Albert Lea resident, wrestler featured in upcoming documentary

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, November 12, 2017

The filmmaker would like to make one thing clear: his documentary on Perry Saturn is not about wrestling.

It’s about the wrestler.

Ian Withey, a filmmaker who owns the Influx Pictures in Eagan, is in the midst of creating a feature-length documentary about Albert Lea resident Perry Satullo, known as Perry Saturn to the wrestling world.

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“It’s not about the $15 million you could have made, it’s about Perry’s relationship with his grandson,” filmmaker Ian Withey said. “And I think that all of those things will help paint Perry as a person instead of a character, because that’s really what he was always looked at: the character, Perry Saturn, not the person, Perry Satullo.”

At the height of his wrestling career, Perry Saturn wrestled as part of Extreme Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment). He was released from the WWF due to an injury. During the later portion of his time with the WWF, he began using illegal drugs. He has since gotten clean and is looking to re-enter the wrestling world. Saturn has wrestled several matches since 2011.

But he’s looking for more.

This is how Withey entered the picture.

“I grew up watching Perry Saturn as a child,” Withey said. “At my grandma’s house, we had a TV in the living room and in the kitchen and I would run back and forth between the two,” watching different wrestling channels.

Withey filmed, produced and edited 16 hours of wrestling television, creating 33 episodes for the American Wrestling Federation in Minnesota. While doing that, he joined Facebook wrestling groups to promote the videos and build up an audience. It was through this channel that he saw a post from Perry Saturn. Saturn was looking for a comeback, Withey said. It shows in a sound bite Withey has used for a fundraising video.

“I’m completely lost because my whole life I worked for and was a wrestler, and now I’m nothing,” Saturn said in the sound bite.

The Facebook post was asking for ideas of what Saturn could do. Withey sent Saturn a message: “I would love to help you make some videos you can maybe sell online.”

Within 24 hours, he heard back. The two met in Lakeville over barbeque.

Out of the collaboration will come the documentary, currently titled “The Rings of Saturn.” Withey said he plans to mix interviews (including ones conducted with professional wrestlers Raven and Chris Jericho), actor re-enactments and animated sequences that portray some of the drug-related sequences.

This is what I told Perry right away … I don’t just want to have a boring, talking heads, someone explaining something to you documentary,” Withey said. “I wanted something more dynamic, more cinematic, and something that was really, it was more than just another documentary.”

And he wants the documentary to have scope beyond the wrestling world.

“I know we have a built-in audience with wrestling fans, but this story is so much more than just a wrestling story,” Withey said. He wants it to have “the human element.”

But it all comes at a cost. So far, Withey said that cost is $13,000 of his own money so far. He currently has a Seed & Spark campaign that he’s hoping will help him raise both money and awareness. On the page, you’ll be confronted with the face of Jericho.

“Perry Saturn gave his blood, sweat and tears to entertain you,” Jericho said.

Jericho encouraged people to follow the project, an action Withey said shows companies who may be interested in buying the film that people would be interested in watching it. So far, he said it hasn’t been going as well as he has hoped.

“I don’t want that to be a bump in our momentum, because we’ve been having such good momentum,” Withey said. “… But that’s the only thing I’ve lost sleep over through this whole process.”

Withey has paid for all the costs up front, but hopes donations from the Seed & Spark page will fund animation and production costs. How the film is released will be determined by whether or not he is able to market it to streaming services or take it to film festivals.

The profit from the movie will be split 50-50 between Withey and Satullo. This is a move his fiance did not understand, Withey said.

“This guy gave me so much entertainment as a child,” Withey said. “This is the very least I can try to do to help him out. … It’s my little bit of a way, I guess, to say thank you.”

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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