It was on a rainy Saturday afternoon in 1992 that I went to a lecture in Santa Monica, at the Unitarian Church. I was presented with two British gentlemen in their mid to late 50s, who had a story to tell. It was a recounting of their experiences and adventures, beginning in the early 1980s, involving mysterious shapes that appeared in grain fields in the British countryside. I was fascinated by it. I thought that what they were showing was intriguing, beautiful, mysterious, and remarkable. The men were intelligent and educated -- one of them was a civil engineer. They were in very pragmatic professions and they lived in an area where Crop Circles were appearing. They heard a noise one night, went out in the fields the next morning and thought, "Jeez...this is really unusual."
It was very clear they were mystified. They were part of a very small group of people, no more than ten, who had stumbled across these things in the fields in southern England. In those days, they were just simple, round disks indented in the crops, with details that were very impressive -- the main one was that when the crops were green, none of the stalks were broken. Although they were bent over and curved, they kept growing, turning back up to the sun because the plants hadn't been harmed. They called these imprints Crop Circles.
Rarely does anyone have the chance to discover anything new. These people were completely immersed in investigating a new discovery, something that was unique. There was no explanation for this...and there still isn't.
I left the lecture intrigued, but I didn't follow up in any way. But, I had the thought that this would be a wonderful project to do because it seemed to be fun and fascinating. As time went by, I made my documentary, "WACO: The Rules of Engagement," had a child, and life went on in its merry way. I occasionally found myself musing at the Crop Circle poster I had purchased at the lecture. I'd glance at it and think, "Who makes them? I wonder what they are?" For me, it created a peaceful state. I didn't know where they came from, I didn't know what they meant, but I felt good about them. I found myself in bookstores gravitating towards literature on the subject.
Between the time I first heard about Crop Circles and the time I started working on the film, I had a "wait and see" attitude. Having brushed up against the UFO scene, with the incredible subterfuge and disinformation out there, I wasn't really interested in getting involved in something that carried that type of onus. That was of concern to me -- I didn't want to waste my time and possibly end up with a stupid career move. I wasn't opposed to the concept of extra-terrestrials visiting; I just hadn't had one land in my backyard. So, I waited and worked on other projects.
Every once in a while, something would trickle in -- a little article, or a radio show tidbit, or a conversation with somebody, or a segment on a TV magazine show. I noticed that the formations themselves continued to change from summer to summer -- to evolve and become more complex -- and that interested me. A "wait and see" attitude asks, "How do things change and what new information comes to light?" I was intrigued at the thought of a new concept -- this might be an off-shoot of a "Star Wars" technology program that the Air Force was developing, some sort of satellite based ray-gun they were experimenting with. After I thought it through, I realized that didn't make a lot of sense. If the government needed to test a new form of weapons technology, they wouldn't whip up a bunch of interest with a lot of civilians in public places -- that's not the way they work. I waited to see if something convincing would come to light.
The formations evolved from simple circles, some with rings, to long, complex, combinations of images. Then, a 1500-foot formation they called a "pictogram" appeared in southern England. It made many papers, and, that week, the area was inundated with tourists. It was like Woodstock -- there were thousands of people and it was a wild frenzy.
In those early days, there wasn't a question of whether Crop Circles were manmade or not -- there was no discussion about "fakery." But, a few months later, we were introduced to Doug and Dave, two elderly British men who "came out" to the press. They were both retired -- one was a former government civil servant and one of them had MI5 (like our CIA) affiliations. Doug and Dave said, "We make all of them." As soon as they issued their announcement, it was in every major publication on the planet, creating an onus on Crop Circles that persists to this day. Now, here we have an authentic phenomenon that had been around for a long time without hardly breaking its way out of southern England, and, when somebody comes along to denounce it, it goes all around the world. From my perspective as a reasonably well-trained investigative observer and documentarian, that's an anomaly in and of itself. I'm not saying there's a conspiracy; I'm saying that it's something to take note of.
In learning about Crop Circles, I discovered that for ten years prior to Doug and Dave a small group of dedicated people had been recording, measuring, and photographing the phenomenon. I wasn't buying Doug and Dave.
Years went by, until 2000. I had been holding my "wait and see" attitude long enough. A researcher, Patricia Murray, invited me to take a trip to southern England. Having not been a Crop Circle devotee, I was relatively circumspect on this trip over. But, I had known about Crop Circles for about 8 years and had seen a fair array of aerial photos, and I was basically in a pretty good place. However, I wasn't filled with a lot of expectation based upon study. For me, it was kind of ideal, because I had a chance to go to England without any strong preconceptions -- it was an adventure, it was a romp. It was not as though I had made up my mind. It was either going to be something that was new and different or it was going to be a dud.
Patricia Murray works with Michael Glickman, a brilliant architect and inventor. They have done a lot of work on the geometry of Crop Circles. They are very absorbed in the phenomenon, and consider it to be virtually a sacred situation in their lives. The three of us arrived in England, with my hi-def camera, and drove to Michael's house. We got there on a Saturday night with a bit of jet lag, stayed up for a little while and then went to sleep. The nights in England are very quiet because they have no noisy crickets like we have in Los Angeles -- having been a motion-picture sound mixer I noticed this right away. But, about three a.m., I heard cows mooing and other farm animals making noise somewhere nearby. I thought it was unusual in the middle of the night.
We got up the next morning, wanting to visit the nearest formations. We called around and heard that one had appeared a few days earlier a mile or so away, and another was about three miles away. We received basic bearings on them, got in the car, and set out. We proceeded down the lane, when Michael suddenly slammed on the brakes. We stared in disbelief. A hundred yards from Michael's house, in the very first field, was a brand new Crop Circle. It had appeared during the night.
There is some sort of interaction with the source of the formations, which occurs in a very spontaneous manner. If something like this is going to happen, it generally occurs as soon as a person is present in the environment in England. I didn't know this at the time, but this is what happened to me. It was hard interpret this as anything but an interaction with the phenomenon, because of the timing and the proximity -- and it was undeniably an authentic formation, with elements that completely defied any kind of human involvement.
We tripped out. There was this very majestic looking Crop Circle on the far end of field. We walked down the tram lines that the farmers use for their tractors, and went into it. It had beautiful characteristics, with an interwoven mound in it, and it had a double layer of swirled lay. It was unbelievable -- we were completely blown away. I mean, think about it. Here is this amazing phenomenon, which we got to walk into and experience immediately. Everyone is still very much disconnected from the source -- there's no knowledge of what makes these things. Nobody knows. But we're there. We experience real human emotions - wonder, fear and fascination. It was nothing like looking at a photograph. And this Crop Circle, this image created in the wheat, seemed to be created for us, for our arrival.
Although this was a relatively small formation, only 100 or so feet across, it was unusual enough to be striking; to be profound, but not to be upsetting. I was as moved as I could possibly be without being disturbed, deeply affected but not upset. There is a fine line there, especially with things of this unknown quotient. My sense of consciousness was enhanced. I felt an increased energy in my body. It was a subtle but unmistakable impact.
I immediately thought that I must stay completely aware. There was such a sense of gift about it, and I wanted to be attentive to the potential of each thing that happened, particularly because I had a camera. It was my first step in first hand learning about the Crop Circles. I felt that I should be prepared for any magic to occur.
I felt very awe-struck and self-reflective. It wasn't like a flying saucer landed or a ball of light came into my space, but it was just enough of a "synchronicity" -- an unusual coincidence.
To sit in a Crop Circle is a unique experience. It's one thing to see a photograph; it's an entirely different thing to be there. To drive down a 2-lane road and look across a gently sloping field of beautiful golden brown wheat, and then see this image sitting there on the side of a hill -- it's magnificent, a beautiful work of art.
I went to 8 or 9 Crop Circles while I was in England. That profound feeling repeated. I found out more about them: that to a ballerina they become ballet, to a biologist they become biology, to a philosopher they become philosophy. If you're a psychologist, you learn about the psychology of the people involved with it, or you learn about your own psychology.
To me, an interesting aspect of the phenomenon, beyond the formations and what they contain as information, is what it's like for the people who are involved with them. What was exhilarating to me was people sharing their experiences, ideas, and philosophy. I think that an engaging, delightful, honest, and convincing way to enter into the Crop Circle world is through the eyes of the people that live with them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Theirs is a grand story of human drama -- not in the tragic sense, but in the wondrous sense. The wonder of life. I think that the film will capture the awe at Crop Circles as much as the substance of them. The core, pragmatic data is one thing, but the wonder and fascination is another.
My total commitment to making a film came about as an offshoot of Suzanne Taylor's interest. Suzanne has lived in Los Angeles for the last 30 years or so. She had come from New York, where she was actress. Being involved in the growth movement and the awakening to consciousness that was going on in the 70's, she went on to sponsor and support an array of people and projects. There were many gatherings at her home, where she would host discussions, salons, and forums. She gave people a place to meet, converse and cooperate with each other. She's very much into collaborative processes and think-tank set-ups.
Suzanne came to me and said she had been involved with Crop Circles for 8 or 10 years, and hoped to get a film made to let the world know about them. She knew I'd been to England to see the circles, and asked if I would be interested. I thought that what she was bringing to it, in terms of her experience in dealing with people, was a natural fit and that she would be a real asset, because I sensed that it was the people I wanted to focus on -- the human interaction.
Suzanne rented a house in Wiltshire, the area where the most Crop Circles appear every year, where several of us lived for two and a half months. We set up the film to replicate her California lifestyle -- a "salon" environment. This was a missing dynamic for the "croppies," the name by which the researchers are known. In the early years they clustered at a particular pub, but, thanks to hoaxing having created animosities and antipathies, there was no longer any place where people gathered to share their views and get support from one another. We invited members of the Crop Circle community for regular meetings -- we said, "Come on over, let's sit and chat." I shot in cinema-verite -- a hand-held, you-are-there style, that's very unobtrusive and non-invasive. I wanted to get everybody in the most natural, uninhibited way that I possibly could. In that regard, I think it worked out very well -- extraordinary conversations came out of the times when croppies got together and talked spontaneously. That's when the sparks really flew.
Once you get past the bullshit that the public hears about Crop Circles, and you're actually there, spending time with people who have been close to this phenomenon for a long time, who are comfortable with it and know the entire topography of the experience, you realize that it's a completely authentic phenomenon -- that's not even an issue. And, one of the most striking things is the level of appreciation that people have for it -- their respect and their fascination. It really is unusual to find people so passionate about anything.
I was delighted when I finally got home. Anytime you go on a vacation, things feel fresh and refreshed -- I felt exceptionally balanced and grounded, on an even keel, optimistic, and in high spirits. Even though I shot 37 days straight, I felt peaceful and happy. In fact, the longer people are involved in the Crop Circle scene and study it, they seem to become ever more well-balanced. It was the opposite of a cult environment, where the more you get into it the more isolated you become from the rest of the world. People involved with Crop Circles tend to become more worldly, more connected to their environment, and more socially well adjusted.
In England, I obtained a copy of a video that had been shot in 1996, showing an empty wheat field and 4 traveling luminescent points of light circling over it. A crop formation suddenly goes down below these swirling lights -- in perhaps 4 seconds. The balls of light then fly away. Some people have debunked this footage, insisting its doctored. The guy who shot it got hassled and disappeared. But, he didn't gain anything from making the tape -- he never tried to sell it, never tried to offer it to the media -- it seems he was just excited that he had it. Its genuineness is a major subject of debate, as many things are in the Crop Circle world. I happen to think that it's real. I look at it from a technical point of view, as somebody who understands what it takes to do video-based computer animation, and I don't believe it's a fake.
There is a litany of anomalous things that occur in and around the formations. There always has been a conflict when science and scientific institutions run up against anomalous realities -- go back to Copernicus and Galileo -- and that relates directly to this ongoing controversy. How do we assimilate the unknown?
Spirit is about purpose; science is about measure. In this, however, you have both -- you have serious science in the mathematics and in the biological analysis, but then you also have this spiritual element and psychic dimension. The tendency is to gravitate towards or hide behind academic thinking for credibility's sake, and not to take risks that involve the unknown. In making controversial films, I sometimes walk a very fine line, and my documentary, "WACO: The Rules Of Engagement," demonstrates that. Believing in Crop Circles is a risk. But, one has to be willing to accept the adventurous idea. Without that, Columbus never would have made it to America.
Human Circle making is no small feat, especially if done covertly, in the dark. There are about a dozen guys, all British, who claim they're Circle makers. Some call themselves artists. A few of these blokes are obnoxious, intimidating mindfuckers. They are intentionally deceptive, and interject confusion in the community engaged in researching the phenomenon. These people reek of disinformation and counter-intelligence. If they actually make more than 10 or 15 of the 75-150 Crop Circles that appear each year in England, I'd be very surprised. However, they are unusually dedicated, have consistent media contact, and seem to live without scarcity of resources. There is no indication of where they get their financing.
There have only been a handful of TV reports done over the years on Crop Circles. Most have been segments in investigative series, produced in typical cable TV fashion -- subcontracted production companies who grab the most readily available material, looking for the most provocative story. They frequently show night-vision footage of circles being made by people, but actually turn lights on to do most of the actual work in laying the formations. Saying they all are manmade hoaxes wraps everything up quite neatly, with human Circle makers always being the first in line when the media comes calling. This is not too surprising considering that the level-headed, intelligent, educated folks who earnestly study and document the phenomenon are generally oblivious to the media.
After some 20 years of close observation, with nobody still knowing where Crop Circles come from or how or why they appear, everyone has lots to say in the way of speculation. That makes for a lively and stimulating social milieu, which my film will show. "Crop Circles: Quest For Truth," will be released during the summer of 2002. I hope the people who see the film will realize that there is a significant phenomenon. It is not a trivial series of events; these are very major occurrences. A formation the size of two football fields, which appears in seconds, with no known origin, that communicates some number of sophisticated concepts about how our universe is constructed, indicates to me something is worth paying attention to.
I hope that the film is the beginning of a process of closely looking at the data and keenly discussing it -- not enough people with high credibility and visibility are yet a part of the investigation, and there should be more academic involvement and scholastic presence. And, I hope moviegoers will leave my film curious, interested in more about the universe we inhabit, and thrilled with what they have discovered.
For more information, please contact Larry Shulman, V.P. Publicity & Marketing, OpenEdge Media, Inc. (310) 586-1800 or visit our website at www.openedge.org.
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