Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Inside the funding foundations of 'Planet Weird'

BY AARON SAGERS

It is a weird world out there, and it needs to be explained - just not how paranormal reality-TV investigative shows have been doing. At least, that's the thrust of Planet Weird, a new reality concept seeking funding for production.

Planet Weird is the brainchild of Who Forted? contributing editor (and filmmaker) Greg Newkirk; Jason Gowin, formerly of the controversial A&E miniseries Extreme Paranormal; Dana Matthews of Canada's The Girly Ghosthunters; and funny guy Nick Foust. They'll also be receiving help along the way from science advisor Sharon Hill from Doubtful News, and Weird Lectures' John E.L. Tenney.

Currently seeking funding at Indiegogo to put their documentary into production - and so far making a few grand more than their initial $7,000 goal - the Planet Weird pitch is that it will be different and incorporate all elements of the paranormal. But how will it do so? With some time left in their fundraising campaign, we sent Jason and Greg some basic questions about Planet Weird to investigate the investigators (after the jump)...




Q: How is this different from other investigative shows out there?

Jason Gowin: For me, Planet Weird takes us in the direction of equal balance. Far too often the shows are backed by reportedly scientific methods with no real merit. So, of course, when that happens all of your skeptics get bent out of shape - but if you go too far the other way and discount everything that is happening as paranormal, you alienate the believers. There has been a lack of happy mediumship in the paranormal for far too long. Planet Weird also engages their sense of humor in all of this, and doesn’t take itself too seriously which has been one of the most condemning facts of previous investigative shows. But above all else it’s not a ghost investigation show, it’s not a UFO investigation show, it encompasses everything in the broadest manner possible, with a smile on its face.

Q: Haven't we already seen a lot of nightvision and immersion tactics?

Greg Newkirk: Well, I can promise right now that there will be less than 10% nightvision in this. Fact of the matter is, our teaser reel was shot with a broken handicam, and we just didn't have the budget for lighting. Nightvision is almost completely unnecessary in any way it's been used in paranormal media; it just "looks cool." That's great and all, but people are pretty tired of staring at green castle walls, I think. I know I am.

As for the "immersion tactics," sure there have been a few places that have tried it, but sitting in the dark and playing a music box, with a crew of 10 standing off camera, for 30 minutes, and then calling it night? That's not immersion. That's a checkmark on a shoot list to complete during a 12-hour work day.

The awesome thing about Planet Weird is that we aren't bound to any kind of schedule, we don't have producers breathing down our necks, and because of that, we're free to spend the time we need without feeling that we're being coerced into doing or saying things that 100% honest.

Q: Will you be presenting evidence and taking a stand as fact or faked?

JG: Whatever evidence happens we’ll take a look at it honestly. In my heart the paranormal has always been about the story, and that’s something we all want to come across. I feel like at some point we lost sight of that, it became about the investigators themselves and not the real reason we were all watching in the first place - the strange and unexplained. People get lost in a sea of carbon copies and if it takes us to a place where me, a 235-pound man, needs to be wearing a skintight spandex bodysuit to get the results, then by God that’s what you will see - in all its horrific glory.

GN: Are we going to find any proof of the paranormal? I have no idea, and even if we do find something strange that will be up to people to decide for themselves. Hopefully the best point we can make is that even if we don't find proof, it won't be necessary to make an entertaining film. Convincing people that every little creak, bump, or beep is not really entertainment, that's just a cheap trick to make people watch commercials. We don't have a product to sell, we just want to spark people's curiosity and remind them why this subject is so much fun. If we can make them think about what they believe, why they believe it, and to who's benefit that works, then we've done our jobs. Plus, we could get abducted by aliens or torn apart by werewolves. Who doesn't want to see that?

Q: Since the WhoForted crew is known for being hardcore skeptics, will you be able to present the phenomena in a balanced enough way so that if something paranormal happens, it will be acknowledged?

GN: We've got about 25 different writers at the WF blog, and they've all got different opinions on everything. Sure, we have people like Sharon Hill from Doubtful News and Jason Korbus from the Bent Spoon; they're definitely skeptics. But at the same time, we've got two ritual magicians that write for us. We try to walk the middle of the line pretty squarely, and I think we do a good job of that. The last thing any of want to do is pick a side if those sides are drawn at skepticism and belief. That's a bit too black and white for us.

JG: I myself was never even a part of Who Forted? I mean, I came from a totally different place. I was in Extreme Paranormal, the most hated paranormal television venture of all time - and have been known forever as one of the most adamant about the Amityville Horror case being legit due to my involvement with George Lutz himself. So I fully believe in this phenomena, and I am not going to be swayed if I know what I saw, heard, etc. I think the group is a healthy balance; no one in it is biased in any one way. We also aren’t a team in the traditional ghost hunting show sense. We were friends who started out on an adventure in the paranormal together when we were in high school over a decade and a half ago. It’s our story going out and engaging the questions and strangeness as we would have done whether we were filming it or not. It’s a project of passion, and love for the weird. And maybe, just maybe, tubby men in spandex bodysuits. The sky really is the limit.

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