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Docudrama: Talent from within

Hiring employees, schmoozing and crunching numbers are routine for a production executive - donning a Bigfoot suit, however, is not. But that's exactly what Michael Hoff, president of Emeryville-based Michael Hoff Productions, recently did to shoot a Bigfoot recreation demo reel.
March 1, 2008

Hiring employees, schmoozing and crunching numbers are routine for a production executive – donning a Bigfoot suit, however, is not. But that’s exactly what Michael Hoff, president of Emeryville-based Michael Hoff Productions, recently did to shoot a Bigfoot recreation demo reel.

Armed with a 14-person crew, a budget around US$50,000 and the 6′ 7′ lead talent, the shooting team ventured into the California Redwoods to film the recreation, which the company hopes will lead to a series on other such creatures. The team shot roughly 100 minutes of each HD and HDV footage in a single day, which was edited into a roughly three-minute demo reel.

This was a unique recreation to shoot, largely because of the mask, costume and makeup preparation involved in the Bigfoot outfit itself. ‘We were bringing Hollywood film techniques to factual,’ says Hoff, and that required the skills of three special effects artists (some of whom worked on the CSI series and Men in Black). With a Hollywood look comes Hollywood prices: the custom-made costume Hoff wore in his starring role as Bigfoot cost between $7,000 and $8,000, as did the mask and makeup element. Plus, there was a $1,000-per-day fee for maintaining the costume and mask. (That maintenance includes fur replacement and combing. After all, says Hoff, ‘You don’t want it to look too tidy, like it just came out of the beauty parlor.’) It’s a good thing the team only shot for one day – the suit can only be used four or five times, and the mask needs to be replaced daily because of the sensitive rubber used around its edges.

Helping to capture the footage were two lighting crews – even though the team initially thought it would only need one. ‘With the amount we had to shoot in the given time,’ says MHP’s VP of finance and operations Dennis Newburne, ‘we found we were best served by having two lighting crews, one running ahead of the other and doing the set-ups in advance of the shoot.’ Bright idea.

Building Bigfoot

Pulling off the Bigfoot look was a tall order. Here’s how the costume was made
To construct Hoff’s custom-made costume, he wedged into a skintight unitard, then had duct tape wrapped on top of it everywhere except on his face, hands and feet. The resulting shell was cut into pieces and used as the template to cut the fur material. The costume, which has a body and hood component, was also padded out at the shoulders and chest. ‘It’s just like a snowsuit, but it perfectly fits your body,’ says Hoff. He says it’s a tad warm to wear but, no, he didn’t feel claustrophobic: ‘It just started to feel like my skin.’

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.

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