Lessons in empathy: Zellner brothers take love of Bigfoot, create 'Sasquatch Sunset'

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Apr. 18—David and Nathan Zellner have always loved Bigfoot as it has always been a fixture in pop culture.

David Zellner took that love and wrote the script for the feature film, "Sasquatch Sunset." He and his brother produced the film.

"Most films regarding Bigfoot or Sasquatch are from the point of view of the humans," David Zellner says. "The thought for this film would be what if we saw it from the Sasquatches point of view. Showing that full spectrum. I think that there's something interesting about establishing a sense of empathy."

"Sasquatch Sunset" tells the story of a family of Sasquatches — possibly the last of their kind — as they embark on an absurdist, epic, hilarious and ultimately poignant journey over the course of one year.

The shaggy and noble giants fight for survival as they find themselves on a collision course with the ever-changing world around them.

The film stars Riley Keough and Jesse Eisenberg. The film is playing in theaters beginning on Friday, April 19.

Nathan Zellner says because it's a different type of film in tone and execution, it was important to get people on board with the brothers' vision.

He says it was difficult to get off the ground.

"When Jesse came on board, that was a big plus," Nathan Zellner says. "He understood exactly what we were getting at with the film. We had these creature costumes and we were pushing everything to the limits. The costumes weren't made for being outside of a soundstage and we were filming on location in the elements"

The Zellners filmed "Sasquatch Sunset" for 23 days in October and November 2022 in Humboldt County in northern California.

There were no interior shots, and nothing was shot on a set or sound stage.

"We always wanted to shoot in the redwoods. The landscapes there are so striking and primordial," David Zellner says. "We wanted the film to have a scope, to have a sense of grandeur, to feel epic. The downside of the location is that it's very hard to shoot, for a production of this size or any size. It's a slog to get up there because there's not a lot of infrastructure for filmmaking, but if you go through the trouble, you capture an otherworldly environment that's very special."

Applying costuming and makeup took up to two hours each day of the shoot.

Prior to the beginning of principal photography, the cast assembled in Eureka, California, for a week of rehearsal and an intensive movement workshop.

Sasquatch training meant learning to walk, lounge, sleep and eat in a manner unique to each character, but consistent as group members of the same nonhuman species.

One of the main preoccupations of a Sasquatch is to graze and eat.

"We as human beings eat very quickly, but the Sasquatches are less coordinated, and less self-conscious," says Nathan Zellner.

Nathan Zellner says the art department gave actors food that would look like the diet of a wild, woodland primate.

"We had this whole buffet of stuff that the art team brought. Eating this way is a new kind of a chore, and then because we have these fake teeth in, it's even more of a chore," he continued.