Small Town Monsters makes films, and Seth Breedlove is the founder. For a number of years now STM has been one of the leading names in paranormal documentaries, due in no small part to Seth’s journalistic credentials and genuine approach to story telling. Small Town Monsters presents viewers with the history of folklore using the first hand accounts of eye witnesses without overt sensationalism, coupled with entertaining dramatizations enhanced through minimal special effects – and the results have been well received.
I caught up with Seth for an afternoon chat late in September, and he was kind enough to answer a battery of mismatched personal and professional questions. This in and of itself would be an event worth recounting, even without the high strangeness that Seth and I may have encountered during our conversation.
Aaron – What is one thing that people should know about Seth Breedlove?
Seth – Oh man – I have no idea what I’m doing. From hour to hour. Which I think is pretty apparent given that I completely forgot about this meeting (laughs).
I’m always winging it. There’s not a lot of plans in place. I kind of just go with the flow, and hopefully survive.
And given the way we do things and the way I run STM I think that’s the only way we could operate. Yearly we are dealing with an increasingly hostile marketplace when it comes to independent content creation – making movies.
Year by year we’ve evolved and we’ve had to adjust on the fly. This year I knew we were going to run into serious issues because of the Amazon “non fiction” ban for Prime.
(In March of 2021 Amazon stopped receiving unsolicited documentary submissions, nearly eliminating the platform as a viable vehicle for many independent film makers.)
So we put a lot of our eggs in the Youtube basket, and it seems to have been paying off so far, so we’re gonna continue growing that.
Just… always be winging it.
Aaron (a different Aaron), one the STM crew always says he’s “DTF” – Down to Film – and mine is “ABF” – which is Always be Filming.
(We both laugh)
Related Lunch with A Legend, A Discussion with Cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard
Aaron – Always been filming – that recently paid off for you in the Chicago area while filming On the Trail of the Lake Michigan Mothman – can you tell me more about that?
(Referring to a large, unidentified winged creature which Seth caught on video during production of On The Trail of The Lake Michigan Mothman)
Seth – I think where we’re is that it was more than likely a great horned owl, is where I kind of came down on it.
But for sure, the weirdest thing about that whole episode is that we’re in the middle of making a movie about Mothman, I was alone for the first time on the trip – as our crew expands it becomes increasingly hard to find time alone when you’re doing this – which is funny, because I’m sitting in the woods right now by myself – but yeah, I was alone and I was outside the hotel and I heard the flapping before I saw that thing. No one around me was reacting to it which was pretty weird. That’s the only thing about that episode that really kind of weirded me out.
It’s funny, dude, I’m actually in – so a week ago I had a sighting- my first bigfoot sighting.
Aaron – Yes! I’m very interested in that – that was actually one of my questions. Can we talk about that?
Seth – Well, I’m in the woods right now at the top of the hill from where I had the sighting – an opposite hill – but I’m on a hill that’s had a ton of activity. When Aleks (Aleksander Petakov) and Eli (Eli Watson) filmed On the Trail this is where they stayed.
Last Friday we were in the woods – Heather (Moser) and I – and there are these old drums, old rubber oil drums or something up here. And she slammed one of them with a piece of wood, and later we had all this activity. We basically felt like we were surrounded by these things. But it all kicked off when one of them returned her drum “beat.”
Aaron – Like a wood knock?
Seth – You could tell it was something banging on one of these rubber drums.
Aaron – Wow.
Seth – Yeah. So I’m in those woods right now and it’s always weird up here. But yeah, I had a daylight sighting that lasted maybe, I don’t know the time, maybe a fifth of a second to two seconds? Somewhere in there. It was a dark brown colored creature, upright, really muscular biceps which is one of the only – for some reason that’s the detail my brain latched on to, was the musculature
I don’t know how big it was. I think it might have actually been a young one, but it didn’t seem to be that big. We’re actually going back up to the spot in a little bit to see if we can recreate it.
Aaron – That is incredible.
Seth – We were out posting trail cams, which is what I’m doing today again. I’m not planning on catching evidence of Bigfoot with the trail cams – I think they actively avoid them – I’m actually trying to get footage of the other wildlife in the area to see what’s moving around here. Minerva (Ohio) has stories of mountain lions that pre-date Bigfoot sightings in the area, so I’m hoping we can get some sort of mountain lion. Even last Saturday Heather thinks she heard a mountain lion roar up here.
Aaron – That recently?
Seth – Yeah. It’s a really cool place. I’m kind of addicted to it. I’m out here on a Monday afternoon which should tell you something. If I could be here all the time I would be.
I think I’ve spent six or seven nights out here but I’ve been out on multiple occasions just to wander the property. We’re doing this for a Youtube series called the Bigfoot Project, which was originally going to be sort of a podcast with an investigation component. And then we shot the first weekend and everything popped off, so now it’s kind of morphed into something else.
Aaron – It seems like you’re getting a lot of returns just on this one site.
Seth – Oh yeah, yeah. I’ve been in some of the most active areas in the country – the Adirondacks, the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, the Olympic Peninsula – I mean anywhere Bigfoot’s seen I think I’ve been to some of the most active locations, and this trumps everything except the Wichitas. In terms of what I’ve experienced in one night, it was like non-stop activity. And even when we were leaving on Sunday that weekend, the same weekend I had my sighting, we were packing up the cabin and something gave the clearest “whoop” you’ve ever heard in the woods. Broad daylight, middle of the day on a Sunday.
The craziest thing up here is the wood knocking. I haven’t heard anything today, but I would be shocked if we don’t hear a wood knock before we leave today. It’s pretty much, ‘if you’re here, you hear a wood knock’
Aaron – How do you go about finding the witnesses you interview?
Seth – Uuh, Heather (Moser). In the earliest days it was me, but it kind of changed with Momo (Momo: The Missouri Monster). Heather came on board with Momo and started acting as my researcher. At this point she kind of steers the ship when it comes to who we’re talking to. We’re about to leave on Wednesday for Colorado for an eight-day shoot for Night Visitors – the next On the Trail of UFOs movie. It might actually end up being the last UFOs movie. But yeah, she puts the whole list together and she pretty much dictates the schedule of events we’re following as well.
The one thing I can tell you about Heather is that she’s not afraid to just, completely wear me out. We get in at 8:30 on Mountain Standard Time in the evening and we have two interviews that night. And then we have an interview first thing in the morning, then we get on the road to the San Luis Valley and then we’re filming down there for four days, and then we’ve got three days in Nederland. It’s a town in the Rockies – literally up in the Rockies. But Heather really steers the ship on who we’re interviewing. And she’ll ask me if things are okay, if this person’s cool, if this person works for what we’re trying to do, and –
-I just heard a wood knock.
Aaron – Just now??
Seth – Could you hear that? See, the thing is though it’s windy out here, so that could have been-
Aaron – I heard a muffled something but-
Seth – Yeah, it’s not – I don’t think it would be definitive enough because of the wind to say it’s a wood knock-
(A LOUD sound, like wood cracking or bricks being smacked together comes through the speaker. It echoes in the small office I’m sitting in and Seth’s eyebrows shoot up)
Seth – Did you hear that?
Aaron – I DEFINITELY heard that.
Seth – Now THAT was friggin’ loud.
(long pause – we both just listen)
Seth – Dude, this is so cool that you’re actually hearing it.
Aaron – I can’t believe this is happening.
(Some time passes, Seth hears a couple more sounds in the woods. He says that it could very well be a branch falling as it’s a windy day, but there’s no way to be sure. I’m afraid to speak for fear of missing something else.)
Aaron – If you have to hang up abruptly I’ll understand, just so you know.
Seth – When I’m running for my life.
(We both laugh)
Seth – Well right before I got on the phone with you we actually banged one of those drums, so.
Aaron – This is like, next level interviewing. I’m so happy.
Why do you think you’ve been so successful in getting people to open up with what in some cases are very personal stories?
Seth – It doesn’t have anything to do with the paranormal, or connecting with people over their paranormal experience. When we meet witnesses – and this is how Heather does it too, and this is how I did it when I ran this as well – you just get to know them as people, before you even get to talk about Paranormal stuff. I know Heather told me a week ago that she had a conversation with someone for like an hour where they were just complaining about their work day, before she even started talking about their UFO sighting. I did freelance newspaper reporting for eight years so a lot of that comes from when I was a freelancer.
Man, it is crazy windy up here.
But yeah, it all comes down to talking to people like they’re people instead of someone who can offer you a story.
Aaron – That’s something John Keel was known for as well. Do people ever make a comparison between the two of you?
Seth – Uhm, no, I don’t think so. You know, Keel liked to speculate, and I don’t really speculate. Keel liked to form – and that’s fine, because I think he was more actively interested in getting to the bottom of the mysteries he covered than I am. I’m just trying to document this stuff, I don’t really try to figure out the secrets of the world or the universe. I’m just along for the ride.
It’s a little different when it comes to Bigfoot. I am interested in figuring something out when it comes to Bigfoot. But I’ve never heard that comparison before, really.
Aaron – Speaking of Bigfoot, the next On the Trail of Bigfoot (The Discovery) is coming up later this year – is there anything you’d like to preempt that with?
Seth – It’s a movie that is built around evidence, and we don’t do that typically. I haven’t made many projects where it’s focused on evidence gathering, and this one’s entirely about evidence. And the evidence is deceptively simple. I think the Youtube crowd when they watch it will probably make jokes and think it’s about raccoon nests or something. But when you watch the movie with an open mind – and I don’t mean so open that your brain leaks out your ears, but with an open mind –
I heard a real distant – real distant “whoop.” Down the hill.
(Seth begins to move through the woods, then turns the camera show me the area he’s in. He explains this is where some of the re-enactments from Skinwalker: Howl of The Rougarou were filmed, citing abandoned structures and a creepy atmosphere.)
Seth – You might be able to see – see those blue barrels down there?
Aaron – Yeah, I can kind of make them out.
Seth – Those are the drums I was talking about. But yeah, if you can come into the movie with an open mind it might change your opinion on whether Bigfoot exists. Or at least make you more open to the fact that they MIGHT exist.
Aaron – Going back to Skinwalker: Howl of the Rougarou – you guys tried a couple new things with that, such as the “found footage” approach to the reenactments. Can you talk about that?
Seth – We always try to stylistically change up the game when it comes to the recreations in the Legend movies. Mothman Legacy was just straight ahead, recreations not really stylized. They were cinematic but we didn’t try a different approach –
-did you catch that?
Aaron – (leaning in closer to the speaker, dejected and excited) – No.
Seth – This is – I’m going to sound like a crazy person.
Aaron – I’m gonna go back through this audio later with a fine-tooth comb.
(We both laugh)
Seth – Now that honestly might have been Heather because it’s coming from the bottom of the hill I’m on top of.
We always knew that one (Rougarou) was going to be found footage style. We didn’t want to deviate from that, because sometimes it’s a lot easier to make a narrative style recreation than it is a found footage style recreation. Found footage is really intricate and you have to really nail everything for it to actually work. And it seems like it shouldn’t be as difficult as it is. It seems like it should be such an easy thing – point the camera and film, and then you capture it. But we had to do multiple takes of every single recreation. It took a ton of work. And I think we learned a lot. By the time it was done I remember thinking that I’d like to try my hand at making like a full-fledged narrative found footage movie some time.
Aaron – There was also a decision made kind of late to add Skinwalker as a prefix to Howl of The Rougarou. How did that come about?
Seth – You gotta sell a movie once you make it. The distributor had indicated they were concerned about the title of the movie, and so they told me they wanted it changed to something else. I didn’t want to change the title, so we just added something that might be more eye catching. The concern was that no one knew what a Rougarou was. They originally had said something about calling it –
Did you hear that one?
Aaron – Ah man, no.
Seth – They had actually talked about changing it to “werewolf,” and we changed it to “skinwalker”
The Skinwalker thing too – it’s a Southwest desert sort of tradition. Not really rooted in the American south. We realized this. At the same time, the Skinwalker and the Skinwalker shape shifting traditions and the lore surrounding that are something that are all throughout America – honestly all throughout the world, but especially North America – when it comes to Native lore, it’s just given a different title in different parts of the country. So we just kind of added that title and it works.
Aaron – Small Town Monsters just announced American Werewolves – can you tell me more about that?
Seth – American Werewolves, we’re still really early in the research phase, but we know it’s going to be more of an anthology movie. And it might create a new series within Small Town Monsters, sort of like On the Trail or something like that.
Aaron – Is there a moment where you realized you’re one of THOSE guys? That is, a figurehead in the paranormal community?
Seth – (laughs a little) No. I don’t think of myself that way. I don’t think most people think of me that way. I’m just a film maker. Honestly dude, this is being 100% honest – if I could not have any place with my face being in front of people I would prefer it that way. I’m very anti-social, I’m kind of a hermit, I like spending time alone in the woods. I like spending time with my friends, but being the face of STM is not something I’d ever planned to do. But it is my business, and it supports more than just me.
I definitely don’t consider myself some kind of paranormal personality. I’m just a guy who makes movies, and that’s it.
Aaron – That’s really cool. I love the humility.
Well, now I get to tell people for the rest of my life that Seth Breedlove might have heard wood knocks while I was talking to him, so that’s really great.
Seth – I’m not sure what I heard. The second one was so loud I have a hard time believing it was just a tree breaking, but it is super windy up here, so.
(I thanked Seth for his time and we exchanged additional pleasantries before ending the call. The opportunity to interview one’s favorite film maker is not to be taken for granted. Potentially witnessing sasquatch activity during said interview is to be remembered for a life time. The writer would like to thank Seth once more for sharing his time and answering the writer’s cavalcade of disjointed questions.)
Seth’s top three horror movies are Halloween, Psycho and Dawn of The Dead.
Star Trek, Star Wars, both or neither? – Both, but more often Star Wars.
Seth also thoroughly enjoys surfing documentaries, even though he’s never been surfing himself.