Deep breath … 1 … 2 … 3 … and exhale.
That’s exactly how we felt after an intense week of 18 setups and interview sessions while shooting the documentary on Stan Romanek. The exhale, however, serves two purposes: first, relief that last week is finally in the can and, second, to prepare for what’s to come – a long and rewarding process to get this film to the masses. Long because we’ll be working nights and weekends on post production and distribution, and rewarding because we are convinced — more than ever after capturing what we did — that we have a compelling and emotional human condition story to share with the world.
We didn’t realize how profound this story was as a representation of human survival under extraordinary circumstances until we heard the details for ourselves.
We can’t wait for you to experience it, too. It’s compelling. It’s emotional. And, above all, it’s real.
Here’s a recap of how our week in AZ, WY and CO went down …
Saturday, Sept. 17 – The three Js arrived on Friday and after a hearty breakfast at the Waffle House the next morning, we headed over to Open Minds’ studio to interview radio host Alejandro Rojas, one of the longer-tenured researchers on Stan’s case. Alejandro was one of many witnesses to strange phenomenon that surround Stan, a unique aspect that makes this case so profound. You see, Stan’s experiences aren’t in a vacuum – hundreds have witnessed UFOs and high strangeness when in his presence. Alejandro shared his experiences, which convinced him that Stan’s story is more important than the world realizes.
In the afternoon, Stan delivered a presentation of his experiences to a packed house at a Phoenix MUFON event in Tempe. The crowd was so engrossed that they demanded Stan continue presenting in lieu of a Q&A session. It was an afternoon filled with mouth-covering gasps and jaw-dropping astonishment.
Later that evening, there was a sky watch in the Superstition Mountains, and, as usual, Stan and many witnesses observed a long cylindrical craft in the sky en route to the watch. It was no isolated sighting either – the UFO was seen by thousands in Arizona and New Mexico. Unfortunately, the j3 crew was 20 minutes behind the caravan headed to the sky watch and we missed it. If you’ve never seen a UFO, you need to hang out with Stan – and don’t let him drive off without you in close pursuit!
Sunday, Sept. 18 – We headed back to Open Minds on Sunday to capture Stan, and wife Lisa, interviewed by Alejandro. We were flies on the wall (albeit with cameras) to eavesdrop on the convo. You can catch the full interview here.
When the interview was over, we packed up the rental car with gear and headed for the airport to catch a flight to Denver, where we, again, packed up the rental car with gear and headed 2½ hours north to Laramie, WY. We checked in at 1:30 a.m. but no one was complaining, because in less than seven hours, we’d be interviewing two fascinating men.
Monday, Sept. 19 – Even more exciting was connecting with one of the film’s supporters and his brother-in-law, who flew in from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, respectively, to sit in the shadows and observe the production process. In addition to providing us with much appreciated laughter during their four days with us, they were witness to incredible intellectual insight and emotionally vulnerable testimony.
After breakfast at the “dreamy” Laramie Ramada Inn, we were off to interview Dr. Leo Sprinkle, a highly respected hypnotherapist who has regressed Stan several times and Dr. Stanislav O’Jack, one of the few geniuses I have had the pleasure of saying I’ve ever met, who conducted a psychological evaluation of Stan last year. We had never met either of these gracious gentlemen, yet each treated us as if it was their honor to be included in this, in their words, “critically important story.”
Dr. Sprinkle’s easy-going manner made his interview delightful. Within minutes, we were having a conversation rather than an interview. We talked about Stan, Stan’s case, the hypnotherapy and regression processes, the evolution of humanity and the precipice we now are standing before. Will we ascend or will we plummet to unknown depths? It was better than any of the psych courses I took in college. Dr. Sprinkle was humble, gracious and truly appreciative that we wanted to share his POV in the film.
After a break and a new setup, it was time to chat with Dr. O’Jack. I have to admit, I had no idea how this interview was going to turn out. Dr. O’Jack is 84 years old, 6’-3” and lean. He’s imposing because you can feel the experience and wisdom emanating from him before he even talks. He has a mad-scientist air about him with a dash of Albert Einstein thrown in to make him even more imposing. He was wearing a baseball cap and fleece jacket before the interview – the last impression you got by observing him sitting in the corner waiting his turn was “esteemed psychologist.”
But when the lights went on and the cap was doffed, Dr. O’Jack was riveting.
My first few questions were answered with one or two words, and for a minute, I thought it would be a rather brief interview – I wasn’t sure if he was all to happy to be sitting in front of lights that fired brightly into his eyes, transforming me into nothing more than a talking silhouette.
But the mood changed after Dr. O’Jack shared he had assessed me and my partners when he walked in the room. “I noticed your shorts, the shoes you are wearing, your long hair and I made my initial assessment.” At first, I was speechless, but then Dr. O’Jack changed the tone of the conversation by saying, “It’s not uncommon for me to make my assessment and decide to leave a meeting because it’s not the right place for me. If I feel that way, I say ‘Excuse me; I need to go,’ and I politely leave.”
I sensed a collective gulp in the room from the crew.
“I don’t feel that way right now.”
Whew. Within a few minutes, I sensed I was sitting in front of a highly actualized human being. We had planned on 90 minutes, but we talked for nearly 2½ hours. And, like with Dr. Sprinkle, it was a conversation and not a Q&A. Dr. O’Jack was very impressed with our passion and willingness to present Stan’s story. He answered every question we asked. When the interview was over and the lights turned off, we continued talking as a group. Not surprisingly, the convo got interesting again very quickly; I turned to Jack and motioned for him to turn the camera back on – and we talked for another 30 minutes.
Two very respected men were impressed with us. We were awed by them. It was a mutually rewarding day for all, and it was at that moment that I knew that we were on purpose and the film was going to be more important than I had imagined.
We packed up the gear, posed for group pictures and headed back to Colorado. On the way, we witnessed a drop-to-your-knees sunset and stopped to take photos. It was the perfect way to close out the day.
Tuesday, Sept. 20 – What we thought was going to be a straight-forward day, turned into an epic day thanks to uncooperative afternoon clouds. We started the morning by interviewing Dr. Claude Swanson, a physicist who has been analyzing Stan’s equations for years, looking for answers that could very well change the way we travel in future generations. Like Drs. Sprinkle and O’Jack, Dr. Swanson was an open book and answered every question we asked. He, too, was impressed with our convictions and encouraged us to push forward with this very important project. Dr. Swanson’s interview was filled with the exuberance of an eight-year-old boy looking through a telescope for the first time. I was invigorated by his boyish enthusiasm for science and its importance to humanity.
Once we wrapped with Dr. Swanson, it was off to Denver to meet a crew member, Lori Wagner, who was joining the team for our shoots on Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thursday. From there, we headed off to Red Rocks Amphitheatre Park to interview investigator Chuck Zukowski. It was a gorgeous afternoon and the light was beautiful … for about an hour. Unfortunately, it took us about 30 minutes to get set up, which meant the light was only good for 15 minutes of a 60 minute interview. Not good. We needed to relocate to an indoor location and, fortunately, Victoria Albright, who has had UFO abduction experiences with Stan, lived only 30 minutes away. Once we settled in at Victoria’s, we were able to manage three setups and interviews from 6 pm to midnight: investigators Chuck and Rick Nelson, and experiencer Victoria. All insightful and honest. We were convinced even further that this story needs to be told! We packed up the gear and hit the road once again, getting back to the hotel at 2 a.m. An exhausting day for all.
Wednesday, Sept. 21 – Because of Tuesday’s late night, we pushed back our big day with Stan until 10:30 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. The crew was tired, but spending the entire day talking to Stan was the elixir we all needed to perk us up. Cameras were ready to roll by noon, and we didn’t finish our session with Stan until 9:30 p.m. We had a few breaks along the way to stay focused, which included some hilarious moments with a “life-size” inflatable purple alien. While the footage won’t make it to the final film, we were gasping for breath we were laughing so hard. It helped take the edge off an intense session of filming. During one of the breaks, a crew member caught several pictures of an orb – and not your standard dust orb. This one looked like the real deal, even to me, and I’m not an orb guy. There were also moments of high strangeness when shadows were observed in the room – including one that scared the bejeezus out of Stan – we did get that on film! Another amazing day of interviewing, covering Stan’s childhood, his experiences one by one, his relationships with those in his case and the emotional impact these experiences have had on him and his family. Very, very intense.
At the end of the day, I realized that interviewing someone for such a long time is extremely exhausting because you’re engaged with every word the interviewee says, and your eyes are focused on theirs the entire time. I think I fell asleep walking into the hotel room that night I was so tired. But I had to rest up because tomorrow was an interview with Lisa Romanek.
Thursday, Sept. 22 – This was a day I’d been waiting for for almost two years. The first time I met Stan and Lisa was on December 3, 2009, when we visited the Romaneks in Colorado for the first time. After three days of meeting everyone involved with Stan’s case, I spent some time talking with Lisa about how Stan’s experiences had impacted her and her children, and she told me point blank that she was ready to talk – to share things that had been simmering for years. From that day forward, I was really looking forward to getting the perspective of the spouse of an abductee, and because Lisa Romanek was ready to talk openly and honestly.
I was not disappointed. Lisa was brutally honest about every facet of Stan’s case. And one of the most compelling statements she shared was that “honesty and integrity are extremely important to me. If at any moment I though Stan was fabricating any of his experiences, I would be out the door.” You had to be there – or you’ll have to watch the film – to truly understand and feel her convictions. I pushed her on questions as hard as I did Stan and she didn’t waver. Goosebumpy stuff.
After Lisa, we were off to shoot Stan at three of his UFO sighting locations – his first UFO sighting near Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Daniels Park (where Jack got stung twice by a bee that meandered up his shirt sleeve) and Old Stone House Park. We barely finished the shoot before it was too dark. Whew!
Thursday saw all of our support team head home, save for Jack and I. After spending several days with our team, it was hard to say goodbye. Bonding all around – it was an experience no one will soon forget.
Friday, Sept. 23 – Jack and I were up bright and early, and off to Boulder to interview long-time and highly respected UFO journalist Paola Harris. If you’ve never met Paola or heard her speak, she is a treat because she is direct, informative and no-nonsense with her opinions. Being a journalist, she is more focused on writing about the black and white facts of an event, and rarely offers her personal opinion in her writing. She made an exception for our film because she firmly believes that Stan’s story is worth exploring scientifically and socially because the impact is profound. We thought we’d only have an hour with Paola, but she extended her time by another hour to accommodate our questions. Another deeply insightful interview.
After we finished in Boulder, we packed up and headed back to shoot Stan having a regression with Dr. Sprinkle, who ventured down from Laramie to accommodate our schedule. We had no idea what to expect, but based on reviewing Stan’s previous regressions, we had a pretty good idea that he would be channeling something or someone to answer our questions. We were ready and excited to see what would happen. In a matter of minutes, Stan was hypnotized and Dr. Sprinkle began asking questions which invited an entity to speak through Stan. This allowed Jack and I to ask questions – and more importantly to me – to engage in layered conversations that would allow us to explore ideas further than they had been before. A few times Jack’s questions were answered before he even got the questions out, which indicated some sort of telepathy was being experienced in the room. The look Jack gave me both times were priceless, as if to say “Jeez, am I that open of a book?”
There’s so much to share, but that’s what the film is for, right?
After we finished the regression, we had one more interview to complete, with Heidi Soudani, who has a UFO abduction connection to Stan regarding the hybrid children in his story. We waited … and waited … and waited on Heidi, and finally got a chance to interview her at 9:30 p.m. She, like everyone connected to Stan’s case, was more than willing to answer all questions – even the personal ones – to help tell the story in detail. It was the perfect way to end our week-long shoot. We were on the road to our hotel by the Denver airport by 11 p.m. and were tucked in by 12:30 a.m., which was not too great considering that Jack had to be up by 3:30 a.m. to catch a 6 a.m. flight.
After Jack left, I decided not to go back to sleep for the extra hour and 15 minutes I could have had before I had to leave. Instead, I replayed the week I had just experienced through several different filters.
As a filmmaker, I know, without a doubt, that we have an emotional story about an individual and his family’s struggle to survive under circumstances no one would ever invite into his or her life.
As a businessperson, I learned the value of volume and what it will mean to share Stan’s story both directly and deeply. A 90-minute documentary will only scratch the surface. We have more than 40 hours of footage that many people would be more than happy to watch every second of. We’ll figure out a way to make the most compelling content available for those who want to know more.
As a partner to the other two Js, I realized how amazing it is to work with people you love being around. We spent nearly 10 days with each other and not once was there a moment of concern. I laughed harder than I have in years, and I enjoyed every second with my j3 partners. It’s what “work” should be like.
As an observer of Stan, Lisa and the 11 other people we interviewed, I was left with one common refrain after the interviewing was all said and done: Stan Romanek, without a doubt, has experienced what he has said he has experienced.
To have three PhDs, three investigators and one expert journalist all state clearly and without hesitation that Stan is telling the truth about his experiences, and that they believe him, says a lot about his case. And more importantly, what it should mean for all of humanity.
It’s about time Stan Romanek’s story is told, and we’re honored to be the ones to tell it.