A lovely little blog on the production of the film. 🥰
Update: Aug 8, 2023
The summer film festival season has hit, so we're starting to get the first bits of feedback on The UFO Movie:
Honorable Mention - Athens International Monthly Film Festival
Official Selection - Five Continents International Film Festival
Official Selection - Marilyn Monroe Film Festival
It's not exactly Sundance and Cannes, but I'm still very pleased with it. These festivals get hundreds of submissions and select maybe a dozen or two, and the Honorable Mention means it was a top 3 documentary. It's still early in the season, so hopefully there are more to come soon.
Otherwise, the status and progress:
- The movie is currently undergoing QC for streaming services. I hope to announce general availability soon.
- Everyone who contributed $25 or more should have received a link to watch on a secure YouTube link. If you haven't, please contact me to let me know.
So, please enjoy my movie. Thank you for making this journey with me, and let me know what you think!
Update: Jun 25, 2023
Guess what? The UFO Movie THEY Don't Want You to See is all done. As I type this, it is currently uploading to Vimeo, which is where a secure copy will be hosted for film festivals, distributors, and — most importantly — those of you who donated to make the movie possible. It's the better part of a terabyte so this will take a little while.
As soon as it's uploaded and finished processing on Vimeo's end, I'm going to do one final QC pass and (assuming no issues) then will send the Watch link to everyone who donated at least $25. Whether that will be later tonight or sometime Monday depends on Vimeo.
What's next? Distribution. I have a shortlist of about a half dozen distributors I've spoken to who will be checking it out. I can't speculate on their behalf how long they take to make decisions, but their speeds are generally pretty glacial. It's all par for the course. (If you happen to be best buddies with a documentary distributor, by all means let me know.)
But as far as tonight goes... it's all happy dance. Now let's do some good in the world.
Update: May 24, 2023
I know this process is slow and frustrating, for me as well as for the donors who made the film possible. We're on the third (and hopefully final) round of color quality control, and there are two original music cues still to drop in. So it's very close; at some point we pass the point of diminishing returns. It's already pretty GREAT — just a matter now of not letting 'perfect' be the enemy of 'released'.
But hey, I will be on a live video program on Friday night (5/26/23) to talk about the film. Lots to tell. It will be on Kenny Biddle's show, the Chief Investigator for the Center for Skeptical Inquiry, the world's only full-time paid investigator of claims of the paranormal. Cool job.
I don't have the link yet, but I will put it in tomorrow's Substack at briandunning.substack.com.
If you subscribe I will email the link to you, and you can subscribe for free at:
I also post a lot of other stuff there pertaining to the current UFO phenomenon, so that's the best place to go for more information going forward. (This list here will be used to distribute links to watch.)
Thanks, and I'll keep hard at work!
Update: Apr 27, 2023
It's been a month since the last update, and again I'm only popping into your inbox to let you know that the hamster wheels are spinning away as the post work is surging along. All the music is done except for the two biggest and most important pieces: the opening title and the end credits. Most of the audio mixing is done now, just waiting on the last music cues. I haven't yet seen any of the color correction but there was much to talk about on many camera setups.
(As promised in the previous update, today's update did include a private link to preview 20 minutes of the film, but that is for subscribers only. Use the form at the top of this page to become a subscriber.)
In the meantime, to hear more of what I have to say on UFOs and their pop manifestations like The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch, please subscribe to my Substack newsletter. I post updates to that several times a week.
Update: Mar 26, 2023
All three post production pros are at work. Color, sound, and scoring are all well underway. Nothing to report beyond that, but just wanted you all to know that work is progressing and is on schedule.
Since this is the closest thing I have to a break, I'm in Florida this week speaking on conspiracy theories and doing the whole book signing thing. That's kind of like UFOs.
I'm planning for the next update to include a preview of finished work. You'll like it.
Update: Mar 11, 2023
The good news is the movie is done! The bad news is we can no longer add any more new names into the credits — because they're done!
We start color, sound, and scoring this week. My weekend project is to export the ProRes 422 HQ master, which will run like 350 GB, and is what those guys all get.
These are all talented pros who know their business and I won't make any promises on their behalf for how long it will take to do their magic, but I expect it will likely all be done within a month. As soon as it is, those of you who donated $25 or more will get your links to watch it, and very shortly thereafter the rest of you will have your first options to rent or buy, and shortly after that it should be on subscription streaming services like Prime.
And then all the film festivals and all that jazz.
Super exciting times for me! I can't wait for you all to see it.
Update: Mar 1, 2023
Very brief update for you. The credits are all in place, and the runtime is at 1:33:19.
There are many little details to fix throughout. A typical one is making sure the font sizes and styles are consistent on cutaway cards and any shots requiring captions. Another is an edit here or there that needs to be smoothed, or someone's arm or a microphone briefly intrudes into a shot. I've got two pages of notes from the first pass, and I anticipate one or two more passes before sending it off for color/sound/scoring. That's the point we call picture lock.
I did discover one shot where I flub a word, and there was no cover for that shot from another camera or mic. I'm betting nobody will catch it. If you do, I'll have to come up with a prize.
Update: Feb 16, 2023
The finish line is in sight from the editing room.
I'm just about to start on the last segment to be edited, which will be the longest in the movie. It's my interview with investigator Mick West, who has fallen bass-ackwards into being the world's foremost skeptical UFO explainer.
I stress again: We're not here to debunk anything. We're here to explain the difference between good evidence and bad evidence, and the falsification process to which we must subject all candidate evidence. If it can't pass that test, then we are still left with no reason to cast aside the laws of physics. In this segment of the film, Mick gives his assessment of what's actually being shown in these videos. Will it pass the test?
I am super stoked to get the movie off of my desk and into the hands of the next three pros who will all work their magic separately but simultaneously: composer Lee Sanders, sound mixer Will McCandless, and colorist Dan Handley at Future Science Media.
As always, I shall keep you updated.
Update: Feb 6, 2023
OK, here is another clip. Clearly I get up on my soapbox here and pontificate for a couple minutes. I couldn't resist; but I promise, this is the only such deviation in the movie.
Why UFOs are NEVER "secret military aircraft" (3.5 minute clip). It's among the most popular guesses to explain UFOs, and it's also among the least well informed:
The point is there are so many other things that are proven to explain UFOs all the time. Not once — not once — has a UFO been identified as a secret military aircraft. Your chips are best placed on the likely wins; never on the least likely.
Update: Jan 26, 2023
Time to share another clip with y'all, since you've been so amazing about supporting this film. Today I also shared a description of my writing process on my Substack.
The Christmas Tree Problem (2 minute clip). In this part of the film, I discuss what I call the Christmas Tree Problem. This is one of the difficulties with civilizations in neighboring star systems ever getting to be able to visit each other:
In short, it has to do with the time element. You can be lucky enough to be right next to each other, on stars as close as a single light year apart, but... what if you're not at the right time? What if one of you existed a billion, 5 billion years before the other?
The problems of faster-than-light travel make this prospect difficult enough. The problems of time make it even worse... exponentially worse. We really want to meet our neighbors out there, but the universe seems to have decided that we shouldn't.
Update: Jan 16, 2023
Here's a bit from the Jimmy Carter UFO segment of The UFO Movie THEY Don't Want You to See. President Jimmy Carter famously saw a UFO, a case which was finally solved, and The Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast is one that played a role. I went and spoke with President Carter's grandson Josh Carter, and also the retired Georgia Tech professor who solved the case.
Color, sound, and scoring have not been done yet, so this means you'll hear differing sound levels, muffled sound, and notice different color casts between different scenes. Fear not, these corrections are a normal part of the process and they happen last.
This segment of the film is part of a larger segment discussing the importance of falsifying evidence before accepting it. President Carter's story was subjected to this kind of scrutiny, and it failed the falsification test. His sighting turned out to be an Earthly thing, not an alien thing. And that's great.
Once again I will now return to my labor. I hope you enjoy the results.
Update: Jan 8, 2023
Enjoy this brief clip.
In the segment of the film discussing the importance of having a high bar for the standard of evidence that we accept, we talk about a couple of famous cases. This is the Rendlesham Forest case, in which some airmen from a US Air Force base in England followed a flashing light through the forest one night...
Obviously (or maybe not) color, sound, and scoring have not been done yet, so don't harsh on a film at this early stage.
Anyway I will now return to my labor. I hope you enjoy the results.
Update: Dec 19, 2022
The shoot hit the fan.
This weekend we shot the final piece of video: my beginning-to-end narration of the film, at the Owens Valley Radio Observatory east of the Sierras. The plan was to begin filming just after sunset, and as the film progresses, my setup gets progressively darker until it's full blackness by the end of the movie. Because of the awesome camera and lenses in use, the shots looked fantastic, with stars in the sky behind me and the impressive big dish at the observatory.
Nighttime temps were going to be in the 20s (°F) which is 10-20° warmer than what I'm used to at home. My wardrobe in the film is, as you can see in the pics, my usual "Science vs. Pseudoscience" sweatshirt. I bulked up with some crazy thick fleece long underwear, and had about a thousand hotpacks hidden all over my person.
I spent as much time as I could in our on-set warming hut: a Tesla in camp mode, set to 75º, complete with snacks, more hotpacks, and tons of warm water bottles.
We had six segments of narration to shoot, each taking about 30 minutes to get through. Near the end of segment 4, I began having trouble with some of the words (particularly "Special Relativity"). I was slurring. Then I began shuddering. We made it through by doing lots of takes, but when we finished segment 4 it was clear that we could not continue. Even in the warming hut, I was slurring badly and shuddering uncontrollably. It became clear that I was well into hypothermia: I had the memory loss, the confusion, everything. So we had to abandon the shoot.
Back at our house (a wonderful Airbnb in Bishop, CA), I drank lots of hot water and took a long hot shower, but I didn't recover until after sleeping for a few hours.
What to do? Having only 2/3 of the movie shot is as disastrous as having none of it.
We got up at 4:30am and went back out to the location, and set up again. This time I was not allowed to leave the warming hut at all unless I was actually on camera. The night shooting conditions exactly matched what we had left, and we timed it so that when we finished segment 6, the sun would be just teasing the horizon.
And it worked out, I think better than any of us had hoped. And moreover, the long interruption added a neat new element to the film: My narration started at sunset and now it ended at sunrise, bringing the story full circle, and matching the emotional tone of the writing. The film ends on a poignant, hopeful, positive note, and having the sun rise at the same time is a beautiful creative touch.
When we finished segment 6, I was already shaking again and beginning to have trouble with "Special Relativity". Fortunately we were done and out of there.
The moral of the story: Don't make a UFO movie in the middle of the desert at night in the winter. Or if you do, make a wardrobe choice that includes a hat and a parka.
Update: Dec 15, 2022
You may have heard that UFOs have been proven to have the ability to disable our nuclear missile arsenal. If you haven't heard that, well, you weren't listening to the Congressional hearings on UFOs very carefully. Because they said that and talked about it.
Well, you don't need to worry about that, but you might want to worry that some Congresspeople are shockingly bad at their due diligence. This is one of the very worst examples of terrible anecdotal evidence turning into something that people in important positions believe.
Yesterday I was in Denver, Colorado, home of the US Air Force Academy and a number of important USAF installations, and spoke with Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, USAF (ret.), a former ICBM launch officer, about the facts of this story and what really happened with our nuclear missiles on that day.
I've said this is not a "debunking" movie, and it's not; but it does stress the importance of having a high standard of evidence, and this is one example showing the folly of not having such a bar.
Leaving tomorrow for the very last shoot. The finish line is nigh!
Update: Dec 1, 2022
We're deep in the writing stages now. Did you think that came first?
For a doc like this, which includes a lot of interviews, you start with a pretty detailed outline. Then you shoot all the interviews. Then you get those transcribed, and then you pick out all the parts that you're going to use.
Then comes the stage where I am now: writing "around" all that interview dialog. You want the whole thing to come together into a seamless, cohesive presentation.
The very last task in the production phase is shooting me. I'm going to narrate the whole thing through, beginning to end, following that script. So it has to be done last of all. A couple weeks ago, I decided to change the location for that. It's going to cost a bit more money, and it's going to cause 3-4 people to freeze our asses off for about 6 hours, but it will be worth it.
Trust me on that one.
Update: Nov 21, 2022
Recent coast-to-coast-to-coast-to-coast shooting trips have resulted in a bad case of jetlag and some tremendously successful shoots.
Of note was telling the story of President Jimmy Carter's 1969 UFO, and how it was solved by a Georgia Tech professor. First I interviewed retired professor Jere Justus, who used to work with the Air Force when he was an undergrad, launching rockets to perform atmospheric experiments. Then I went to the home of Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter in Plains, GA to interview their grandson, Josh Carter, who told the story of his grandfather's UFO sighting and how it ultimately was solved.
Great guys, a great story, and will make a truly memorable sequence in the movie.
Three more shoots to go!
Update: Oct 31, 2022
Just completed a shoot in Texas, at the McDonald Observatory operated by the University of Texas at Austin. The filming permit for this was one of the big-ticket items, but having a topnotch location like this is worth it.
We shot inside the 107" Harlan J. Smith telescope.
I was here to interview a couple of astrophysicists about some of the big questions for the film: Is there intelligent life out there? And if so, can they ever visit us?
Both questions are full of even more questions. They're also full of topics ripe for philosophers to debate, but I'm glad I don't go there. Philosophy is a subject for other filmmakers to tackle.
We did have some trouble — perhaps due to an entity the astronomers have dubbed the Toilet Ghost. Whether it's real or not, its effect sure seemed to be. I was more than a little anxious when reviewing all the footage, but luckily all of it escaped the ghost's influence.
In keeping with the theme, we had an actual UFO of our own just outside the observatory. See the photo attached here. For a full explanation of what it turned out to be, see our Facebook page.
On to Atlanta next.
Update: Oct 17, 2022
Today I thought I'd share with you what I take on the road for these shooting excursions. Actually, I'm only sharing a bit less than half of it. The two biggest cases (lights and stands/tripods) are not shown.
Since this is such a small budget film, and as I'm doing most of the shooting myself, I needed to create the smallest, handiest, most portable kit I could come up with. I've got it down to five cases including my personal suitcase, which is needed because it contains the foldable luggage cart I need to lug all five through airports and to rental car terminals.
Checking all these is not a problem (airlines have a special reduced rate for media equipment), but the special yellow one -- packed with lithium-ion batteries -- can't go in a cargo hold, so I have to take it in the plane with me as my carry-on. It's the heaviest one, and it's less than delightful to schlep down a long airport corridor. Roller equipment cases are generally too big to fit in an overhead.
The AV case contains:
- Three 4K cameras
- 7" monitor w/sunshade
- Shotgun microphone
- Digital audio recorder
- 2 sets of lav mics with recorders
- All the memory chips for audio & video
- A bunch of cords, batterys, rolls of tape, rubber bands, velcro, and random miscellaneous stuff that you always end up needing
The battery case contains:
- 6 big camera batteries, enough to last two half-day sessions
- 20 big batteries for all the different LED lights I bring. That's also enough for two half-day sessions without recharging
- Charging gear all of the above, which is how I spend my nights in the hotels
- Zip ties, so the TSA guys can seal it back up again after they cut my zip ties off to inspect it
This week I'll be heading to Las Vegas for CSICon where, unusually, I will not be filming anything -- which makes it my break week from the production. Next stop: the McDonald Observatory in Texas.
So other than that, it's lots of writing, more writing, transcribing, and moving stuff around to craft a compelling narrative.
Update: Oct 6, 2022
I'm just about at the halfway point of shooting on the road. I've now completed location shooting at:
- Washington, DC
- Folsom, CA
- Rancho Cordova, CA
- Sunriver, OR
Next on the schedule is:
- Fort Davis, TX
- Plains, GA
- Woodstock, GA
- Madras, OR
Once all that is done, then the final shooting will be completed here in Bend, OR with a single set piece (will sort of be like a "headquarters" for the documentary presentation), with some fun aerial stuff up in the local mountains. Then it's off to the editing room; then to color & sound; and finally to scoring. Still looking at a completion date right around the end of the year, if all continues to go well.
If you are a podcast listener, you might want to catch this episode of This American Life. In the final third of the episode, host Ira Glass watches the Congressional hearings on UFOs with analyst Mick West over Zoom. I got a kick out of it, because they covered exactly the same ground I did when I shot Mick last week in California. Yes, this movie is coming at a good time.