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The Blair Witch Project director Daniel Myrick is back in the found footage ballpark with Skyman, an ersatz documentary about UFOs and close encounters. Michael Selle stars as Carl Merryweather, a man who claims to have met an alien (or "Skyman") in the southern California desert when he was a kid in the 1980s. Now on the verge of his 40th birthday, Carl — with the help of his sister (Nicolette Sweeney) and best friend (Faleolo Alailima) — sets out to reunite with the alleged visitor and prove that humans are not alone in the universe.
"It was in the late '70s/early '80s when UFOs and Bigfoot and things like the Bermuda Triangle were all the rage," he tells SYFY WIRE. "Me and my friends did a lot of research on abductions and whatnot. This ended up resonating with me and years later, I wanted to create this hybrid character that tapped into and was inspired by a lot of those stories."
SYFY WIRE has an exclusive first look at the movie, which opens at select drive-ins next week. For some context, Carl sets up a communication beacon with an expensive magnet to amplify the signal. What happens next may (in the words of Willy Wonka) defy explanation.
The clip above seems to indicate that our main character isn't as crazy as the audience might think. Moreover, it highlights the "fine line" Skyman walks between fantasy and believability.
"With the magnet hitting the side of the container, one could argue that someone just threw it there, but we just saw the magnet in the scene before, and it was 200 yards away over the hill," Myrick explains. "It seems really unlikely that someone could throw it that far. I love when genres play with that ambiguity in the right ways. It's sort of inspired by when I was a kid [and] you would look at a UFO photo, and it's this blurry rendition of a flying saucer. Somebody in the room would say, 'Oh, it's just a hub cap someone threw up and took a picture of.' And someone else would say, 'Well, no! If you look at the shadows and this and that, it could be an actual flying saucer.' You can never really know for sure and walking that line between fantasy, and rooting it in some kind of an explanation, is what plays on the imagination so effectively."
While writing the screenplay, Myrick definitely did his homework on UFO/experiencer culture, researching real-world believers like Betty and Barney Hill and delving into books about alien abductions such as The Messengers and Communion. Nailing down the authenticity of otherworldly occurrences was certainly important, but only a small part of the project's appeal.
"It's not your typical horror movie that looks like a UFO-alien movie," the director says. "This really is a character study. It's about this guy's mission and his research and his due diligence to find answers — which so many experiencers are undergoing themselves — and how it affects their families and that sort of thing. There's bigger themes involved here that are not just about UFOs."
Myrick knows that viewers will inevitably draw comparisons between this film and The Blair Witch Project ("there's a lot of baggage"), but is optimistic that Skyman "stands on its own merits."
"Those of you that see the film [will hopefully] go, 'This isn't Dan trying to do another found footage horror film. This is its own thing,'" he adds, going on to provide an explanation for why he went the documentary route instead of pursuing a "traditional narrative."
"This approach gave me a lot of creative freedom and a lot of improvisational flexibility with the style and the actors," the director continues. "It kept the budget [down], of course, but I really think it was the best way to tell this story in and of itself, and I hope people embrace that about it."
Released by Gravitas Ventures, Skyman invades drive-in theaters Tuesday, June 30 before hitting on demand rental services Tuesday, July 7.
"You're literally under the stars. It doesn't get any better than that," the filmmaker says of seeing the film at a drive-in. "It's just a great movie to see under the stars and that's the big thing for me. You get to look right up at the very constellations that Carl is contemplating."
For a list of the participating locations, see below:
- Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in Cinema in Austin, TX
- Doc's Drive In Theatre in Buda, TX
- Coyote Drive-in in Fort Worth, TX
- Ocala Drive-in, Ocala, FL
- Joy Lan Drive-in, Dade City, FL
- Silver Moon Drive-in Theatre in Lakeland, FL