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The Strange Tale of 'Finders Keepers'

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Fest.  Find the rest of them  here  or  download the podcast  on iTunes.

Back in 2008 filmmaker Ed Cunningham heard a strange story on the news about a man who bought a barbecue smoker at an auction and found a severed human leg inside. A legal battle ensued between the finder of the foot and the man it once belonged to.

Credit Press Photo / Finders Keepers
Finders Keepers

Ed began interviewing the two men, each with his own personal flaws and motivations for what would eventually become the film Finders Keppers. But when money for the project ran out, the film was shelved until two young filmmakers took it to completion. KBIA’s Bram Sable-Smith spoke with the co-directors of Finders Keepers, Clay Tweel and Bryan Carberry, about taking on the film.

How did you decide to become involved with this film?

Tweel: I actually was one of the first people that Ed showed that early footage to. So he had shot some stuff on this crappy-little JVC camera and then brought it back. But you could tell that there was a really layered and interesting set of characters that he had discovered and that there was this deeper story behind the crazy Tabloid headline.

I love this film on so many levels. On the very surface it's just funny, it's just a funny film with funny characters involved in it. But when you go behind that there's a lot more depth to it that is sad.

Carberry: It's so funny because the characters are so funny, naturally funny, and the events are naturally so funny. But if you take a step back the events are funny because these crazy funny characters created them. And all these characters are funny because they are hiding all this stuff underneath. All these layers and layers of childhood traumas and baggage and grievances.

So I think like any situation if you just keep taking steps back you get see everything for what it is, which isn't just surface level laughs.

When I'm watching the film, you've got John Wood who is this funny guy and you've got Shannon who is kind of the nemesis. But as it keeps going I realize this guy who I like so much is kind of the bad guy and Shannon becomes a guy I really sympathize with.

Carberry: I feel like our experiences so far have been a lot of people side with John from the beginning. But throughout this whole saga, we hope those roles kind of get reversed and audiences aren't sure who has the better claim to this leg.

Tweel: Anybody who has dealt with addicts and their personal life and has firsthand experience with them can attest to how hard it would have been to be around John at some of his real low points throughout this past decade of his life.

For us, the benefit of being around the story long enough to watch things develop and play out and really making this movie over seven years, has allowed us to see how far he's come.

Copyright 2020 KBIA. To see more, visit KBIA.

A curious Columbia, Mo. native, Bram Sable-Smith is a reporter for Kaiser Health News. He has documented mbira musicians in Zimbabwe, mining protests in Chile, and the St. Louis airport's tumultuous relationship with the Chinese cargo business. His reporting from Ferguson, Mo. was part of a KBIA documentary honored by the Missouri Broadcasters Association and winner of a national Edward R. Murrow Award. He comes to KBIA most recently from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine.
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