Interview with Montauk Chronicles Director Christopher Garetano

Aliens! Time Travel! Secret government experiments and Montauk!

It’s all part of Montauk Chronicles, a thrilling docudrama having its world premier at Gurney’s Inn in Montauk on May 25 at 7:30 p.m. The story of several men who were forced to be part of secret experiments that occurred in Montauk in the 1970s is directed by Long Island native Christopher Garetano, who is here to discuss his inspiration for making the film, meeting mad scientists, searching for aliens in Montauk and more.

Montauk Chronicles

Why did you decide to make Montauk Chronicles?
Christopher Garetano: I decided to make Montauk Chronicles when I realized an interesting way to approach the subject matter. The legends are clearly far-fetched but I found it more intriguing to sit down and have an honest conversation with the source of these tales. My goal was to speak to the men (Alfred Bielek, Stewart Swerdlow and Preston Nichols) who created the legends and I wanted to visit them in their homes, as opposed to bringing them into a studio situation. I felt that a studio situation would inhibit their behavior and that interviewing them in their natural habitat would allow them to feel comfortable and it would make a much better interview. So that’s what I did and the interviews were the first of the footage. It’s also very different, in structure, than your typical documentary. Ultimately, Montauk Chronicles is a mixture of far-out, almost psychedelic movie-making and honest interviews, and think it’s a great juxtaposition of styles.

What other films have you made?
Christopher Garetano: I worked on a bunch of different projects over the years, but my first feature length documentary is titled Horror Business and it was released and distributed by Image Entertainment  in 2007. It’s very different than Montauk Chronicles in style and tone. Like Montauk Chronicles it took a few years to make and it was a self-financed labor of love. Horror Business was an honest portrayal of low-budget horror movie makers, their struggles, and the harsh realities of realizing their dreams.

How did you get into filmmaking?
Christopher Garetano: I was six years old when I discovered  the magic of special effects make-up. Artists like Tom Savini, Rob Bottin and Rick Baker had me suspended in a mesmerized state and I began to learn the process of movie making through experimenting with special effects.  It was the early and mid eighties and I made latex monster-masks. I would shoot little horror movies in my back yard with fathers’ huge over the shoulder VCR-Camcorder.   I never wanted to do anything different, so i studied make-up effects
for a good portion of my youth with a great artist named Jay Wells, and I eventually attended college at The School Of Visual Arts, In Manhattan.  I graduated in 2000 with a BFA in film.

Why did you decide to become a filmmaker?
Christopher Garetano: I love movies.  There was never anything else for me.. I had a strong imagination as a child and an even stronger one now. Movie making is my love and my survival outlet. I need to make movies. It’s my artwork and my life.

What was the most exciting part about doing Montauk Chronicles?
Christopher Garetano: Movie making is an intense, abstract process for me. It’s really about finding the soul of a picture and it took a long time with Montauk Chronicles. There are so many programs on TV regarding conspiracies and alien contact and i really wanted to do something unique and original. I get very emotionally involved in what i’m doing and working on this picture actually had an adverse effect at times. I was truly effected by the material. I began to feel a severe paranoia because the core idea of these legends starts with the concept that life as we know it is a lie. At first glance, this stuff is implausible, but as I researched the subject further I began to experience a profound sense of dread. I suppose if you don’t take this stuff seriously then it’s a joke, but as I dove deeper into my research I found grains of truth within the stories. So it really was a strong experience for me, and I was living this film for quite some time.

Do you believe in aliens?
Christopher Garetano: I do and I think it would be foolish to not believe. Probability as well as evidence tells us that it’s likely there are billions of planets within billions of solar systems that sustain life. I’m sure within those billions there are a few that harbor intelligent life. Part of me feels that the human race was likely created by a superior alien race, and if we were to re-translate some of our religious tomes we might start to make sense out of that theory. Regardless of my personal feelings on extraterrestrials, there are everything from astronauts to presidents who claim to have experienced a close encounter of one kind or another.

Would you recommend a person walk around Camp Hero at night to look for aliens or other supernatural activity?
Christopher Garetano: Enter at your own risk. ;) They say it all happened many levels under the base, but one of the subjects claims that doorways to other dimensions are still open on the surface.

What’s the funniest story that happened to you while filmmaking?
Christopher Garetano: It was awkward to visit both Alfred Bielek and Preston Nichols because, until I met them, my encounters with mad scientists were quite limited. So, I visited Preston Nichols and he lived in an isolated home in upstate New York. The house seemed like it contained miles of esoteric electronic equipment and he eventually asked me to sit inside of a “healing machine” as he called it. Essentially, the healing machine is a long bed with a series of colored lights that flash above you when music is played.

Preston claimed that it changes the molecular structure of your DNA. I entered the machine and he would play the Doors or the Moody Blues and the machine would light-up. Alfred Bielek told me that “Vampires are real” and he recalled conversations that he had with an intelligent reptilian humanoid!! This was all a shock to my system and you will see all of these moments in Montauk Chronicles. It was really a fantastic encounter that I’m sincerely quite grateful for.   I mean, in a world of bland, shallow, and boring people it’s a rare occasion when you meet folks as interesting as Preston Nichols and Alfred Bielek.

The world premiere of Montauk Chronicles is Friday, May 25, at Gurney’s Inn in Montauk. Tickets are $25. For tickets and event information, please contact Gurney’s Inn at 631-668-1717 or email phyllis@gurneysinn.com.

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