When Steve Cook wrote a song about a fictional half-man, half-dog in 1987 as an April Fool's joke, he had no idea it would touch off a cultural phenomenon.
"After the song became popular it just sort of took off and became part of the fabric of local folklore here," he said.
Twenty-five years later, the Traverse City man's song has been turned into a movie that will be shown in Alpena on May 11-12. The screenings will be at the Alpena High School Auditorium at 7 p.m. on May 11 and 2 p.m. on May 12. Tickets are $8, with a portion of the proceeds going to Huron Humane Society. While not officially rated, Cook said the film has some bloody scenes and foul language, and likely would get a "PG-13" rating.
The movie "Dogman" is based on the song, "The Legend," which Cook wrote while working for WTCM-FM in Traverse City, a sister station of Alpena's WATZ-FM. He still works at the radio station as its production director, and consulted on the film with writer and director Rich Brauer.
"When I first read the script, I was a little bit leery because it didn't follow the cadence of the song," he said. "But when I saw it I thought it was brilliant. I thought I couldn't have done it better myself."
The film follows an outdoorsman, played by Michigan native Larry Joe Campbell, who starts to have experiences with something he can't explain, Cook said. The film was shot entirely in Benzie County in Northwest Michigan, and features the performances of other Michigan natives.
What: Dogman screening
When: May 11-12, 7 p.m.
Where: Alpena High School auditorium
"What makes the song so appealing and so mysterious is that the Dogman is really not an in-your-face kind of monster," Cook said. "He appears in the shadows, out of the corner of your eye you see a flash of movement."
Brauer has known Cook for "many, many decades," he said, and the song always has been in his subconscious. "Dogman" is his ninth feature film, and he got the idea to make a movie loosely based on the song last winter.
"The whole notion of independent filmmaking to me is finding and using local resources," he said. "Those resources might be locations or stories or whatever."
Along with consulting on the film, Cook also has a cameo part as well, Brauer said.
"It's really a fun film," he said. "At the end of the day, it's really like a big campground story, and it's got a pretty fun twist at the end."
Brauer and Cook will be at both screenings, Cook said, and will answer questions about the song, movie and legend afterward.
Cook said he is excited to see the idea turned into a movie.
"It certainly is unexpected that, 25 years later, it would still be such a big part of the local folklore and still be so popular," he said. "But it's fun, I guess more than anything else it's fun for me to watch the whole thing unfold and grow and now start to absorb an entire new generation of young people who get such a charge out of it."
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.