Ask me anything you want to know about the new docuseries and I’ll do my best to answer! Bug Out is a new 4-part documentary that premiered on IMDb TV on March 4. Bug Out dives into the mystery of the largest known live insect heist in history! This series shines a light on the 2018 case where over $50,000 worth of live bugs were stolen from the Philadelphia Insectarium. I’m a first-time Director and loved exploring the world of bug hobbyists, and I’m excited to answer your questions today.

Stream all 4 episodes of Bug Out for free on Amazon’s free streaming service, IMDb TV.


EDIT: Thanks everyone! That was super fun and I appreciate everyone's interest in the show! Very grateful for the opportunity to chat with you all!

Comments: 66 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

k-in-LA12 karma

favorite bug before the doc vs favorite bug after?

BenFeldmanDirector11 karma

Ooh, good question. The orchid mantises are so sweet. Don't think I knew about them before the show. But they use behavioral camouflage so they imitate a flower blowing in the wind by shaking rapidly. It's amazing to see. Favorite bug before the show, was probably a VW. Cheesy, I know.

Existing_Response1849 karma

Who was your favorite crew member? 😉

BenFeldmanDirector7 karma

Impossible to answer. But The Slaties as a unit are up there for sure...

k-in-LA6 karma

when/how did you realize you wanted to be a director?

BenFeldmanDirector9 karma

Well, I knew I didn't want to be a lawyer anymore. So I asked myself what was something I worked really hard on and enjoyed working hard on, and all I could come up with was a documentary short I made in college. So I figured I'd try my hand at making a doc... Never imagined it would end up as it did. Still blows my mind.

EightyGoldChains3 karma

Amazing. How did you make the transition and literally make your first project? How did you financially support yourself? Clearly looking for practical tips as Id love to make a similar leap (10y into a career already...)...

BenFeldmanDirector8 karma

This was my first project. I had some money saved up, but also didn't quit my law job entirely right away. My plan was to quit but a friend was like, "why don't you ask to go parttime?" Never would have occured to me. So I kept working parttime for the first year or so until we got greenlit and then I worked on Bug Out fulltime. Also, at the beginning I was developing this story nights and weekends while I worked my dayjob. I think we often want things to be black and white -- jump all in or not at all -- but it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. At least not to make a start.

Neverending-tutu6 karma

Binged the series and had a dream about bugs that night!!! How many dreams about bugs and creepy insects did you have while making this docuseries???

BenFeldmanDirector6 karma

Hey! Thankfully not too many dreams about bugs. Although they were certainly on my mind during the waking hours for the better part of a couple years. There are some bugs -- like the pretty beetles that I wouldn't mind dreaming about. But the centipedes -- no thank you...

Neverending-tutu3 karma

thanks for the response! Congrats on the show!

BenFeldmanDirector5 karma

For sure! Thank you so much! Spread the buzzzzz!

BenFeldmanDirector6 karma

Signing off! Thanks so much for the great questions and for watching Bug Out! Have a good one!

sp0tlessm1nd5 karma

Hey Ben! Thanks for doing this. The doc is awesome! I'm sure that making this was a pretty wild ride - can you talk about the craziest production day on the show?

BenFeldmanDirector6 karma

Thanks for the question! There were a lot of crazy days to choose from for sure. Being there when John's mom slapped him was pretty nuts. But I'd have to say our shoot in Guadalajara with Rodrigo may take the cake. He's an amazing guy and in addition to being one of the world's biggest tarantula breeders, is also a magic mushroom shaman. After one of our shoots he offered to take the whole crew on a guided mushroom trip... Can't say whether we took him up on his offer...

AmorDeDios5 karma

Need an intern this summer? 👀

BenFeldmanDirector4 karma

Feel free to ping me through my prod co website --

dr_feel_bad5 karma

how did your view of the case change as filming progressed?

BenFeldmanDirector4 karma

Great question. It took a long time to get Steve and Chris to participate in the show. So initially I had only heard John's perspective. I think one of the great strengths of the show is that every person involved in this story wanted to participate and tell his/her side of things. So I definitely realized there were competing narratives out there once we spoke to everyone involved. ALso, once we got to interview the cops and got documents through FOIA requests, a clearer picture started to emerge.

Runjets5 karma

So now that you have successfully directed your first. What would you say to other first time directors. Expectations vs reality?

BenFeldmanDirector7 karma

I'd say you need skill, perseverance and definitely some luck. But if you have a great story to tell and work hard to get it out there, it can happen. I linked up with the Cinemart by writing their info button and we had a shopping agreement signed two days later. I'm amazed by that, but I guess it can happen if you have a great story to tell.

tvfeind5 karma

Hi Ben!

Loved the show. Lots of ups and downs. How did you hear about this and decide to make a story on it??

BenFeldmanDirector6 karma

Thanks so much! Appreciate you checking it out and glad you liked it. I heard the headline like a lot of other folks -- it was initially covered pretty widely -- NYTimes, BBC, Jimmy Kimmel. But I thought, there's got to be more to that story. Kind of surprised media outlets didn't think the same thing. THey all kind of initially reported on it and then let the story die. But as soon as I started talking to folks and digging into the story, I realized there was so much more here than a click-baity headline.

HoleCogan5 karma

Just watched Big Out last night. My son is an aspiring entomologist so it caught my interest.

Something I was confused about - did the police not receive the surveillance footage until way after the heist? It seemed like the police, FBI, USDA, Dept. Of Fish & Wildlife - everyone - was trying to solve this and find the "7,000" insects, but simply watching the footage would prove who/what was taken.

In the beginning, John seems like a really well put together young man and by the end he seems completely unhinged. I was surprised to see he was still making claims that were easily disproven. For example, the "FBI evidence" tarantulas... .

I was heartbroken when Chrissy said what she did to the Giant African Snail. Such a cruel thing to do by someone who claims to care about the insects, arachnids, arthropods, and gastropods... .

BenFeldmanDirector5 karma

Very cool -- good luck to your son! It's an interesting field for sure. The cops and other authorities did receive the surveillance footage a while after the heist was reported. John claimed it took a long time to sort through it all. And yeah -- Chrissy's disposal of the Giant African Land Snail was pretty crazy -- she claims that's how the USDA says to get rid of them -- by freezing and then smashing them-- but I never looked up their guidelines...

HoleCogan3 karma

Thanks for your response! Just wanted to say that you did an excellent job with this documentary - especially it being your first.

Thank you! He has been passionate about insects and all sorts of creepy crawly things since he was a toddler. We are outside as much as possible searching for whatever we can find and admire.

Ohhhh, okay that makes sense. It seemed like one of the first steps would be to acquire that footage, but if John made the claim that it took long to sort through, that would delay the case for sure.

Interesting. That is too bad if that were the case...

BenFeldmanDirector6 karma

Thanks so much -- appreciate your kind words.

And yeah -- seems like that how it starts for most entomologists-- just engaging with the natural world and seeing what they can find outside. Best of luck to him!

k-poz4 karma

Hey Ben! Thanks so much for doing this AMA :)

Sounds like you went through a big life transition to make this doc. How did you tell your family you were quitting your job as a lawyer to make a show about bug crime!? Need to know how that convo went ;)

BenFeldmanDirector4 karma

Yeah it was definitely a big life transition. I knew I wasn't happy practicing law and had tried a bunch of different law jobs and felt it just wasn't for me. I wanted to try my hand at storytelling. I told my wife over a bowl of noodles that I was going to leave my job to make a movie about a bug heist. SHe was like, "That's really more of a conversation than a statement you declare." Very smart woman. But ultimately she was super supportive. And it feels so great to work at something I enjoyed doing. It's hard and stressful for sure, but I'm so happy I made the change and was fortunate enough to be in a position to try it. My wife's sister was telling some colleagues that story and one of them said, "I love a good leaving the law story." Ha.

k-poz4 karma

Haha -- this is not the first "leaving the law" story I've heard, but probably the most interesting new destination! Thanks for the response and congrats on a great piece of art.

BenFeldmanDirector3 karma

Thank you so much! Appreciate it!

k-in-LA4 karma

Any plans for future docs??? Do you think you’ll stick to true crime or try something new?

BenFeldmanDirector3 karma

Yes! I've got another project which we're currently pitching. It is true crime but definitely of a different tenor than Bug Out and I'm really hoping it can help the person at the center of the story. I'm not bound to true crime but a lot of the craziest stories are in that genre.

HoleCogan4 karma

The dad and son in Australia added an interesting perspective. How did you find them to interview?

BenFeldmanDirector3 karma

Great question! I actually met Steve Lamond while on vacation in Australia. My wife and I spent three weeks driving up the east coast of Australia and living in our van. In the Daintree we passed a sign for a bug museum and I suggested we check it out. We started chatting with Steve and I mentioned this project I was working on and he just launched into his whole history of dealing bugs and all the crazy characters he had encountered! It was nuts! So I knew we had to go back with a film crew and incorporate him into the story. And then once we met his son and watched their interactions, it was too good.

HoleCogan3 karma

Thanks for your reply!

That is insane how perfectly that worked out and seemingly by chance. Timing couldn't have been better!

BenFeldmanDirector5 karma

Yeah, kismet for sure.

blackmoonclan_4 karma

Any internship opportunities or organizations to look into?

BenFeldmanDirector4 karma

Don't know of too many, but I'd just say reach out to production companies near you who are doing work you admire. They can always use help!

Quicksand_flo4 karma

What was the most surprising thing about the bug trafficking industry you learned while making Bug Out?

BenFeldmanDirector4 karma

I think the most surprising thing was the scale of the hobby. I'd bet within 70 miles of where you are right now there's a insect fair this weekend at some high school gym or community center. People collect bugs all over the world. Also I just love that there is somethign out there for everyone and would never yuck anyone's yum (even if having a huge collection of bugs in my bedroom isn't for me...)

HiCommaJoel4 karma

I work right down the road from the Insectarium! Great doc and a wild local story, I'm glad its getting attention.

My question is : How was it working in Philadelphia? Any interesting stories of locals or encounters? Philly can be a pretty unique city, and the Insectarium is located right near Frankford Avenue, which is itself pretty interesting.

BenFeldmanDirector9 karma

Glad you enjoyed the show! Philly is a great city and Holmesburg is indeed an interesting part of it. We actually wanted to get across that this museum isn't in CC Philly where most of the other museums are -- but rather is in the NE which is home to a huge number of Philadelphians but is definitely a different flavor of the city. Interesting people would stop into the insectarium for sure. I remember once this lady brought in a dish full of some kind of poop that she wanted someone at the insectarium to identify for her. The insectarium still sells pesticides which seems kind of odd considering they have bugs on display -- and people definitely still ask for their expertise in geting rid of pests. But they declined to ID the poop -- it definitely didn't come from an insect.

HoleCogan3 karma

Another question I had:

It seems like a lot of evidence was gathered that could be used to take down many more illegal insect smugglers/traffickers. Is the FBI, USDA, and/or Dept. Of Fish and Wildlife investigating those as well?

The video footage of the insect expos with proof that illegal animals were being bought and sold was clear as day. Couldn't they raid the expo in order to shut down all the illegal activity? (Sort of like what they did with the Japanese guy and Wlodek from the Insectarium.)

BenFeldmanDirector4 karma

My understanding is that US FWS does have a presence at the insect fairs. They show up undercover but won't say how often they do so. There are only like a few hundred of Fish & Wildlife agents in the country (as opposed to every other federal agency which has thousands of agents) so they are spread pretty thin for sure. But yeah, I know they're out there...

HoleCogan3 karma

Thanks for your response!

I understand that completely. Thank you for explaining. It's wild how prevalent the illegal trade is in this country - it gave me flashbacks to when I watched Tiger King. My hope would be that more and more crackdowns would happen which would deter illegal buyers and sellers from operating, but I know that is highly wishful thinking.

BenFeldmanDirector3 karma

I think the exposure to the illicit trade helps, but ultimately it's impossible to inspect every package that comes into this country. Unless of course scorpions and millipedes are escaping from those parcels like when Wlodek was shipping them!

HoleCogan3 karma

Haha exactly!

I loved the smugglers writing on the box "these are plush toys for my cousin who is about to have a baby". Couldn't have seemed any more suspicious!

BenFeldmanDirector4 karma

Seriously. That definitely falls under the 'stranger than fiction' banner.

heatherb2323232 karma

I saw this thread and just got done watching this documentary, I am a documentary, true crime enthuist, I thought this was an amazing series!! So many twist and turns, I'm already in my head writing the the movie script. Truth is always stranger then fiction! You have a great career ahead of you and I'm super excited to see what's next. With that being said. Did you know the whole story before you started this documentary? And where did the initial idea come from? Has John watched and given you his thoughts on the series,?

BenFeldmanDirector2 karma

Thanks so much! So glad to hear you liked the show -- send me your script when you have it :) I definitely did not know the whole story when i started working on this. It was definitely an onion and the more layer peeled back the more I realized this was a really compelling story that had greatly affected a lot of people. I'm so grateful those folks opened up to us and told this story. Assume John has watched it but he hasn't given me any feedback :/