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Vanessa S. Valliere & John Gregorio

Vanessa S. Valliere is a performer, puppeteer and clown who makes original devised work. She performs with Manual Cinema, an internationally touring and Emmy Award winning cinematic shadow puppetry collective. She has directed, performed and toured with Theater Unspeakable, a physical theater company based in Chicago, IL. Vanessa was a co-creator of creative content and performer for six years with Tour De Fat, a festival that toured the US.


John Gregorio is a stage actor and improviser. John’s regional credits include performances at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Geva Theatre Center, Actors Theatre of Louisville, North Shore Music Theatre, Alliance Theatre, The New Theatre at 45th St., Lamb’s Theatre and New York Music Theatre Festival. He has appeared on TV in Extended Family (Sundance Channel), Good Eats (Food Network), and Smoking Gun TV (Court TV). John has been performing and teaching improvisation across the country for 20 years. 


Gut Feelings was created at the height of the pandemic lockdown and the entire film was shot in our dining room, where the walls and windows were draped in black fabric for several months. We were funded by a mini-commission from Heather Henson's Handmade Puppet Dreams and Ibex Puppetry, which we received based on an application that promised to create work that is "gross and beautiful, sweet and creepy." The idea for the film started with Vanessa's desire to see a shot of her hummanette character buried in dolls and ended with John's idea to have the two characters meet in the belly of a beast.

Gut Feelings Trailer
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Gut Feelings

Swallowed by a grotesque monster, GUT FEELINGS is the story of two misfits who meet in the belly of a beast.


This small DIY, can-do-it film is exactly the kind of project that Chicagoans show up for with "Yes!" and a "How can we help?!" It is chock full of Chicago's logistical, physical and emotional support and it just would not have been the same film in any other city.

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Made entirely at home, with at-home objects, GUT FEELINGS is a wonderful example of what you can create with what you have at hand. If the film has you laughing and searching for more fun, grab something from your home and see what mischief you can make. 

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Learn more about Heather Henson's Handmade Puppets, and see more films like GUT FEELINGS at


Much of Vanessa Valliere and John Gregorio’s Gut Feelings takes place within the insides of a large beast (credited as “Big Guy”), lost within the dark and mysterious caverns of this hungry creature’s innards. See if you can spot all of these items featured in Big Guy’s belly; -a telephone. -a baby doll. -a shoe. -a tiny red frog. -a pink hat. -a mannequin’s arm. -a human heart. -an umbrella. -Gaff tape. -at least a dozen cupcakes. -a bell. -a young boy, with large spectacles and a large heart, who has been sitting in this belly for who knows how long, rummaging through the mass of detritus piling up moment by moment, waiting for someone, anyone, to join him in this pit of despair. Hope arrives in the form of a little girl, barreling down the throat of this monster, now put in the same trapped position as him. Suffering, yes, but no longer suffering alone. -a canvas, easel, and paints. -a deck of playing cards. -a disco ball. -two buckets of popcorn. -a baby grand piano. -a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. -a young girl, devoured by the beast, so used to a lonely life of swaddling and consumption, now devoured by that which was feeding her, fearful of spending her days away from the world she knows, yet thankful for a new companion - the young boy - and spending sweet new moments reveling in a courtship as grand as any in the annals of cinema history. Sure, there is a whole world to explore outside this gastrological prison, but, well, how does that old saying go? “‘Tis better to have loved and remained in the belly of a terrifying hungry puppet-man, than never to have loved at all.” -a cluster of grapes. -a flask. -pepper. -a butterfly.

Ben Kaye  is a Chicago-based director, puppet-maker, musician, and culture critic, with his writing appearing in Newcity Stage, The Spool, and Ben is the host and creator of "Movie: The Musical!," a podcast about movies that have been turned into musicals. Alongside these various artistic pursuits, you can also find Ben working as the Guest Services Manager at Chicago Children's Theatre.