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?
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.