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On episode 74 of SOMEWHERE IN THE SKIES, Ryan speaks with documentary filmmaker, Jonathan Berman, about his latest film, Calling All Earthlings, based on the life and work of George Van Tassel.

In 1947, George Van Tassel, a Howard Hughes employee and confidante, suddenly quits working for his mentor and ditches the straight life, moving deep into the Mojave Desert where he and his family sleep under a rock. He leaves behind a tattered Los Angeles in the grips of postwar paranoia, opting for the quietude of the Joshua Tree area. It is during an August 1953 full moon that Van Tassel has an encounter with extraterrestrials, who give him the information to build a rejuvenation machine he dubs “The Integratron.” 

Is Van Tassel crazy or could the Integratron really work? FBI agents try to halt the army of eccentrics who gather in the desert to create a collective, possibly threatening reality on the edge of the American Dream. A gentle inquiry into alternative culture, the story is told by the current residents of the Joshua Tree area, who must defend against rampant militarism and commercialization, all while still waiting for their spaceship.

We get in the inside scoop on the making of the film, Berman’s experiences while deeply embedding himself into the Joshua Tree communities that still believe in Van Tassel’s mission, and we even touch on UFO disclosure and how it was viewed back in the days of the contactees and how it is viewed now post-Secret Pentagon UFO program.

Guest Bio: Jonathan Berman is a Project Director, Producer, and Associate Professor in Arts and Technology. His films explore subculture and identity, challenging and redefining how alternative people, groups and ideas are represented. Berman began by working on Pee Wee’s Playhouse, The Toxic Avenger 2, and on other TV, genre and art projects, soon shifting to documentary since “real life is more fantastic than most fiction.” He made The Shvitz, a National Endowment for the Arts supported project that found a wealth of characters and attitudes in the diverse patrons of a traditional New York bathhouse. My Friend Paul, produced with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, focused upon the turbulence of bipolar illness and was one of the first modern documentaries about the friends and family of the mentally ill. His most recent film, Commune, reexamined the legacy of Sixties counterculture wins and excesses through communal living. Calling All Earthlings is his most recent film. Visit: www.CallingAllEarthlingsMovie.com

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Opening and Closing Theme Song, “Ephemeral Reign” by Per Kiilstofte

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