“Alien Abduction” is a fictional found footage movie about the Brown Mountain Lights in North Carolina. It follows a family’s camping trip in the woods, in which they encounter a threat after witnessing the lights.
The movie stars Katherine Sigismund, Corey Eid, Jillian Clare, Peter Holden, and Riley Polanski.
Latino-Review had an exclusive interview with director Matty Beckerman. We discussed the history and origins of the Brown Mountain Lights. We also got into the topics of certain special effects throughout the movie, including the alien costumes and the camera falling from the sky.
“Alien Abduction” is playing in select theaters and on VOD today.
Read the interview transcript below.
Latino-Review: What attracted you to this script?
Matty Beckerman: I spent time living in the mountains of North Carolina working with my family there. There’s a legend over 800 years that lights have been seen on this mountain called the Brown Mountain Lights. I’ve seen the lights myself. I’ve taken pictures of them. I’ve taken videos of them. It’s very real.
It’s well documented. So much so that the government has signs on the side of the road where you can actually go and look.
For that same amount of time, people have gone missing there. There’s story after story about abductions. I've interviewed a ton of local people who have claimed they’ve been abducted there. It’s not just one or two [people], but there’s a lot. And that’s what drew me to the story.
Latino-Review: Now when you were doing your research for your abductions, do you think their stories are actually valid?
Matty Beckerman: I went there completely skeptical and not believing any of it. After I interviewed people like police officers and regular normal people who own businesses and are competent, it makes you starting to think that something real is going on here. It’s not just in their minds.
My skepticism had waned a lot, because I get e-mails every day from people knowing we were doing this movie. They wrote, “Oh, my God! I’ve seen the lights. I’ve been abducted.” It’s pretty freaky.
The best thing I can say is that this is bigger than Area 51. This is bigger than Roswell. You can actually go there and see the lights.
Latino-Review: So when you saw the lights, you actually think they were some kind of alien space crafts? Couldn’t they be like swamp gas?
Matty Beckerman: People have said before that it could’ve been marsh gas or swamp gas. There is NO marsh in the area. There is NO swamp in the area. The biggest reports are [the lights] chasing people. They are actually going down the highway and following vehicles. They seem to be intelligent. They move about in a manner as if something is controlling them.
Latino-Review: I see. This movie is originally called, “Project Blue Book.” It’s now called “Alien Abduction.” Could you talk about that?
Matty Beckerman: “Project Blue Book” was an organization set up by the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s. It’s the real X-Files. It’s set up to debunk UFO sightings.
Of course, one of the areas they studied was the Brown Mountain Lights. The case file from Project Blue Book, said the lights are unexplained. And that’s the original idea behind Project Blue Book is to have this be one of the cases.
Latino-Review: So basically you’ve changed the name for the audience so that they could more familiar with something like “Alien Abduction?”
Matty Beckerman: Yeah, exactly. Project Blue Book is a little bit obscure unless you’re a UFO fanatic. “Alient Abduction” was the obvious choice. It’s like “Paranormal Activity” that just nails it in the head.
Latino-Review: With the setting, Brown Mountain in North Carolina, did you film there? Is that what Brown Mountain actually looks like?
Matty Beckerman: Yeah, the entire movie was shot on location where the real lights were seen. We were right there at the overlook; at the gorge and camping in the area. All of my people on the set had odd experiences on being there.
Latino-Review: In the film, were they special effect lights or were they actually THE lights?
Matty Beckerman: I wish I could say that they were actually the lights. [Laughter] But, I can’t. So let’s not ruin it.
Latino-Review: [Laughter] That would’ve been awesome. But, everything else in the setting is real?
Matty Beckerman: Oh, yeah. In the Appalachian Mountains near the Blue Ridge Parkway, they have these tunnels that go through these mountainsides. Where we shot there was a tunnel that was built and the roads just stopped after the tunnel. It’s called “The Road to Nowhere.” It’s part of the scenary of North Carolina and near the area where the lights are seen. It’s a real place.
Latino-Review: For the camerawork, you guys went with the path of found footage. How did you handle the camerawork? Obviously you didn’t have a child going around with a camera.
Matty Beckerman: For a lot of it, it was the kid. Our director of photography, Luke Geissbuhler, has done this before with “Borat” and “Virginity Hit.” He really understood on how to make this seem authentic. Luke would wear the same clothes that our 11-year-old actor would wear including shoes and pants. Sometimes our director is the one in control and he would pass the camera to Riley [Polanski]. It was like a trapeze act and it was great.
Latino-Review: So what was the most difficult thing you had on this project?
Matty Beckerman: The bird scene was the most difficult scene to shoot. We had close to 400 birds. We had close to 40 to 50 people sitting on the side of the road to throw these birds in the air. All those birds are practical that you can see. Most of our stunts and effects are all real practical effects. We just didn’t have a budget. We were very limited. So we had to try to get as much as we can on camera.
The hardest thing is thing is for that bird to hit initially on the windshield of the car. We must’ve done it like 15 or 20 times and not getting that bird to hit that windshield. And the cars were driving fast. So finally I said, “Screw it.” I got up on the roof of the car of the suburban SUV. I had a bird on a fishing line filled with fake blood. So I’m sitting on top of the car smashing this bird on a fishing line into the windshield. That’s how we’re able to get that shot.
Latino-Review: That was pretty real, but most aren’t real birds, right?
Matty Beckerman: No, of course not. We bought those from Amazon or something. [Laughter] Actually, the birds that were a little bit further away—we took water bottles and painted them black. And we also cut up pieces of carpeting and threw those pieces in the air.
Latino-Review: Wow. That’s actually pretty clever. Now for the aliens, you actually showed on what they look like unlike some movies would reveal it in the end. They don’t look that different that usually people talk about like in documentaries or more realistic imaginations. Why did you kept with that type of look?
Matty Beckerman: Well, I wanted to reflect on what really happened. These are the aliens that reflected from people’s experiences and what they saw. In each abduction story, it’s repeated. So we wanted to stay true to form of what is actually happening to people.
To put a six-legged creature in there that looks completely foreign, I wouldn’t think it would be effective.
Latino-Review: So were they people in costumes or were they computer generated?
Matty Beckerman: No, it’s all practical. It was people in suits that were created by the Chiodo brothers, who did “Killer Klowns from Outerspace.” These guys are terrific. So our character actor in the suits is Walter Phelan, who was Dr. Satan in “House of the 1000 Corpses.” He’s been in tons of movies as creatures.
Latino-Review: Yeah, it really looked realistic. One of the greatest effects that I was actually impressed with was with the camera that shoots from the space ship back down to Earth. Could you explain a little bit on how you got that done?
Matty Beckerman: That is an actual weather balloon in a low Earth orbit with a GoPro camera. It’s something from a “Brooklyn Space Project.” [Luke Geissbulher] has done this before. On video, it’s this huge viral hit on Vimeo. I wrote this scene in about them getting abducted and being pulled into space. He said to me, “Oh, we can do that.” [Laughter]
We actually did it. Those shots are actual footage from lower orbit. We had to recover the camera. Somewhere out there on the Tennessee border is a camera that we didn’t recover. We couldn’t find one. So whoever finds it, that’s our footage.
Latino-Review: [Laughter] I appreciate on your time on speaking with me. And I wish you good luck with your movie.
Matty Beckerman: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.
“Alien Abduction” is playing in select theaters and VOD.