For nearly a month, Mineola will be turned into Boggy Creek, a fictional town serving as the backdrop to a science fiction thriller. A 50-plus crew rolled into the small town of about 4,515 last week to film "Bigfoot Wars," starring C. Thomas Howell and Judd Nelson.
There's some mystery surrounding the movie, as the identity of Bigfoot remains hidden. But the crew is certain their film will offer movie watchers a twist to the typical Bigfoot story. It's based on a series of books by Eric S. Brown.
"We have a local small town that's been ravaged for years by a mysterious animal and in "Bigfoot Wars" we discover exactly what it is that's been ravaging that town, exactly what it is they are doing," said producer Nicholle Walton-Durban.
Mindy Raymond Benson, an actress in the movie, noted the film has some backstories and plots to keep the audience guessing.
"For a lot of the movie you don't know if its real or not, if there is something else going on," Mrs. Benson said.
This is the second film Mrs. Durban has produced in the area, as the town has been designated a film-friendly community by the Texas Film Commission.
"Mineola is an amazingly film-friendly town," she said. "They are very welcoming, very accommodating. They're great and very participatory. They really go above and beyond to make sure we have the support of the town to pull off a successful production."
Lynda Rauscher, community development director, said they've made it a priority to nurture relationships with film crews.
"They are very, very nice to work with," she said. "They put a lot of money into our economy. They try to use local people for extras and building sets."
Filming began downtown and more will occur at the Mineola Nature Preserve through the first week of September. They will then move to an RV site in Jefferson.
At least 100 residents showed up for an extras casting on Aug. 11.
The movie is an independent film by D Zone Films, in association with Edgen Films. Most of the cast and crew are from Texas, many of whom are based in Austin.
Producers anticipate the movie will be released late this year or early next year.
LIGHTS. CAMERA. ACTION.
Mrs. Benson is excited about her role in "Bigfoot Wars." She plays Kendall Sharp, an ambitious reporter who does not believe the mysterious creature is real.
"She comes to this town to do a story that she really doesn't want to do but she has to," she said.
Mrs. Benson is also happy to share the screen with Howell, a veteran actor. Howell stars as Zeke, a trapper and hunter who has long warned people about Bigfoot. Judd Nelson plays a pill-popping doctor and Holt Boggs is cast as Sheriff Jim Taylor. His character also denies the existence of a so-called Bigfoot.
The cast worked through the unrelenting Texas heat as scenes were filmed several miles out in the middle of the nature preserve. Their days are long and it takes anywhere from 30 minutes up to several hours to complete one scene.
Under a bridge and next to the Sabine River, the actors descended to a wooded area last week, complete with fake blood, weapons and tussled clothes.
There, Howell, Benson and Boggs gather to reveal what is happening in Boggy Creek and how much their characters know about it.
The legend of Bigfoot has been prevalent for several decades, but it mostly has been portrayed as obscure and harmless. This movie may change things, the actors said.
"At the end of the day I want (viewers) to have fun," Boggs said. "There really hasn't been a Bigfoot movie done before in a scary way. He's always been this weird mythical creature that nobody's ever seen but this is the first really horror/thriller that I've seen with him being the antagonist."
Mrs. Benson believes more movies of this kind will soon be on the way.
"I think Bigfoot is going to be the next big genre," she said. "We've done zombie movies. Those have been tried and tested and people are sort of over that genre. There's a lot of people out there that think this is something that exists. … It's a fun genre, something you can play with."
BIGFOOT MEETS NATURE FEST
When the film crew leaves Mineola, that won't mean the end of Bigfoot. City officials hope to capitalize on the interest centered on their town.
This filming is not the town's only experience with the ape-like creature. In January, producers from the television network Animal Planet were at the 3,000-plus-acre nature preserve for eight days to film for its reality show, Finding Bigfoot.
The show's new season begins Dec.1, not long after the city's annual Nature Fest, an annual event that features wildlife demonstrations from groups such as the Texas Parks and Wildlife.
"After they were here, we decided that we would have a little fun with Bigfoot, if you will," Ms. Rauscher said.
Some activities will be dedicated to the lore, and they are calling it Bigfoot Meets Nature Fest. The city will host concerts, a Bigfoot lookalike contest, a Bigfoot calling contest, a 5K fun run and other events. The Luscious Crumb, the Mineola bakery that was featured on Food Network's "Cupcake Wars," will make a seven-foot Bigfoot out of cupcakes.
"I realize that there are people who really truly think they've seen Bigfoot and we're certainly not making fun of them," Ms. Rauscher said. "We just thought we'd offer some fun for the whole family."