Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Beast That's All Wet?

Ogopogo, the real-life mythical creature at the heart of the independent Canadian comedy The Beast of Bottomless Lake, has supposedly been sighted and filmed over the span of many decades in its natural habitat of Lake Okanagan, B.C. But having watched some of the vaunted evidence, writer-producer Kennedy Goodkey makes it sound more like a case of Ogonono.

"Our technical adviser Stan Orchard was actually one of three experts brought in when the Chaplin film was shot," recalls Goodkey during an interview with FilmStew, in reference to the July 18th, 1989 footage captured by local Clem Chaplin. "They were brought in to verify that it was indeed the Ogopogo."

"The video was basically a rodent-like head followed by 15 feet of body and then a flat round tail," he continues. "Stan and the others sat down to lunch and asked one another, 'Does any one of us doubt what that really was?' It was two beavers ferrying a log, one at each end. By the time they finished lunch, Chaplin had already announced to the media that the scientists were baffled or something to that effect."

'The Office meets Jacques Cousteau'

These actions mirror those of fictional lead character Dr. Paul Moran in The Beast of Bottomless Lake. As played by David Nykl, a.k.a. Stargate: Atlantis' Dr. Zelanka, the inept cryptozoologist puts forth some mightily unconvincing footage of his own at one point in a narrative that is part comedy, part mockumentary and 100% folksy Canadian satire.

Although Kelowna resident Arlene Gaal, the self-professed modern day keeper of all things Ogopogo, has yet to see the film, Goodkey says she read a copy of the script and gave it her tacit approval. Meanwhile, at the latest screening of Beast this past weekend at Vancouver's VCON, there was an equally important woman in attendance: David Nykl's number one fan.

"Definitely the VCON highlight was a woman who goes by the online moniker of Rosehawk," Goodkey confirms. "She lives in Minnesota and apparently she received a small windfall and took the opportunity to fly to Vancouver for the weekend for the express purpose of seeing our film. She had one of our shirts that she had all of us sign. It was pretty cool – heartwarming, even."

The object of Rosehawk's affection

In July, Beast bagged the People's Choice Award at its hometown event the Okanagan International Film Festival, and is now on tap stateside for potentially both L.A.'s Mockfest and Slamdance. And even though everyone faithfully refers to Canada's version of the Loch Ness monster as Ogopogo, Goodkey says even that is not quite right.

"Perhaps I’m telling tales out of class here," he confesses, "but Ogopogo is not a native name. The original name is N'ha-a-tik. Ogopogo became popularized in the 1920’s. There was a music hall song with the words: 'His mother was an earwig / His father was a whale / A little bit of head / And hardly any tail / And Ogopogo was his name.' Somehow that stuck."

"I find the likelihood of a ten to 40-foot creature living in a lake that has been searched extensively by now to be increasingly unlikely," he continues. "If there was just one, how on earth did it survive so long? If there are many – enough for a breeding population - it makes it even less likely to have not been found with diligent searching."

"It is far more scientifically plausible that we're dealing with a much smaller creature - let’s call it a fish - that usually lives very deep in this unusually deep lake. And every now and then, it comes up to the surface in large numbers to spawn as a group."

(l to r) March, Goodkey at Okanagan Fest

Despite his personal skepticism about the lake monster, Goodkey is proud alongside director Craig March and the rest of the Beast crew to be part of a film that honors the memory of its late originator Keith Provost. The Kelowna actor was fascinated with the mythology of Ogopogo and worked tirelessly on the project for years before dying in a tragic bicycling accident.

"Keith’s widow and his parents Clare and Lanie all invested in the film," says Goodkey. "I know there is no way that the film could ever represent closure for them, but they were absolutely glowing with pride when it debuted. No doubt having a sold-out crowd full of people cheering louder than the closing credits music didn’t hurt."

[The Beast of Bottomless Lake]

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