Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 25th, 2007
The students keep going good p.r. When I see their production someday, I shall overview my thoughts here. Until then, in the meantime, here’s another story about the doc.
BEASTLY FILM: Film students work on the production of Footprints, a documentary on the Everglades’ mysterious Skunk Ape, for a class project.
Claudia Echeverria/Special to The Beacon
Students search for elusive Florida monster
Charlie Grau / Sports Editor
Close encounters with a huge, hairy mysterious species; government conspiracies and townspeople infatuated with an ape-like creature in the Everglades. Sounds like a summer blockbuster, right?
Footprints, a documentary less than 15-minutes long by eight former and current FIU students, explores the mystery behind South Florida’s legendary Skunk Ape.
This mysterious creature is among one of the many unknown species like the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, the Abominable Snowman and El Chupacabra that has captured many imaginations and attracted much attention.
The group – Romy Santana, Kallie Burke, Kirmaya Cevallos, Maria Delgado, Claudia Echeverria, Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Lino La Rosa and Luis Vale – took three months to produce the film on a $750 budget.
Footprints uses actual home video footage shot by individuals who managed to capture the Skunk Ape running across the Everglades, testimonies from experts, and interviews with local towns’ people in Everglades City who have grown up around the legend.
“There are a lot of credible people out there who admit that they believe in the Skunk Ape,” Echeverria said.
According to eye witness accounts in the film, the creature is a cross between a man and primate that stands on its two legs. Its name comes from the powerful odor it emits.
David Shealy, who established the Skunk Ape Research Center in Naples, is among many in the film who claim he has seen the creature first hand.
It was Cevallos who first heard about Shealy, while on vacation in Naples. After learning about the Skunk Ape and Shealy’s center, she told the rest of the group members and curiosity took care of the rest.
“When we put the ideas on the table, we had an idea of doing a documentary on some kind of disease or Santeria,” Santana said, who graduated from FIU December 2006. “We went with the [Skunk Ape] idea because it’s something that you can research and it’s something refreshing.”
All the students wrote, directed and produced the film as their final assignment for their advanced videography class. Associate professor Bert Delgado, who taught the class, grouped students into teams and told them to produce a film, whether it be a music video, drama, documentary, drama or thriller.
“I seldom use the word excellent. This was very close to excellent if not excellent,” Delgado said.
Along with the ‘A’ they received for the final project, the students received major publicity for Footprints. On Jan. 2, the Miami Herald ran a front page story on their documentary.
“We always thought this would stay as a school project. We never thought it would escalate and gain as much attention as it did,” Echeverria said.
Besides the Miami Herald story, National Public Radio discussed their documentary on the air and producers from “Good Morning America” inquired about it.
The group said they plan to enter the film in more film festivals and put some clips of the film on YouTube.com.
The fame and success they are receiving didn’t come that easy. During their three months of production, they recorded 50 hours of video and managed to edit it down to just less than 15 minutes.
Besides sacrificing their weekends, they took some extra risk in order to make sure they got the best shots.
During their second shoot, they were filming scenic shots of the Everglades at 8 a.m. on State Road 41 when they started to hear a growl get closer and closer. Knowing it surly [surely] wasn’t a Skunk Ape, the production crew quickly darted back to their vehicles.
“We never knew what it was,” Echeverria said. “The boys were the first ones to go to the car.”
After the countless interview and hours of being engulfed in the Everglade’s odors, the group is still somewhat on the fence about its existence.
“I think there’s something out there, I don’t know what, but there’s something out there,” Santana said. “If you go to Everglades City, everyone tells you that there’s something. A lot of people truly believe that the government is trying to do something.”
“If it’s true, it will be the discovery of the century,” Echeverria said. “I think it’s a fifty-fifty thing. This creature has been seen all over the world.”Charlie Grau