Interviews

In Memoriam: Bill Warren

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Early on in the production of They Rode the Flying Saucers, I knew that I wanted to address the idea of science fiction films as it related to popular culture.  I approached legendary film director and 1950s sci fi expert Joe Dante about doing an interview, and he told me that the real expert was a guy named Bill Warren.  So I approached Bill, and he kindly agreed to speak with me.

Joe was right.

Bill literally wrote the book on 1950s science fiction films, pictured here.  Actually, that’s only Volume 1.  Volume 2 is even thicker.  Turns out that Bill Warren was something of science fiction royalty, having apprenticed under the legendary Forrest J Ackerman, the man who created science fiction fandom.  Without Forey, there would be no Trekkies.

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During our interview, I was struck by the sheer depth of Bill’s knowledge.  He told me that when he was a kid, he literally read every sci fi book at the library.  His recall of those books and the movies made from them was tack-sharp.  He organized conventions and festivals, and knew many of the people who’d actually made the movies I wished to discuss in my film, such as The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Bill and his wife Beverly were very kind, and we chatted for quite a while after we turned the cameras off.  I told Bill that I’d had a great time, which I had.  Sometimes, these interviews are things to get through, sometimes you realize that you can’t use most of what the person is saying.  Talking with Bill, however, felt like I was talking to an old friend about our favorite movies.  His enthusiasm was infectious and his insights were impeccable.  We discussed the shift from 1950s sci fi films to modern films, which really boils down to a growing cultural cynicism.  That is changing, he thought, as more and more movies were embracing the honesty of the 1950s.  From the preface to Keep Watching the Skies!:

Alien is similar to a 1950s movie in many ways.  Star Wars reflects certain elements of those films.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind faintly echoes It Came From Outer Space.  Some films have actually been remade, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and remakes of others have been announced.  Maybe the 1950s science fiction movie hadn’t really died; it was just sleeping in the minds of those, like me, who loved them.

I could do a whole film on flying saucer movies of the 1950s, using just that interview.  I’m glad that I get the chance to use portions of it in my film.

Bill passed away after a long illness on October 7.  My condolences go out to Beverly and his family and friends.  I hope that he’s on a flying saucer in the sky somewhere, having drinks with Ray Harryhausen and Forey Ackerman.

 

 

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Santa Claus is Coming…to Kill.

By | Filmmaking, Interviews | One Comment
A few months ago, I interviewed Greg Bishop to get his views on the Contactees.  For those who aren’t familiar with him (though I know most of you are), Greg is a writer, researcher, and radio host extraordinaire whose show, Radio Misterioso, continually brings in fascinating guests from all over the paranormal spectrum.  I was fortunate enough to be a guest on his show myself.

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In the spirit of the season, I’m sharing this little tidbit from the interview.

Happy Holidays, whatever planet you’re from!

 

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.

Ancient Aliens and Contact in the Desert

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On the weekend of August 8, 2014, I made an almost literally last-minute decision to head out to Joshua Tree for the “Contact in the Desert” conference.  To anyone who has never been to a UFO conference, I recommend heading out to one at least once.  They are a hoot.

This conference, held in the Mojave Desert in August, hearkens back to the Giant Rock Interplanetary Spacecraft Conventions held by George Van Tassel from the ’50s to the ’70s.

Not much has changed in sixty two years

Joshua Tree is only a dozen miles or so away from Giant Rock, so there is a similar level of oppressive heat and lack of shade.  This year, when the power went out and took the air conditioning with it, we really got a sense of what it must have been like in the early days of the GRISC.

But as inhospitable as the climate may be in the desert, the fun of these conferences comes from the people who attend.  For one, you get to rub elbows with all the people you’ve seen on TV and heard on the radio a thousand times.  The rock star attraction at this year’s CITD was Mr. Giorgio Tsoukalos, of Ancient Aliens and In Search of Aliens fame.  Also, memes.

The hair is Giorgio.

As you can see in that picture above, seated next to Giorgio was Erich von Däniken, the man who (sort of) started all this ancient aliens stuff up way back in the 1960s.  One of the most dangerous thinkers alive, according to Carl Sagan, his book Chariots of the Gods contributed greatly to my current interest in this subject.  In fact, in a college communications class, I gave a speech arguing that we need to take a serious look at what von Däniken says and not disregard him out of hand.  My speech was disregarded out of hand.

That said, Mr. Sagan’s appraisal of von Däniken’s work isn’t completely off base, either.  While I think many of the ancient myths of the world that depict sky beings and flying chariots are compelling, I think that trying to suggest that the giant blocks of Baalbek could only have been moved by levitation technology provided by our ancient alien forebears sells our ancestors short, to say the least.

As a result of the TV series Ancient Aliens, there has been an incredible resurgence in popularity in the subject of ancient contact.  In They Rode the Flying Saucers, I’ve been exploring the idea that alien beings contacted regular people in the ’50s and ’60s.  But what about ancient times?

In fact, most of the Contactees held with the belief that contact went way, way back.  Adamski didn’t claim he was the first person ever contacted by alien beings, but he was definitely the most prominent of the modern contacts, which were catalyzed by the detonation of nuclear weapons and the imminent need for intervention.

The first two-thirds of Flying Saucers Have Landed, the portion written by Lord Desmond Leslie, deals with ancient aliens in great detail.  He talks about great vimana battles in ancient India.  George Van Tassel lectured frequently about flying saucers and extraterrestrials in the bible.

The story of the spaceships and the people who operate them is not anything new…These people originally colonized this planet. Their ancestors and ours are the same people, way back in history. Back in 1951, they contacted me through what they call the Omnibeam and through an instrument they call an Adaphon. This is an apparatus, a gadget, an electronic gimmick or whatever you want to call it. It’s a piece of equipment. And it works. Now I’m not the first one they’ve contacted with this. They’ve contacted people all through history with it. There’s many accounts in the bible of people who heard voices from heaven.

– George Van Tassel, 1958

Van Tassel claimed that the Space Brothers looked like us because they were us.  They were descended from the same beings who put humans on Earth in the first place.  Some have pointed out the startling similarity between Joseph Smith’s meeting with the angel Moroni and a modern contact tale:

Fashion sense, for one

What Ancient Aliens and shows like it portray is what Contactees would look like to a world that didn’t have the level of development needed to understand it.  If Adamski hadn’t been something of an armchair scientist, would he have considered Orthon an angel instead of a Venusian?  Just how much of the contact experience comes from the Contactees themselves, and how much is external?  Do the beings come down, assess where we’re at culturally, and act either as a god or as an alien according to our state of development?

It’s easy to dismiss stories like Van Tassel’s and Adamski’s as pure fantasy, because they can often seem quaint to our modern sensibilities. But consider that very similar tales go back to Joseph Smith, to Mohammed, to Ezekiel, to Moses, and beyond.  Are the Contactees just drawing upon an established narrative foundation, or are they experiencing something real?

And if so, what is it?