Ten years ago I was on the road in California shooting a documentary about philosophy and counter- culture in the 60’s and 70’s. My first stop was Esalen, the legendary human development institute that hosted many of the most brilliant minds of that time. I was there specifically to meet Mark Watts, son of ALAN WATTS, and guardian and propagator of his extense philosophy work. During that week in Esalen, I have attended a lecture by the biologist DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE about morphogenic fields and mind frequencies, which absolutely fascinated me. Sheldrake held in the 80’s the iconic
“Trialogues”, a series of discussions on chaos, creativity and the brain, between himself, TERENCE MCKENNA and the mathematician Ralph Abraham.
From Esalen I headed to the University of Santa Cruz, to meet RALPH ABRAHAM, the creator of Visual Mathematics and one of the precursors of the Theory of Chaos. We have talked a lot about multiple dimensions and realities and the perception of the brain under certain circumstances that can alter its frequency, like hypnosis, electric pulses stimuli, and the use of psychedelics. He has traced a parallel between the brainwaves and the frequencies that propagate in space -- the ultimate connection. Those few hours I spent with Ralph Abraham have profoundly influenced my research.
While at the UCSC, I have met Megan Daalder, one of the students who stumbled on TIMOTHY LEARY’s lost archives, found in the campus after decades without no one knowing about their existence. Her group digitalized thousands of Dr. Leary’s manuscripts, not only about his studies on the use of psychedelics, but also a whole research about mind frequencies, brain waves, the electromagnetic
spectrum and tuning into the universe waves – and also, curiously, extraterrestrial communication.
In parallel, I started researching about the radio telescopes actively searching for signals – electromagnetic waves – from space – That’s when I came across the SETI Institute. The institute was founded by the lead scientists and researchers at the NASA SETI department after it was dissolved, to continue their research as an independent non-governmental organization.
My research would not be complete if I did not experiment myself some of these concepts - After the amazing encounters with Rupert Sheldrake, Ralph Abraham and going through some Timothy Leary archives, I decided to go through a deep hypnosis session. At the time I was very influenced and overloaded with so much incredible information, that during the whole session in which I was in hypnotic trance for over 2 hours, I had my first glimpse of what CRYSTALINA would become : I wanted to condense all of these concepts into a romance between the brain and the universe.
The day was 02.18. 2018 - I was finally going to meet DR. SETH SHOSTAK at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. Dr. Shostak is a pioneer in SETI, one of the highest authorities in the field. He’s a rockstar, travelling the world as headliner in every relevant Astronomy and SETI conferences – he is the face of the SETI research.
Among many interesting stories, he told me he has collected in his ‘funky folder’ hundreds of intriguing letters he received from people narrating their contact with ET’s or UFO sightings, most of which he believes to be schizophrenic deliriums. He does not really believe "flying saucers" - he is an astromer looking for electromagnetic signals in space, not a ufologist looking for the little green men.
Seth put me in contact with JON RICHARDS, the astronomer and system engineer in charge of the Allen Telescope Array, to visit the site where actually all the data was collected to be later analyzed by the team of astronomers. Jon invited me for an observation night at the Hat Creek Observatory, at the foot of Mount Shasta.
It was snowing heavily when I arrived at the Shasta village. The main road to the telescope was partially blocked by the snow, so I took the scenic drive around the Mount Shasta - I drove for 2 hours to finally enter a national security area, following the “Radio Free Zone” signs for miles, mobile phone off, a bit scared as the sun was setting. I finally got to the observatory entrance. The guard told me that because of the weather forecast and being President day, the gate would be closed at night so I would only be allowed out next morning.
JON RICHARDS was waiting for me, and showed me around the facility. In spite of the snow in the afternoon, the night was clear for observation. He showed me the target stars and space objects, and told me stories about mysterious signals which origins were not yet clear. In the early morning it started to snow so heavily, that the road was closed. We were stranded in the observatory for 3 days - me and Jon and 42 radio telescope dishes.
I have among the most wonderful memories in my life me setting my camera and tripod in the middle of the telescopes field, and shouting to Jon to move the telescopes dishes to capture the best shot. My fingers freezing, the majestic Mount Shasta on the background, 42 dishes moving to the sky, until the camera zoom froze too.
The fact that we have spent those days stranded allowed me to have a close and humane look at Jon’s day-by-day, and we got very candid about his quest, his life story, his discoveries and expectations. Those days were crucial for me to build the character of my John, and make him as real, human and generous as Jon. He is ok with failure because his failure will help the next scientists find the answer. You have to start somewhere and he hopes his experiences pave the way to new discoveries.
Back to the SETI Institute in Mountain View, I had a mind-boggling encounter with JILL TARTER . She is a legend, the woman who inspired Carl Sagan in his book Contact, which later became the homonymous movie, with Jodie Foster playing the character inspired by her. We’ve spent a few hours talking about the universe and the mind. When I asked her if she BELIEVED there would be life beyond Earth - she said TO BELIEVE is not a verb for scientists. Scientists make assumptions based on facts and probabilities. She has spent her lifetime listening to radio waves from space. She assumes one day they will be decoded and there might even be a message for us there, from a more advanced civilization than ours. Maybe they are still there -- or maybe those signals have travelled the space for eons, and that hypothetical civilization may not even exist anymore.
Soon after, I had this surreal encounter at a crowded café at the Burbank Airport with DOUGLAS VARKOK , president of METI International (Messaging the Extraterrestrial Intelligence). He is actually the guy coding and sending messages to space – specifically, to Proxima Centauri. He told me about the International Space Treat and the series of protocols about sharing information among the telescopes in the world. Any signal received has to be confirmed by at least 5 other telescopes
around the globe to be validated. And then the political issues...
It was time to investigate life in space, so my next stop was the NASA Ames Research Center, to meet EDWARD AUSTIN, Project Manager at the International Space Station . He told me about the life of the astronauts in space, the isolation, the change of perspective once they leave the planet and understand their human relation to the planet in a different way, as the time-space concepts are bended at some point in their minds. Edward at the control room had direct contact with the Space Station and I even got to say hello to the astronauts in space and I was so in awe. It was just another ordinary day for Edward and the guys in space , in service to mankind.
Seth, Jon, Jill, Ed, Douglas - These people are real. Their quest is real. The uncertainty of what they are looking for does not prevent them from pursuing answers. Their personal lives are at moments jeopardized – but they do it for a bigger reason - they do it for humanity. From a treatment with extensive scientific research, CRYSTALINA was soon populated by dialogues inspired by these interviews, and I gave my characters their real personalities and conflicts.
Dr. Leibovitz’ work is inspired by the work of Ralph Abraham and Rupert Sheldrake. Her personality is inspired by Jill Tarter‘ s pragmatism and assertiveness and somewhat cold view of things. Ava condenses the mix of Timothy Leary’s psychedelic views, mysticism and glam. Metatron is a rough Alan Watts from the caves. John is a mix of Jon, Douglas, Seth and Edward – I wanted to make my John a rockstar, because that’s what all these guys I’ve met are.
CRYSTALINA is not about sci-fi - it is about these wonderful people - the ones who are on the upfront scientific research, in areas that are very little known or explored, or even accepted as science. This film is about their quests, their insecurities, their journey, their need to prove they are not mad -- their extremely complex and rich characters dwelling between reason and emotion, the hypothetical and the empiric.
More than anything, CRYSTALINA is a romance. Not only about the romantic encounter between John and Dr. Leibovitz, but about the romantic vision of pursuing “impossible goals” – including mine. Impossible, until they are not.
CRYSTALINA is a story that wants to be told. And there is no better time for it than now, with Proxima Centauri sending signals to Earth. Maybe we are not alone.
Thanks for your consideration,