Columbus Park film maker draws ‘BIG’ crowds to movie premier

Bryan Stalder
Northeast News

Dan Wayne, a commercial photographer by trade, moved to the Columbus Park neighborhood in 2004.

He purchased a building at 5th & Harrison for his photography studio, but as digital cameras changed the industry, Wayne began searching for a new project to work on.

Taxidermy sparked his interest, but as he began to learn about the level of time and skill it takes to turn an animal pelt into a lifelike sculpture, he felt that it wasn’t a hobby that he could casually pick up.

“I quickly became more interested in the characters who did taxidermy rather than taxidermy itself,” Wayne admits, and perhaps his talents were better suited to make a documentary film about the under-appreciated art form by highlighting some of the interesting people that have taken years to master the craft.

Wayne started reading taxidermy forums online, and traveling the Midwest to taxidermy conventions.

He began making connections within the North American taxidermy community when he met Ken Walker; a highly skilled taxidermist from Alberta, Canada.

He learned that, in addition to being a taxidermist of legend, Walker had an obsession with collecting evidence of Sasquatch, and eventually hoped to prove their existence.

In the meantime, Walker had hatched an idea to create a life-size replica of Sasquatch based off of grainy video footage of the elusive forest dweller, and book illustrations created from various Sasquatch sightings throughout the past half century.

If Wayne had ever questioned whether he could make an interesting film about taxidermy, he was confident that he had found the McGuffin to attempt a bigger feat.

Wayne flew back and forth from Kansas City to Alberta four to five times, and even made the drive once, filming Walker’s progress on Sasquatch in-between other projects.

Wayne found himself venturing out into the cold, Alberta wilderness in search of a mythical creature, and stumbled upon a real human story full of love, mistakes, pain, and lessons.

As time progressed and the cameras rolled, life also happened. Stories that were never part of Wayne’s original narrative began to unfold, evolving his film into something much larger than he ever imagined.

“When I think back on the other taxidermists I had considered making the movie about, I think ‘Thank God I didn’t make it about that guy!’ because I spent six years with Ken to make this film!” Wayne admits.

Wayne got to tell the story that he had set out to make; a glimpse into the art of taxidermy, but his project also included the elements of comedy, romance, and tragedy.

After the Kansas City premier of “Big Fur,” Wayne and Walker sat for a Q&A with the audience in a sold-out auditorium at Screenland Theatre on Armour Rd.

One individual pointed out that within the movie, an emphasis was placed on how “getting the eyes right,” is one of the most important elements of a good piece of taxidermy, and added that Wayne had successfully captured true emotions in the eyes of the human characters at the center of his “Wild Love Story.”

After premiering this film to the sold-out audiences in Springfield, Mo. and Kansas City, Mo., who have been anticipating its release, Wayne submitted the film to multiple film festivals and hopes that it will appear in some of them later this year, which means more traveling in his future.

Despite only a few sightings of the film so far, it has left behind a large imprint with those privileged enough to have seen it. “Big Fur” is Dan Wayne’s first full-length film, with a run-time of 76 minutes.

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