2014 October

Where the Redfern Grows

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Yesterday, I was fortunate to meet one of the most prolific writers of the paranormal out there, Mr. Nick Redfern.

He’s also one of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, and extraordinarily eloquent.  He listened patiently to my questions with nary a wince, threw down amazing answers, cranked the ideas up to 11, and then suggested further directions I could explore.  It’s like his mind is wired specifically to see incredible connections across the entire paranormal spectrum.  There is a reason all those other UFO shows seek him out.

My reason for interviewing him was primarily based on his book, Contactees, which shows off his ability to tease out new data from all the old stories, and track down a number of other fantastic stories besides.  I’m really getting excited about this film now, and can’t wait to share it with y’all. (That’s what they say in Texas, which is where I met Nick.)

So, I’ll pimp his book, too.  Seriously, read it.

Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist

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In 2013, I came across this book by Aaron Gulyas:

 

An incredibly well-written and insightful book made only more impressive by its use of “zeitgeist” in the title, it is a fantastic deconstruction of the Contactee phenomenon and how it relates to the broader picture of American society.   As Mr. Gulyas is a history professor, he was well-suited to the task.

This book was, in short, the print version of what I’m attempting to do with this documentary.  Naturally, I had to talk to Aaron.  So I traveled to Flint, Michigan, to do just that.

The interview went swimmingly, despite some technological snafus, but those were sorted out in time, and we had an amazing conversation.  It was an interview filled with “wow” moments, and I’m excited to include it in this film.

In the meantime, buy Aaron’s book here . No, seriously.  Buy it.  It’s great.

Book Review: Communion

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Whitley Strieber’s Communion was, for me, my introduction to the bizarre world of alien contact.  I remember walking into a bookstore one day years ago and seeing this face staring back at me:

 
 
I found it profoundly unsettling.  Something about it was difficult for me to look at.  Then, when I saw “A True Story”, I was thoroughly confused.  How could anything involving that face be a true story?
 
On the surface, this book is about acclaimed sci-fi and horror writer Whitley Strieber’s experiences with what he called “the visitors.”  They are today known more popularly as the Grays.  This book, published in 1987, was largely responsible for propelling the notion of alien abduction, with its anal probes and bug-eyed doctors, into the mainstream.
 
I had heard of alien abduction before, via a movie called The UFO Incident, starring James Earl Jones as Barney Hill.  I was similarly disturbed by that film, but I set that one aside as just a movie.  But this book, with that face on the cover…
 
That face…
 
…I couldn’t ignore it.  I had to delve into this world.
 
Strieber eloquently describes how world-shaking his contact experience was, and makes it all vividly real and yet also dreamlike.  It’s like a David Lynch movie that makes little sense at first, but sticks with you all the same, and seems to have a simmering logic underneath the high strangeness.
 
It’s that aspect of the meaning being hidden underneath the surface instead of out in the open that led me to be initially disappointed with this book when I first read it all those years ago.  I greatly preferred books that were more descriptive of actual events, such as the Budd Hopkins offerings Missing Time and Intruders.
 
But now, I see that this book has a lot more to say than just descriptions of events.  Strieber admits his own confusion at the experience, and says that he is not certain who the “visitors”, as he calls them, are.  He acknowledges extraterrestrials as a possibility, but seems to favor the theory that they are some sort of earthly intelligence that changes form in order to communicate with us. 
 
I was struck upon rereading the book at how closely it parallels what I am attempting to do with They Rode the Flying Saucers…demonstrate that this phenomenon says more about us, culturally and psychologically, than the visitors ever say about themselves.  While this book gives some hints and ventures slightly into the events that transpired, it focuses much more on what it could possibly mean.
 
And that’s what makes this much more a story of contact–not abduction. The title of the book suggests communication, an attempt to join with humanity.  An attempt at contact could appear as abduction without cause if the message is not received.  The purpose of this book seems to be to make an attempt to determine what that message really is. 
 
Spoiler: He never figures it out.
 
Something seems to be going on, something that is tantalizingly just out of our grasp, and it changes with the ages, as if trying to adjust to our way of understanding.  In the middle ages, people spoke of being taken by fairies and goblins.  Before the turn of the 20th century, people described seeing airships dropping literal anchors.  After we became a more technical society, these morphed into flying saucers.  At first, these beings were beautiful humans from planets we knew.  Then they became more alien, in more ways than one.
 
This is a great simplification, but gets to what I mean when I say that this experience seems to be telling us something about ourselves, and whether that message originates from outer space, on this planet, or from within our own minds is irrelevant.  I think it is a valid point of study for any scientists or sociologists brave enough to take it on.
 
As for Strieber, while he seems to consider his story one of attempted contact, he would bristle at being called a Contactee:

There is no real intellectual difference between the haughty psychiatrist or physicist and his refusal to accept the truth, and the nervous “contactee” eager to see the phenomenon as a dimensionless cartoon of space friends.

 
I think his point is that there is a happy middle ground in which the truth lies.  I would argue, however, that to ignore the haughty psychiatrist OR the nervous contactee is to ignore portions of the truth as well, because we have met the truth and it is us (to paraphrase Walt Kelly).  Whether or not you accept Whitley Strieber’s stories, or those of the Contactees, I think they tell us something interesting and profound about ourselves.
 


 

Production Art. Now With More Character!

By | Filmmaking, Production Art | 2 Comments
As I’ve mentioned before, one of the issues I’m facing with this documentary is that most of the major players are unfortunately deceased.  This is an issue that documentarians have faced forever, and the gap is generally filled with rather dull pans across black and white photos or illustrations.
However, I am an animator by trade, and so it seems to me that I should step it up.  I don’t want to do just the regular ol’ pan across photos.  (Don’t worry, there will be plenty of that as well…I have a lot of gaps to fill.)  So I am relying heavily on animated segments to bring this film to life.  
To that end, I present a sneak peek at one of the biggest players in the film.  The work isn’t quite finished yet, but he’s getting there.  Can you guess who he is?
Hint: His name rhymes with Yamski.