Back in March, DC's Legends of Tomorrow star Shayan Sobhian appeared in a charming short film, Does Bigfoot Dream of Flowers, from director Max Mooney, with whom Sobhian co-wrote the script. In the short, Sobhian played a camper who befriends a sasquatch while tripping on hallucinogens. The short, which also starred stunt performer Ira Kortum as Bigfoot and Oona Roche (The Morning Show) as Sobhian's traveling companion, was filmed before the pandemic shut down the world, and as a result, took a while to find its way out to the world, doing the convention circuit later than they would have liked. Finally, the film was released on YouTube following the advice of a time-traveler.
Okay, so Scrubs star Donald Faison isn't a time-traveler...but he did play one on TV. Faison, who played Booster Gold in the season 7 finale of Legends of Tomorrow, was the one who advised Sobhian to get the movie in front of people by making it available on YouTube.
"We were riding into work together, and I was talking about this film, and I was like, 'I just don't know what we should do with it,' Sobhian told ComicBook. "'Should we try and sell it? Or should we just release it on YouTube for free?' Almost as a joke -- but he's, 'oh, you should totally release it on YouTube. Absolutely. It'll find an audience.' And look, you saw it, and now we're talking to you, so he's right."
The idea of using YouTube as an alternate distribution method for indie film is hardly a new concept at this point, although it's somewhat more rare for productions recognizable actors, since it's notoriously difficult to monetize content on YouTube in a way that will make your money back. But that guerilla-style approach to distribution matches nicely with how Does Bigfoot Dream of Flowers? was produced. If you were to watch the short, you would assume that most of the money spent on the production went into the Bigfoot costume itself. But there's a story behind that, too.
"We knew as soon as we wrote the script that in pre-production, we had to lock the Bigfoot costume and the makeup," Sobhian said. "If we didn't have that, it was over. We had to sell this, and we knew we wanted to do it at a level where people would really believe that were meeting Bigfoot."
It fell to Mooney to figure out the execution.
"We wrote the script, and we actually were against this wall of shooting; Shayan had to leave to shoot Legends," Mooney explained. "There were two months until he was leaving for the shoot, and we finished the script, and then I texted my friend that had done some monster movies before, 'Hey, do you know anyone?' We needed to lock this prosthetic this week to ever shoot this five-week deadline. So suddenly, it was this thing, so I just started searching. We got on the phone with some of the top makeup artists. The script got us really far. And we got on the phone with some of the top makeup artists in LA from some huge things, but they were all yeah, we'll do it for a cheap rate. We'll do it for 10 grand a day. I was like, 'that's our [production] budget.' So eventually, on the 12th page of the Google image search of 'realistic Bigfoot costume,' I saw this guy standing at the Oregon Bigfoot festival in a really good costume. I emailed them, hey, what's the deal of this costume? And [his wife] called me back immediately. She's actually the makeup artist behind Portlandia and the Fox show Grimm. And she fell in love with the script, and really did us a solid and worked for way too little, out of her shop in Portland."
Both men were a little concerned -- costume designer and makeup artist Christina Kortum had created the suit specifically for her husband's body, and so along with that discounted price tag came a string: they had to use Ira.
"He's an actor. She's a makeup artist. And they kind of work together in Portland and they support each other. And so she was, 'hey, you got to cast my husband,' and at first we were, 'who's this guy going to be?' This sounds like nepotism at its finest, right?" Sobhian joked. "But we had him put a little audition on tape. And I remember watching it and immediately falling in love. And of course, he's not wearing the makeup or anything in the audition; it's just his face. But as I was watching him, I started to really see the story come alive. And I started to see the empathy, and the heart that he was bringing to this performance, just on a little screen. And it went from all of a sudden being, 'oh, do we have to hire him?' to 'we have to hire him.' This is the perfect package deal that we didn't even deserve. But it all worked out in our favors."
Mooney added that Kortum was so good, he was able to provide almost all of the bigfoot sounds -- something they had assumed in advance would have to be cleaned up and supplemented a lot more.
The director called Steven Spielberg and the ever-alusive "Amblin feel" their "North Star" when putting the film together, adding that the Spielberg influence permeated the project almost by accident.
"We arrived on set, and me, Shayan, and the person that shot the movie, and the person that made all the props, all four of us, without communicating with each other, had all watched the Spielberg Lincoln movie that week," Mooney explained. "Lincoln is so good. So we got to do Bigfoot like Lincoln. That's our way of saying that Steven Spielberg was our North Star on this...everything he's done. Shay and I had also watched Raiders of the Lost Ark together, because even the sequence where Jesse kind of triply sneaks into the clearing to steal the flowers, it's a little Raiders-esque."
And like Raiders or The Goonies, the short has moments that could be scary for younger kids, even if the overall project is pretty wholesome. Nailing that tone was crucial to its success, and a major topic of conversation. According to Sobhian, key to that process was the music, and a lot of the work fell on composer Keith Zariello to knock it out of the park.
"Oh man, I remember informal tone meetings, which is just us talking about it," recalled Sobhian. "We were, 'how do we go from horror to romance, to drug comedy, to horror again, to buddy comedy, to horror again, to heartfelt?' We felt all over the place. And then we talked to our composer, who was in one of those last meetings before COVID hit. I think through talking to our composer, we started to really figure out how we wanted to navigate the tone, because music is kind of tells us how to feel when we're watching something. And so our composer, Keith -- his band, The Shivers is incredible. Everyone should check them out -- he kind of got it immediately. He was, 'okay yeah, I see what you guys are going for here.' And we gave him notes, and then once the score was in place, we were 'yeah, this really works.' So I would say the score had a big thing to do with that."
Also key to the tone was managing the dynamic between Sobhian and Roche. Luckily, the pair (as well as Mooney) have known each other since they went to college at SUNY Purchase, and the dynamic clicked fairly quickly. Still, they widened the gap between the characters a little with some simple costuming choices (and removing the beard fans recognize from more recent seasons of Legends).
"I think one of our goals on this, was kind of making [Shayan] more boyish," Mooney admitted. "We played a game with my art director of, what's the most ridiculous outfit we could put Shayan in, that's believable that someone would wear? We wanted to make him more youthful."
Added Sobhian, "We realized after that we basically costumed him like Dora the Explorer, which was not intentional, but...the pink poncho, the purple backpack. It could not be more obvious."
They paired Sobhian with Roche, in part, because they thought the two would read as an unlikely couple right off the bat. That's helpful in a short where they have relatively little time together, and where there is not much dialogue in general.
"While we were writing this, we knew we wanted it to kind of be an odd couple," Mooney said. "And we were thinking, who would be the funniest person for a Shayan-esque person to date, that we knew? Oona's a tough Brooklyn person that will chew out a random person on the street if they're being a douchebag, and Shayan is not that person. We got a kick out of the idea of those two dating."
"As I was talking about, Shay was about to have to shoot Legends, but Oona was also just so freshly coming off of The Morning Show, and so the timing was kind of miraculous that she was able to do it while Shay was able to," Mooney added. "She was so fresh off that show in our movie. She has her hair dyed to look Jennifer Anderson, because she plays her daughter on that show. So we just... we were, okay yeah, that's just what your hair color is in this, too. Sure."
"I remember the first time I met Oona; it was first day of college and I was terrified of her," Sobhian admitted. "She scared me, and she wouldn't mind me saying that, because now we're close friends, but I was such a suburban doe-eyed kid. She grew up in the city, and had seen some things, and brought all this worldly experience, where she didn't have the patience for certain things that I was sort of more optimistic about or whatever. So it was kind of the thing of, 'who would be the perfect person to make fun of somebody who would bring chia seeds on a vacation?' Well, Oona."
You can (and should!) watch Does Bigfoot Dream of Flowers above. All seven seasons of DC's Legends of Tomorrow are airing on Netflix, and The Morning Show is on Apple TV+.0comments