Bigfoot in the forest in graphic novel style, as rendered by Dall-E 3 in Microsoft Designer.

The emergence of the modern deepfake is closely tied to the rise of generative artificial intelligence, but when it comes to videos and images of questionable origin and authenticity, the real pioneer is Bigfoot.

Fifty-seven years after the infamous Patterson–Gimlin film purported to capture a furry beast traipsing through the Northern California wilderness, the Bumbershoot Arts + Music Festival in Seattle is challenging artists, animators, and technologists to take the tradition to the next level in its “Big Fake Deep Foot” contest.

Bumbershoot organizers are inviting people from around the world to create short (no more than 5 minutes) deepfake videos featuring the legendary figure of the forest. The winner will receive a $5,000 prize.

Greg Lundgren, Bumbershoot producer and creative director.

This show has been a longtime goal for Greg Lundgren, the Bumbershoot producer and creative director, known for projects including the Out of Sight art fair and Museum of Museums, who signed on with the iconic Seattle festival last year.

Lundgren has been closely following deepfake technology for several years, watching the tools mature. He had originally hoped to do a Bigfoot deepfake show three or four years ago, but the technology hadn’t reached the point where it was feasible.

“I’m hoping that that moment has arrived, where there’s enough people out in the world that feel capable of it, and rise to the challenge,” he said recently.

It’s a lighthearted twist on an emerging area of technology that is more often a source of concern, due to the potential for deepfake content to contribute to the spread of disinformation and other malicious behavior in politics and society.

“I chose Bigfoot partly because I love Bigfoot, and partly because Bigfoot is part of the Pacific Northwest DNA,” Lundgren explained, noting that Bigfoot also has the benefit of being politically ambiguous and gender-neutral.

“It’s meant to be light, it’s meant to be creative and comedic, and give people a wide berth about how they approach it, and what that narrative is,” he added. “It could be really funny, it could be very serious. But I think Bigfoot as an idea was a good foundation that didn’t create political divide, that wasn’t about hate, that wasn’t about some of the problems that deepfakes represent.”

The winner, as chosen by an expert panel, will receive $5,000, plus the satisfaction of being the best Bigfoot deep-faker on the planet, or at least the best one who took the time to come up with a submission.

(GeekWire is a supporting sponsor of the contest, and I’ll be a member of the jury assessing the submissions, drawing in part on my own heritage. I’m no Bigfoot hunter, or deepfake creator, but my dad was a souvenir wholesaler who specialized for many years in Bigfoot merchandise.)

People around the world are invited to compete. As many as 20 entries will be chosen to be screened in the Animation District at Bumbershoot, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, Labor Day Weekend at Seattle Center.

One contestant (below) is documenting the process of generating a submission.

Full rules and requirements are available here. Contest submissions, no more than 5 minutes long, must be posted to YouTube by midnight July 31.

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