is less a cryptozoological romp and more of a media satire. Rather than hunting for 'squatch scat, it's a scathing look at another monster: VICE, the content-creating behemoth that has spawned a generation of webcam-wielding dreamers who believe they can produce the next Action Bronson and Friends Watch Ancient Aliens, but are really doomed to slave in the clickbait mines.
That's where Brian (Brian Emond) finds himself: Stalking instafamous rappers, experiencing the Ukranian craft beer scene, getting dumpster-dwelling hipsters to explain how they're not really homeless. But his latest assignment – hanging out with the Cryptid Commander (Jeffrey Stephenson) in search of the Sasquatch – is either his path to success, or the final nail in his self-respect.
Austin Chronicle: So how did you come up with a Bigfoot/VICE mockumentary?
Zach Lamplugh: As far as the inspiration of why we decided to mock a big brand? I've worked at a lot of big brands, and the whole time you're there you feel like you have this half-life. You feel so cool, you're working at Vox, but all you do is post cat videos. You work in the same building as your dreams. You don't actually get to do the things that you want to do with your life.
And VICE just felt ripe for making fun of. We'd made two sketches targeted at VICE, making fun of their style of shooting and editing, how their hosts handle themselves, how their hosts all look the same, and we thought, "Why don't we just do a movie with this voice?"
ZL: As far as Bigfoot, we were thinking that we really wanted to do something that was a horror-comedy – heavier on the comedy than on the scares. I don't think I've seen one that's a creature feature, and we live in Georgia, which is not the Pacific Northwest in terms of Bigfoot, but there are Bigfoot people around.
AC: Texas has its share too.
ZL: Oh, yeah, Bigfoot's everywhere. There are people who sight Bigfoot in Puerto Rico.
It's strange, because there aren't as many Bigfoot movies. It doesn't get as much attention as say Shaun of the Dead or What We Do in the Shadows, but there are less people who believe in zombies or vampires, that really believe in them. There are way more people who believe in Bigfoot, but there aren't a lot of Bigfoot movies.
BE: And there are really scary versions of vampires and werewolves, so there's an allure about then. But Bigfoot, even at his scariest, can come off as goofy. Whenever he's represented in a movie, he's always got this element to him where he's a little less threatening. So I think that's why people are scared away from doing something about Bigfoot.
ZL: It's hard to make a good movie about Bigfoot. Me and Tim [Reis], our other producer, watched about 20 Bigfoot movies, and it's hard to get it right.
AC: At the same time, it's the monster that lends itself to found footage and the mockumentary. You have The Legend of Boggy Creek, you have Bobcat Goldthwait's Willow Creek, Eduardo Sánchez's Exists, so you're adding to an existing subgenre.
BE: I think part of that comes with the idea of finding Bigfoot. In a vampire or werewolf, the secret is that they were always there: but there's this idea of a money shot in a Bigfoot film of, in addition to it being in a film, whatever camera we're looking through is the first camera to witness Bigfoot ever.
AC: And this is a very pointed spoof of a multitude of sins that are very specific to VICE, and you could have created a fake outlet, but you went at them. It's not that all their shows are bad, but then you wonder, is it really a show if someone sits around, gets high, and watches episodes of Ancient Aliens?
ZL: I don't know what to make of that network. When we originally did the film, we wanted it to spoof VICE more. You're really attacking how they shoot things, how they edit things, but the way it wound up it really spoofs their relationship with my class of media people, and the way that all people my age – I'm a TV editor, but anyone that's a blogger or writer or photographer, they're all in this mile-long line to work at VICE. I don't know why, but they love the idea, and that's why they get away with these things.
And it's not just VICE. It's any of these people.
BE: We have a lot of friends who work at Turner who tell the same story.
ZL: Turner's a little less cool, but these more internet outlets, people want to work at them for the notoriety and to have this thing on their resume, and when they finally get the opportunity it's "How about you watch Action Bronson look at cats?" And you think, I went to school to be a novelist, and you end up doing that.
AC: You're shooting pretty much everything in the woods, which is always tougher than people expect.
BE: When we started shooting in Atlanta, we did a first shoot that was very close but looked very wooded. Immediately, we realized that there is a plane in the. sky 100% of the time, so all of our sound was terrible.
BE: On the first day we stood around and waited about an hour, so we went, well. we may as well just drive an hour. A friend of mine has a hundred acres of land about an hour outside of the city, and we just drove out there every day.
Tim, who was our producer and helped us out with all our camera equipment and technical stuff, we told him what we wanted to do and he's in a similar state to me – just hating big brands that you work with. We went, "We want to do this found footage horror movie, but through the way that VICE looks." He went, "Oh, yeah, I work for VICE all the time. You can just have my cameras."
ZL: I asked him, how are you certain that it's going to be how it should look, and he said, "Well, when I was on a VICE shoot yesterday ..." Oh, that's how you know.
The VICE Guide to BigfootWorld Premiere
Fri., Oct. 25, 9pm, Alamo Village
Tue., Oct 29, 9:15pm, Galaxy Highland