With Skinwalker Ranch recently being released to VOD, we invited director Devin McGinn to take part in our latest Q&A feature. Devin tells us about his interest in the paranormal, why he decided to take on the Skinwalker Ranch, and his experience making the movie:
Have you always been interested in the paranormal? Are you a firm believer in aliens and ghosts or are you more of a skeptic?
I have indeed always been interested in the paranormal. I would not proclaim to know if any of these things absolutely exist, but I can tell you I had a very strange and unfounded fear of alien abduction at a young age. Hopefully it was just my overactive imagination. I also had a very real fear of flesh eating slime and that certainly is not a reality. Right?
But yeah, I was always interested in that kind of thing. Monsters, Bigfoot, UFOs, Lochness monster etc. I still can't pass up a show on these subjects if a stumble upon one while flipping channels.
What in particular made you interested to dive into the story of the Skinwalker Ranch?
Here was a place that was said to be set upon by everything we are talking about. Aliens, cryptozoology, poltergeist like activity and as wild as that sounds there were people saying it was all absolutely true. This was a chance to explore all this phenomena in one film and have it actually inspired by true events. I’ve read where people feel like we just through everything at the wall and hoped it would stick. But if you were to do the research on these places you would know we actually left a lot of things out. These stories are just that crazy.
How much research did you do into this particular location? Is there any specific incident that you feel only has an extra-terrestrial/paranormal explanation?
As we started to do research we found that in fact other Ranches were reporting similar activity. That this was not an isolated incident. People all over the world experience similar phenomena but for some reason these Ranches seemed to draw them all together like little Bermuda Triangles of the unexplained. There are many theories to why, but certainly no definitive answers. Portals, Powerful inhuman intelligences, Military experimentation etc... and we touch on some of those in the film. To pick one incident, I would say a giant wolf creature that turns into a blue ball of light would be way up there for being paranormal in origin!
When it came to crafting the story for the movie, how much of it is based on real events?
The story of the actual investigation has been covered in many documentaries /shows and I think is interesting for that format. For a narrative thriller I don’t think it is as effective. So though we changed the narrative story of these Ranches quite a bit the one thing we really wanted to be true to was the phenomena happening there. So the orbs, the wolf and so on are very accurate to what people have described in these areas.
Was it difficult to secure financing for the project? Can you talk about what challenges you faced when trying to get this movie funded?
It was surprisingly easy actually which I realize is not at all the norm. I had just finished a movie as an actor on the film “Unicorn City” and had become friends with Ken Bretschneider the Executive Producer on that project. He was looking to do another film and was very interested in the subject of UFOs. In fact he had a pretty amazing close encounter with one at a very young age. So when I pitched him the concept for “Skinwalker” he was immediately on board. I was very lucky in the regard that he had such a similar interest in these topics and had a similar vision for the film.
Found footage-style movies have obviously become quite popular for horror/sci-fi movies lately. Why did you decide to go this route?
When we started the project found footage didn’t quite have the stigma of being a cheap way to make a horror movie as much as it does today. We actually had a pretty decent budget for an indy horror so I can tell you cost was not really the motivation. To me it just seemed like a really good vehicle for this particular story. One thing I really loved was that there was a reason for the Cameraman to know what he was doing. He was a hired professional in the story and was thus fully prepared to keep filming under times of duress. Much like a cameraman imbedded with a group of soldiers would be. It was attractive to me to be able to have really nice shots in a found footage movie and that it made sense within our narrative.
How close was the final movie to what you originally had in the script? Was there anything significant that was changed or removed when it came to putting together the final cut?
The team did not originally find the tape that contained the “MDE” footage from the early 70’s. As I was finishing the edit of the film I realised I wanted to explore that part of the Mythos we had created a bit more. So we went back and shot all of that material has a pick up. It ended up being one of my favorite scenes in the film.
Can you talk about crafting the special effects for this movie? What was the most challenging and/or fun for you to pull off?
One thing I wanted to do that most found footage movies don’t is really give you a good look at some of these things that were terrorizing our characters. To do that in a found footage movie you better make it look a real as possible or your going to pull your audience out immediately. We worked with a smaller group called “Blu Fire” out of Utah. They were used to having shots come back to them a handful of times but often we were sending shots back far more than then that. There was one shot of the Wolf that probably went back close to 50 times. I have to give a lot of credit to our special effects supervisor Murphy Michaels who really helped guide those guys along the way, along with Curtis Hickman who did a lot of additional effects just brilliantly. In the end I feel like a good chunk of our shots stand up to much larger films. I know some people feel like we showed too much regardless of how good it looks, but I still stand by that decision.
What was your favorite or most memorable on-set moment?
Jon Gries who plays the Rancher showed up to set and had written a speech about how his missing son had given his mother flowers on his Birthday. You can see it in the film where they talk to him in front of the Barn.
Jon is such a talented actor and listening to him give that speech while we were shooting just really moved me. I just kept listening to him thinking I hadn't really seen something that emotionally impact full in a found footage movie before. It’s a testament to his talent to bring something so emotionally grounded into this type of film. We were very lucky to have him.
Are you interested in returning to the Skinwalker Ranch for another installment? What's next for you?
There is so much history to that place. Going as far back as the buffalo soldiers there were reports of strange happenings on that land. If I did return to it, I would love to explore that time frame long before the ranch had even been built.
As far as what’s next for me I have a few concepts in the works but it would be premature to announce anything at this time. My first film was a horror comedy I sold out of Slamdance called “The Last Lovecraft : Relic of Cthulhu.” It has a pretty good cult following and I would love to revisit those characters again so we’ll see. Thanks so much for your time!
"In 2010 “Skinwalker Ranch” gained media attention after experiencing a wide range of unexplained phenomena. Reports ranged from UFO sightings to livestock mutilation, but maybe most notable was the disappearance of ranch owner Hoyt Miller’s eight year old son, Cody on November 11, 2010. Close to a year later, Modern Defense Enterprises (MDE) has sent a team of experts to document and investigates the mysterious occurrences, which only escalate upon their arrival. The incidents become more violent, causing tensions to rise as the team must decide how far they will go to unlock the mysteries of “Skinwalker Ranch.” The group debates whether the answers are worth risking their lives for, or if they should just call off the investigation and leave the ranch – that is, if leaving is actually an option…"