Writer/director Rory Johnston is seeking funding through Kickstarter for a found footage sci-fi horror feature titled Area 52: The Actual Footage, which will draw liberally from UFOlogical literature and debate. This movie is not to be confused with the in-development Lorenzo di Bonaventua project Area 52, based on the comic book series of the same name.
Located in the Nevada desert approximately 70 miles northwest of Area 51, the Tonopah Test Range is designated by the US Department of Energy as “Area 52,” and, like its infamous sister site, it has long been a testing ground for Top Secret military technologies, including the F-117A Nighthawk, more commonly known as the Stealth Fighter.
I spoke recently with Rory Johnston about the inspiration behind his movie and the impact he hopes it will have on audiences...
RG: To what extent will Area 52: The Actual Footage be informed by UFOlogy?
RG: You’re going down the viral route with your marketing, correct?
RJ: Right. We’re doing a viral campaign which will allow people to look up the movie characters online, and those characters will be presented as real people – real UFOlogists, real scientists, with their own websites, Facebook pages and books that people can Google. So it will all look as though it’s real.
RG: So you’re seeking to blur the lines between fact and fantasy?
Yes. And the reason to do that is to really make it scary. It takes the fear to
a new level if the audience believes what they’re watching is essentially real,
or at least based on fact.
|Director Rory Johnston in his Area 52 vault|
RG: This sounds like a passion project for you. Clearly you have a genuine interest in the UFO subject.
RJ: That is very true. I grew up with my mother; she was a member of several UFO groups, so we got the newsletters all the time and I read all the books. I’ve seen two UFOs in my life – both unexplainable to me, and so I find the entire subject completely fascinating.
RG: Should your movie come to fruition no doubt many in the UFO community will accuse you of being part of a Hollywood UFO conspiracy to acclimate and/or disinform about the UFO issue.
RJ: The truth of it is that Hollywood will make anything that it thinks will make money. That’s the big motivation in Hollywood: ‘can I make a buck?’ In our case we’re not out to make a ton of money. We’re not out there specifically trying to educate people, but I am hoping that this movie can open up the dialogue about UFOs, because the movie does include a lot of real information about the subject.
RG: Why the found footage approach?
|An abandoned Nevada prison will double for the Area 52 exteriors in the movie|
RJ: I started writing back in the late 1970s and I’ve had several movies produced and scripts that I’ve sold. The Secret Agent Club was the first ‘kids as secret agents’ script out there, and then of course that was followed by Spy Kids and Agent Cody Banks, but I was the one who kinda kicked that off with The Secret Agent Club. I also did a movie called Prey of the Jaguar. I directed five music videos and I’ve been involved in a whole lot of theatre work. But this will be my first major motion picture directing job.
RG: Is the existence of alien life a cause for fear or for hope?
RJ: I think hope, not fear. Although a great majority of the Hollywood films lean towards fear. But I think the day we make open contact will be a great day in the history of mankind.
RG: To what extent do Hollywood UFO/alien-themed movies and TV shows influence popular expectations of potential alien life?
RJ: I think Hollywood is one of the most overriding influences in all aspects of life. People look to movies to know what else is out there in the world in general – different kinds of lives, cultures, etc. And so I think Hollywood has huge influence.
RG: Do Hollywood's UFO movies fictionalize the UFO phenomenon in the public mind, actualize it, or both?
|The cryo-chambers: concept art for Area 52: The Actual Footage|
RJ: I think it... gosh, that’s a good question! I think it fictionalizes it in the mind. I think people probably believe in UFOs less because of Hollywood... because of the outrageous take they have on the phenomenon.
RG: And so how would you hope you counter that fictionalization effect with your movie?
RJ: I would hope to counter it in the regard that we will let people know about all the evidence that’s actually been out there and that audiences might be inspired to follow up on that. So hopefully our film will open up a dialogue.
RG: If and when humanity makes full and open contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, would we as cinemagoers be able to divorce Hollywood’s alien depictions from the alien reality with which we are presented?
RJ: I would guess that we wouldn’t divorce it because the influence of Hollywood is so engrained in us. And I think it would mostly be a fear factor, because most alien movies are about fear, although you do have an E.T. that comes along every now and then. But I think people would mainly be apprehensive. Some people say to me: “why do your aliens have to be bad aliens? There are good aliens, too!” Well I’m sure there are good aliens, but I don’t think I could do good aliens better than Steven Spielberg did with E.T, but I think I can bring something new to bad aliens.
For more details about Area 52: The Actual Footage head on over to its official website and to Kickstarter.