Interview with Executive Producer, Christopher Garetano

Today I’m welcoming Christopher Garetano, the executive producer, director of re creation and co-host of the History Channel’s phenomenal new television series, The Dark Files! Thank you, Christopher for stopping by!

 

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Here’s the short version: 🙂

I was born in Huntington, New York and I spent most of my childhood living just outside of a small harbor village called Northport, NY.
That area has many traditional small-town charms but there were a few local ghost stories that haunted us as well and there were others that made national and world news that were terrifying to me.
Regardless of how it might appear on the surface, sometimes pure evil hides in the shadows of small-town America. It lurks amongst the summer fairs and fall festivals, in the churches and schools, the forests and in suburban homes.
The seasons are well defined in that part of the country and each one has its own mystery.
I think it’s why I can relate so well to the works of Rod Serling and Stephen King because my small town experience could have been one of their stories.
You don’t realize, when you’re living in it, how bizarre it truly is. It’s not until you’ve had ample time to reflect on the past and that’s when it fully revealed itself to me.
I grew up in a place that was rich with atmosphere and I always had a sense of wonder and discovery.
I was crazy about mysteries and paranormal stories even before I was determined to make movies. I frequented book fairs and the local library when I was a kid. I collected books on BIGFOOT, UFO abductions, monster legends and hauntings.
There is also a geographical and even a historical beauty about Long Island.
It’s a variety unbeknownst to most of the world. There were Spielbergian type communities with town gatherings and seasonal festivals but there was also the “Say You Love Satan” murder, The Amityville Horror, and The Montauk Project right around the corner.

When I was a kid those local tales gave me many nightmares and further fueled my imagination.
I also had a few family ghost stories that stayed with me and couple of profound paranormal experiences.

I lived in New York City during my late teens and early twenties. I really grew up there.
I worked at a video store on Park Avenue and I went to film school while living in the city.
I loved music (punk and heavy metal mostly) and movies and art.
I later became obsessed with jazz, synth based music, and motion pictures scores.
I love my physical collection of vinyl records, books, and movies.

I couldn’t imagine my childhood being glued to an IPAD or a PlayStation.
There’s a lot lost with the digital format of everything. That tactile experience is gone if all you have is a collection of files.
I’m grateful that the download-technology didn’t exist back then.
What can and should be explored for a young child and an adolescent, during those formative years, are precious and infinite. We played outside all of the time and I know that helped shape me as a person; those early adventures.

I don’t live in New York currently but I love exploring new places.
I lived in Michigan for a couple of years and I’m currently in Florida.
The reason why I work so hard these days is to remain in that creative place, full-time.
I had to develop a good business sense to keep the artist in me safe and alive.
Movie making is such “an expensive paint box”, as Orson Welles said.
There’s no other way in life for someone like me. I need to do this.
I wasn’t born with a trust-fund or connections in the movie industry, so to survive I had to find a way to make things work and that’s really just trying to remain unique and creative.
I feel alive when I’m working on a movie.
Movie making encompasses a variety of wonderful art forms, so I feel like it’s the ultimate celebration of art.
I feel such a purpose in life with it.
During that dark period, in my late teens and early twenties, I had a few unfortunate brushes with death and some dangerous situations also found me.
I decided a while back it was either “get busy living or get busy dying.”
As a result, I’m in a place now where I’m spiritually and physically sober (and have been for years) so I can experience life without any interference.
I spent some of my youth romancing death and taking frivolous risks and I simply don’t feel that way anymore. That’s a distant memory.
I have no interest in anything but being alive and loving life.
I’m a temporary visitor on this planet so I want to experience as much as I can. I love life and I want to live as long as I can.
You cannot acquire true experience from just ingesting movies and books and pop culture so I do spend as much time as possible venturing out and experiencing this life.

 

 

 

What made you want to become a filmmaker?

It had a lot to do with a exposure to various movies and TV programs that just lit up young mind. It was just the right time and some of the greatest motion pictures ever were brand new at that time. It was overload. They filled that impressionable zone in my imagination.
Everything from Alien, Jaws, Blade Runner, Dawn Of The Dead and John Carpenter’s The Thing to Raiders Of The Lost Ark and the original Star Wars trilogy. They were all relatively new and brand new at the time. There’s just too many classics to list here but, my god, am I grateful to have been a kid at that time. It’s an ethos that’s popular again right now and I think it’s important to examine why that decade of culture is so strong.
My family would always tell stories during gatherings and late night talks, so observing that helped a lot.
I saw a lot of good and bad when I was a child so life experience added to it. I had my own stories to tell.
I should give some formative credit to playing with action figures in the early eighties. They had these incredibly well-established characters with starkly defined roles of good and evil.
There was a profound story for them all.
I’m convinced that this was an amazing early tool for imagining, designing and blocking scenes.

I was also an outdoors kid, so I was outside and in nature all of the time. We went camping quite a bit. I remember running around barefoot all summer long, catching fireflies at dusk. My eyes were exposed to so many colors and textures, constantly.
But there were a few things in particular that I know made me want to make movies.
My parents owned a small video store in the eighties so I saw every movie.
I loved horror films mostly and I still love them; at least the very few good ones that are made each year.
My folks would take us to the Drive-In and the indoor movie theater a lot too.
One Halloween my father had a Frankenstein’s Monster Makeup Kit. He was applying the gelatin sections to his face and I was fixated while he was transforming into the monster right before my eyes.
So I later saw the making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller with the mighty Rick Baker (special effects wizard) transforming Jackson into a werewolf. There was also a documentary titled Scream Greats: Volume one. It was a Fangoria Magazine video about Tom Savini ( a horror renaissance man) and once I learned about him I was obsessed with becoming a special effects makeup artist as well as a filmmaker.
I later went to film school at The School Of Visual Arts, in New York City. I was there that I was introduced to an endless collection of independent movies and world cinema.

 

 

 

Tell us about your documentary, The Montauk Chronicles.

Montauk Chronicles is mainly a character study and it’s also an independent investigation of several gentlemen who claim that they were participants in a bizarre secret government experiment. They say that between 1971 and 1983 there was a covert program that occurred deep beneath the Camp Hero Air Force station in Montauk, New York, and that young runaway teen boys were kidnapped and brought to a secret facility to be put through a series of brutal mind control experiments.
The men (Preston Nichols, Alfred Bielek, Stewart Swerdlow and James Bruce) all claim that they were a crucial part of training the boys in psychic warfare as well as programming their minds to be triggered later on for assassination missions. In Jame’s Bruces Swerdlow’s case, they claim to have been the recruited boys.
In addition to the mind control experiments it is said that they were used as human crash test dummies for time travel and interstellar travel experiments, and all of the men claim that the technology was reverse engineered from extraterrestrials.
I began making the movie back in 2006. This wasn’t a very popular story back then.
It wasn’t until after Huffington Post / AOL NEWS did an article an interview with me in 09 that I noticed people really started to become interested.
That article went out to a lot of people and they showed my early trailers with it.
That was the first time anyone really saw an adaptation of those tales in a cinematic form.
Later, the story inspired the hit NETFLIX show Stranger Things.
The original title of their show was “MONTAUK.”
I made two movies actually. I finished the first one in late 2011 and I wasn’t very happy with it.
I started all over again in 2013. I finished it in early 2015 and that’s the movie that is out there right now.
I wanted to combine cinema and powerful interviews.
I wrote, produced, photographed, edited and directed the movie.
I also created the live and post visual effects and designed and edited the sound.
I feel that The Montauk Project is a horror story so my movie is quite bleak at times.

It was a huge project to take on but I’m happy with it and it seems to have a new life every week.
It led to my History Channel show (The Dark Files) and many other things so I’m grateful that I stuck it out and I’m grateful for the few folks that were dedicated to helping me make the movie.

 

 

 

What would you say to the skeptics out there who may question your research? 

I would tell them to please just simply look into it all. You must conduct some of your own research, even beyond Youtube, Google and Wikipedia.
Before you make any judgment call (on this story) you shouldn’t ignore the factual information that’s available about similar cases.
As part of my own research, I personally traveled to and I interviewed all of the men telling the tales. I spent a considerable amount of time at Camp Hero and at Montauk. I searched through the Montauk library archives and asked a lot of questions. I talked to the locals as well.
These secret programs aren’t fiction.
There are so many factual accounts like the Holmsburg Prison experiments and MK ULTRA that prove a great deal of what I’ve discovered is true and has happened in other locations.
So the more you research the more this story becomes less science fiction and more of something to be afraid of.

 

 

 

You have an amazing television series titled, The Dark Files that’s now on The History Channel. What is this exciting new series about and when will viewers be able to tune in?

I’m an executive producer, director of re creations and co-host of the Dark Files. It’s a two hour continuation of my investigation Of Camp Hero, that began in Montauk Chronicles.
I return to Montauk with my co-hosts Barry Eisler (author and an Ex CIA agent) and Steve Volk a writer and an investigative reporter. We conducted a true investigation that included a full site exploration with geophysicists and scientific equipment that wasn’t available to me before.
We also returned to all of the major witnesses and alleged whistle blowers for new interviews.
I truly love the show and I think between Montauk Chronicles and The Dark Files there is nothing better on the subject.
What we found is the bridge between fiction and fact. I’m convinced that we found something that is now the foundation to securing proof that The Montauk Project did happen. I believe at least that it was a secret mind control experiment.

The premiere on September 8th, for The Dark Files, was a strong open.
Even though we had this monster hurricane (IRMA) on its way, we still rated very well.
The weather channels and new stations dominated the ratings for the weekend.
That threw things off for everyone on TV.
Regardless of all of the above we still rated well, so right now History Channel is planning an additional October premiere and they’re going to test it, hurricane free.
After that the plan is, as long as it still rates well, we’re going right into the full series.
It’s a necessary process considering the amount of money and time that goes into making an entire series.
I’m excited and I trust that there will be many more Dark Files.

 

 

 

Where can fans follow you and your work?

They can check-in with me and find my work on my website www.montauckhronicles.com, Facebook, Instagram, and on my Youtube channel GARETANO7

 

 

 

Aside from The Dark Files, what else does Christopher Garetano have planned?

I’m working on a bunch of things that I’m really excited about. I’ve been crafting the ultimate BIGFOOT movie for a while. It’s a really a perspective on the beloved cryptid that not many have considered.
Our country was forged in war, violence and genocide and I suspect part of the creature/species elusive behavior is a result of what they may have witnessed, looking out at us from the forest.
There are so many noteworthy books on the BIGFOOT subject but nothing really to speak of in a decades worth of movies and TV.
I’m crafting a movie of timeless stories, mystery, eyewitness accounts and a very spooky atmosphere. I want the audience to feel like they’re in the forest alone at night and the creature is moving nearby in the darkness.
It’s important to bring the audience into its world and out of our own.
There were a few programs worth remembering like In Search Of (With Leonard Nimoy) but it seems that modern TV programs tend to lose focus on the proper mystery and atmosphere for Sasquatch stories, and I want to bring that back.
My goal is not to necessarily find BIGFOOT or but to examine its history as a collection of incredibly rich stories.
I’ll be back to work on BIGFOOT in the spring of 2018. It’s just such an enormous project that needs a little more for the production. I’m going to take advantage of the many doors that have been opening lately and make this the right way.
I’m also working on a few more TV projects. One of them is a fictional tale (a dark Science Fiction story) that I wrote and will direct for Television.
Another is my first independent horror movie and I’ve already shot various pieces of it.
It’s a macabre story of witchcraft and a family house that’s haunted by an ancient energy.
I don’t want to say too much more about it right now but I promise it will be a unique take on all of the above.

 

 

 

Any words of wisdom you’d care to share?

Just be thankful. Be grateful. It’s all a gift. This entire experience is a gift.
Some of my most painful and excruciating moments were followed by me making a point to be grateful, before I fell asleep that night. Of whom or what you should be grateful to is entirely up to you.

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview with actor, Robert John Burke

Today I’m welcoming actor, Robert John Burke. Thank you, Bobby for stopping by!

 

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am frighteningly ordinary.

 

 

How did you get into the career of acting?

I got into acting through an experimental acting class in my high school. It also offered an internship with the professional equity acting company. Then it was onto college, where I attended the acting conservatory at SUNY purchase.

 

 

In one of your earlier films, you played the role of the well-known character of Alex Murphy in RoboCop 3. What was it like playing the part of a cyborg?

It was very daunting playing RoboCop three. I thought Peter Weller did such an amazing job that it should have been left alone. No Peter no sequel. I was resistant for about eight months and then I finally acquiesced. The physical demands of the role were great. It involved movement training with a man named Moni Yakin, who had also worked with Peter. He is a teacher at the Juilliard school and he’s amazing. I think if I did anything at all right in that role, I owe it to him.

 

 

In the horror film titled, Thinner, (that was based on Stephen King’s novel) you portrayed the main character of Billy Halleck. Tell us about that and did you encounter any challenges in playing such a diverse role?

Thinner was the ultimate role for me to play. Getting to hide under five hours of make up should excite any actor. But the schedule was pretty grueling. I would get in the make up chair at 2 o’clock in the morning to be ready to start shooting at 7 AM. Then shoot to about 10 PM in the evening.

I was a little disappointed with the way the film turned out. There were lots of different directions that people were pulling it in. Although I must say, quite a few people really enjoyed that film. Meeting Stephen King was a complete thrill.

 

 

Your other on-screen accomplishments include Limitless, 2 Guns, Safe and Dust Devil, just to name a few. Aside from your films, you’re also on the t.v. series: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Allegiance, Banshee, Nurse Jackie, Army Wives, and Rescue Me… (the impressive list goes on)… How do you maintain such a balanced schedule?

On paper it can look like I’m doing a lot of different projects. The reality is that I lead a very balanced life. There were times when I was doing two and three television shows at a time. But somehow it was always manageable. And to tell you the truth, it keeps things interesting that are a hell of a lot of fun.

 

 

Is there any one role that you find in particular to be your absolute favorite?

People ask you what’s the most fun or is there any one role that you find to be your favorite. I think there are several for different reasons. I’ve met a lot of really amazing people on all the productions I’ve been on. Got to travel to exotic and beautiful places. The work I’m most proud of is probably the work that the least amount of people have seen. Films like First Love Last Rites, The Unbelievable Truth, and No Such Thing, are among my favorites.

 

 

Aside from being an actor, you’re also a NY State Certified Firefighter. You helped with the rescue efforts during 9/11, mind telling everyone about that? 

My best friend was in FDNY, captain named Patrick J. Brown. He fell on 9/11/01. Because all of Long Island New York is voluntary fire service, I decided to join my local department and dedicate my service to his memory. It’s been 16 years. I think I missed my True calling.

 

 

What’s next for Robert John Burke?

I’ve taken some time off recently but I’m also developing several projects and working hard on them.

 

 

Where can fans follow you and your work?

I don’t really have a website or anything like that. Sometimes I’ll post pictures of a particular project I’m working on on social media. Certain shows I’ve been on, particularly SVU have legions of very loyal enthusiastic fans. So I treat them with great respect and try and post stuff that keeps them in the loop.

 

 

Any positive words of advice you’d like to share?

I rarely give advice. But I do make suggestions. I suggest people remember to be kind to each other. And I say remember because people forget. I have a coffee mug that says “be kind” on it. It reminds me because I don’t ever want to forget to extend even the smallest gesture to another person that could mean a great deal to that person at that moment. If we take care of the little stuff, the big stuff takes care of itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with actor, Todd Robbins

Today I’m welcoming Todd Robbins, host of Investigation Discovery’s television series, True Nightmares. Thank you, Todd for stopping by!

 

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a performing and creative artist that has spent a lifetime immersed in the shadowy worlds of arcane popular entertainment, dark illusions and sinister realities.

 

 

You have quite the impressive background from being an actor, an author, magician and even a carnival performer. What has all that been like for you and what has been the drive that got you to where you are today?

I have always been drawn to character. I like life that has twists and turns. The safe and easy has never called to me.

 

 

You’ve worked for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Tell us about that and what were some of the highlights of your performances?

Ripley’s is a brand that has presented reality as its most interesting and amazing for almost a hundred years. I love everything that this brand stands for, and it is an honor to have done a few things under its banner. It was a real challenge performing in their show in Branson, MO. That is a town where everything is false, and our show was a bit too real for their taste. When that show ended, I was very glad to get back to NYC, where anything is possible…good and bad.

 

 

You’re also the host of the television series, True Nightmares on Investigation Discovery (ID). What was the spark that got you into this role?

True Nightmares grew out of my theater show called Play Dead. I created that show with Teller (of Penn & Teller) and he directed me in it. That show was filled with stories of people, some good and some not so good, that had a relationship with death during their lives. We used magic as special effects to give a sense that these dead people were gone but they were not far away, and when they came back to visit the living, the resulting spectacle was terrifying. I was approached by Discovery Studios to develop a TV project along these lines and Investigation Discovery saw that I told true stories of dark people with a twist that was complimentary to the content of their channel but also an expansion of that they currently present. In the first meeting with the network I brought up the idea of have me “ghosted” in the reenactment scenes, popping up when things take a turn towards the evil. With Executive Producer Eddie Barbini, I developed the concept into a series. The result is a show that presents quirky stories of murder and mayhem that all have an ironic twist to them. I look upon my role not so much as a host or narrator, but much more of a storyteller. This lifts the series out of the docu-drama genre and puts it into a whole different field.

 

 

Share with everyone what your book, The Modern Con Man: How to Get Something for Nothing is about and where can readers get their very own copy.

This book is about the mind of the con artist, and the best way to understand it is to try out some simple cons and scams that you can perpetrate on your friends and family. The book, along with three DVDs that compliment it, are available on Amazon.

 

 

What have been some of your most memorable moments throughout your career?

I came upon the world of the sideshow when I was a teenager and was lucky to have learned how to do all the classic stunts like sword swallowing and fire eating from performers that were the last generation of true carnival and circus sideshow entertainers. It’s true that I have devoured somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 light bulbs. I learned it from a fellow that did an act called The Human Ostrich and it consisted of him consuming things like lit matches and cigarettes, razor blades and tin cans.

 

 

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Yes. I am working on a wicked storytelling podcast that will be titled Dark Illusions, Darker Reality, and there are a couple of TV projects that are in the planning stages right now. One is a travelogue that tells the twisted history of places I visit called Down a Road, Darkly, and a few others that too early to speak about. Yes, the word “dark” does seem to be theme in much of what I do!

 

 

Where can fans follow your work?

They can follow me on twitter @toddrobbins, on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Todd-Robbins-923440934335323/ and at my website www.toddrobbins.com

 

 

Any words of wisdom you’d care to share?

Live each day as if it was your last, because one day it will be…and for many, it’s later than you think!

 

 

 

todd-robbins

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Marty Schiff

Today I’m welcoming actor and producer, Marty Schiff. Thank you, Marty for stopping by!

 

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Well… I don’t really know where to start. I’ve had a pretty interesting life… much of it is public knowledge. I have been focused on a career in entertainment since I was 10 years old. I started doing regional theater when I was 14. Sometimes working on three shows at a time, acting, building sets and rehearsing was common for me. By the time I was 20 I had already done two dozen shows in some capacity. Some things that are not as public are: I was a volunteer fireman for many years. I learned to drive a stick on a 1956 American La France fire truck. I have two wonderful children, both who have interests in production. My daughter works as a Production Manager for PBS and my son is finishing up college. I’ve survived some pretty serious health issues…. and you’d never know it. As the song says…”ain’t found a way to kill me yet”.

 

 

What was the initial spark that inspired you to go into the film industry?

I think, and believe, it was in my DNA. I was a TV junkie at a very early age. I can still tell you what was on the air on Saturday mornings in Pittsburgh during the early 60s. It started with a test pattern. My family was also very into going to movies. I was never a noisy child in a dark theater. My grandmother would take me to the Warner Theater on Fifth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh nearly every Saturday. Drive-ins were big for my parents and siblings.

When I was 12 my father gave me a Kodak Brownie 8 mm movie camera. I shot hundreds of hours of film… most lost in the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. But it was my joy at a very early age. Again, without any formal training I knew how to set up shots, light, direct and edit short films. I was always daydreaming about shooting something and never paid attention much in school. My imagination was… and still is… off the hook. My goal was always to get to Hollywood… and did just that after getting my theater degree at the age of 23.

There is a very real possibility that a past life connected me to Hollywood. When I moved there in 1979 it felt extremely comfortable… not many people say that about Los Angeles… and I knew my way around without maps. I have a particular fondness for The Hollywood Cemetery and used to take my daughter there for “Picnics with the Demilles”… next to Cecil and Agnes DeMille’s burial plot.

 

 

Some of your earlier work include great titles such as Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow. What are some of the other films that you’ve worked on?

I think the one film I’m remembered most for is CREEPSHOW but my favorite film to work on, also a Romero work, was KNIGHTRIDER. It’s a non horror film but still great. Some lesser known are CHILDERN OF THE LIVIND DEAD and PARTY ANIMAL. I also worked on BLANKMAN, CAN YOU FEEL ME DANCING, THE ASSASINATION FILE and others.

As an actor my career was very heavy in television. Most people don’t realize how many times they’ve seen me in commercials and shows from the 80s and 90s. I’m very proud of OUT OF CONTROL which was Nickelodeon’s very first show they produced for themselves. Until then they had been buying shows produced for other networks. We started it all. OUT OF CONTROL starred Dave Coulier who would go on to do FULL HOUSE. OUT OF CONTROL had an ensemble cast that I loved. It was still the most fun I ever had going to work. A close second was the two seasons I spent on DALLAS. I did many shows and still get residual checks for 12 cents when one of those shows runs somewhere in the world.

 

 

What’s your favorite role you’ve ever played and why?

In film it was probably Trashman 1 in CREEPSHOW. It was so much fun making most of that performance up. Of course working with George Romero is always a treat and acting alongside my on screen partner Tom Savini is always a blast. We’ve been partners on screen 5 times. (DAWN OF THE DEAD, KNIGHTRIDERS, CREEPSHOW, EFFECTS, CHILDREN OF THE LIVING DEAD)

On TV it was HERN from OUT OF CONTROL. We had a lot of creative freedom with that show and my fellow cast members, directors and producers were just awesome to work with. An actor’s dream come true. If you search the show on Youtube there are many episodes there.

 

 

You have your very own production company called, SCHIFF MEDIA. Tell us about that.

Schiff Media was one of the first all digital production companies in the Pittsburgh region. It was started by my brother Bill and I with four XL1s and Final Cut Pro 2… we were early adapters. We did lots of commercials, a documentary or two and some special projects. We had a studio set up in the back of Schiff Printing Company and it was a lot of fun. I would move on to other projects and a new company called Jeffrey Martin Global Media. JMGM is more of a distribution company but we still do production from time to time. Recently, we produced a pilot for TV called THE ODDS… focusing on gambling.

 

 

What’s next for Marty Schiff?

I have some shows I’d like to get off the ground. A few game shows, some magazine shows and a film or two. I’m teaching directing for the Cinema Department at Point Park University, where I graduated from way back in the 20th century. I have some interests in non production businesses and I might even slow down a bit… no… that’s a lie… I’m happy working… I will sleep when I’m dead.

 

 

How can fans follow you and your updates about current and upcoming projects?

Fans can find me on Facebook and if they are professionals on LinkedIn. If they are interested in the film program at Point Park I’m always available to discuss that.

 

 

Words of advice for those who’d like to follow in your footsteps?

It’s not easy… but so worth it… and obviously not impossible. The key to success isn’t so much talent as perseverance, practice, commitment and believing in you. And … most importantly… be passionate about it.. live it… breathe it… love it. Never give up, make interesting and smart choices and be brilliant.

 

 

 

Marty Schiff