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Sweet Tee and Monsters

An Interview with Sheri Wiggins, producer of Birth of a Legend: The Story of the WAWA

by Avery Battles

Birth of a Legend: The Story of the WAWA (US-2008, directed by Steve Wiggins)

Sweet Tee, Alabama, has a problem; a big, wormy, carnivorous mutation that comes out of the polluted lake to chew up the residents and generally cause trouble for everyone. Everyone except Sheri Wiggins, that is, who with her husband, director Steve Wiggins, is responsible for exposing the horror to the world.

Kaiju Search-Robot Avery (otherwise known as Avery Battles) asked Sheri about their new movie and how it came about.

Avery: Over the years you and Steve have been involved in various aspects and in various fields of the entertainment industry. What attracted you to these?

Sheri Wiggins: Steve has been involved with TV and film for over 20 years and it has always been something he was interested in doing. As for me ... well when I married Steve it seemed like the most natural thing to do ... be a movie-maker.

Avery: Who have been your greatest influences?

SW: The person who has influenced me the most would probably be Mel Brooks and directors of his ilk.

Avery: Was making a feature-length film of this kind always part of your master plan?

SW: Yes, making a feature film was ALWAYS the master plan -- though shorts and Internet TV are way cool, too. I think being creative and seeing your words come to life are just the cat's ass. However, Steve and I have talked about making a feature-length film in particular for a long time and the comedy/horror aspect was just a given ... having the personalities that Steve and I have ... and of course the movie had to take place in the southern United States, a place that both of us love dearly.

Avery: Where did the idea of filming a 'creature feature' come from?

SW: We decided to make a Creature Feature one night as Steve, Charles Rose and I were down in the basement trying to come up with an idea for a movie ... And once we started talking about creatures and such, the idea just stuck when we threw it up against the old creative wall.

Avery: How would you describe Birth of a Legend: The Story of the Wawa?

bikin girl

SW: Birth of a Legend; The Story of the WAWA is a funny little film that pokes fun at good ole boys, the deep south and all that it represents. We not only poke fun at authority and the creature genre in and of itself ... but we give it to clichés in general. We put political correctness out there for everyone to see just how insane it is.

Avery: The film is a comedy but is it meant to be more of a 'spoof' or a 'loving tribute' to the monster films of yesteryear?

SW: I would say BOAL is not only a spoof of the Creature Feature genre but a loving tribute to all "B" movies out there.

Avery: Where did the monster's name "Wawa" come from? Does it mean something?

SW: WAWA ... just what does it mean? You mean you can't guess? OK, OK ... I'll tell you. WAWA stands for West Alabama Whoop Ass. 'Cause that is just what the ole WAWA does: Whoop up on some Alabama ass.

Avery: The film plays up the old "atomic age" monster theme?

SW: Yes, we were making fun of atomic power ... this time not the A-bomb, but nuclear power plants in general. Always an easy mark, don't you think?

Avery: Did you have any of the classic monster films in mind while filming this feature?

SW: We really didn't have in one film in mind as we made this movie ... but if I have to pinpoint one particular film it might be modelled after, I would say the old Swamp Thing movies.

Avery: Would you say that the theme of those sort of films is still relevant in today's world?

SW: I believe there will always be a place for downright good old monster movies ... whether they scare the begeeze out of you ... or whether they do send ups of the old "B' movies of the 50s and 60s. There are always new ways to re-invent the good old man-eating monster.

Avery: The concept/design for the creature is, in my opinion, one of the most 'unique' in cinema history. Who was in charge of its actualisation?

SW: Steve and I came up with the idea and we had a friend who had studied horror makeup and monster building in Florida, Kelly Boyd. We consulted her and decided to show just part of the monster ... which, by the way, was originally intended to be a mutant catfish, but we opted for a giant mutant worm instead.

Avery: What types of special effects were used in bringing this monster to life?

SW: We brought this wonderful monster to life with movie magic ... and a lot of man-power. Don't want me giving up all the trade secrets, do ya?

Avery: Birth of a Legend contains a wide range of characters, many stereotypes. Did the inspiration for these come from real life?

SW: Each and every character in Birth of a Legend: The Story of the WAWA was fashioned after someone from our quad city area, Florence, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia and good old Sheffield, Alabama. Even the names are similar to some of our most infamous/famous town folk.

Avery: Well, that's pretty scary in itself! Where did you find the actors to play the varied parts and what was it like working with them?

SW: Most of the actors and actresses we used in our movie had little or no training for the movies. The vast majority of our cast was and is active in local theatre. Some, though, have never acted before -- such as David Beddingfield, who played Biggers and Charlene Carter who played Simpson. And I must say that both did outstanding work for their first dive into acting.

Avery: Were there any aspects of the process that you particularly liked/loathed?

SW: I would say that as far as making the movie goes everything about doing it -- from the writing of the script to the last cut, to editing -- was the most fun! If I had to say that something had a negative aspect, it would be the casting. It was hard having to say 'no' to some very eager actors and having to hope we chose the best from the casting calls.

Avery: Any funny (or horrific) stories from being on the set that you'd like to tell us about?

SW: Well, there was the night we were filming the death of Smiley, played by Jeremy Woods. Several of the actors had travelled from out of town to shoot this scene and the boat was on loan to us for just one night. We rehearsed and rehearsed before we got Jeremy wet (we only had one Rooster Scent t-shirt). And Steve had been warning RJ (RJ O' Connoll, who plays Chigger) to be careful with the boom mic around the water's edge ... well, just before we were ready to shoot the scene RJ danced the mic into the water. I thought Steve was going to blow a gasket -- he called the boy every name in the book -- thankfully the mic was not hurt and the scene went off without a hitch.

And there was the time we were shooting the rescue scene late one night ... about 1 am or so … and everyone was dog-tired. All the girls were around the table serving coffee and such and the guys were back behind the camera and Barbara O'Connoll was shining a huge light out over the water ... when a giant river rat ran from the bluff, right through the crowd of four or five guys standing off camera. They all jumped up on the truck shivering like little girls ... the rat ran passed the camera operator and right under the table where there were four or five women sitting and standing doing their parts ... out from under the table across some rocks and right behind Barbara. None of them ever saw the rat. Had they seen it we would probably still be trying to shoot that scene!


Avery: What has the reaction to the film been like so far and what further plans do you have for it?

SW: The reaction to BOAL has surprised both Steve and myself. People love the movie. At the first screening in Huntington, West Virginia where the movie was screened at the Appy Fest [Appalachian Film Festival 2007, where the movie was a competition finalist], everyone laughed in all the right places and everyone seemed to really enjoy this little flick. We have sold close to 200 copies of the movie so far [before being formally distributed] and it seems to be taking on a life of its own. We are pleased to see our work so well received, considering that Steve and I had the motto -- which all of the cast soon picked up -- "Laugh with us … hey, that's OK ... laugh at us ... hey, we can live with that ... main thing is, folks, just laugh, 'cause that's what it's all about and we've done something right if you do. Thank you ... thank you very much!"

We're hoping that in the future we can screen the flick at a couple of theatres and maybe enter a few more film festivals.

Avery: A sequel perhaps?

SW: Well, who knows? We will never rule the possibility out.

Avery: have you had any offers from any companies interested in distributing the film?

SW: We have had a couple of companies looking into distributing the movie. We're not at liberty to give out the names of the interested companies at this time. Keep your fingers crossed!

Avery: Would another different "creature feature" be on the cards?

SW: Who knows what the future holds? There could be another creature in the Tennessee River ... and we might just be the folks to make her a star!

Avery: Or perhaps you have plans to try a new genre altogether?

SW: We have considered making a short (30 minute) flick of straight psycho horror. We are tossing some ideas around about that as we speak. As for loss and redemption ... don't look for that from Steve and I.

Avery: What does your future hold in terms of cinema?

SW: We would love to do another feature film. But this time we would like to do it right, with a budget. But if that doesn't happen, we will stick with shorts and Internet TV. Gotta tell you, the movie-making bug has bitten both of us.

Avery: In closing, is there anything you might like to add?

SW: I would personally like to thank everyone who helped with this wonderful movie -- from the actors to the behind-the-scenes crew to Corey Barker out of Nashville, Tennessee, who wrote a wonderful soundtrack for our movie. I would love to thank everyone who has taken the chance on WAWA and bought the movie. Kisses and hugs to you all!.

Director Steve Wiggins

Lead actor , J.C. Hester


Avery Battles describes himself as "a big kaiju fan, obsessive completist, and animal/nature lover". As 'Kaiju Search-Robot Avery' he helps the Undead Backbrain to keep up-to-date on kaiju cinematic rumblings and to maintain the giant monster and zombie film lists. He also frequents RoboJapan / MonsterIsland News as a blogger where he's known as 'avery guerra'. "I love to help promote projects that I'm passionate about, no matter how big or small."
copyright©Avery Battles and Robert Hood 2008

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