'I am pleased to welcome Swedish film makers Per Bifrost and Alexander Rynéus as our guest artists for October. Per and Alexander are currently working on a fascinating fictio-documentary called 'Earthling's Quest', focusing on SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and METI (Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) research. Back in July I had the pleasure to interview them to discuss the content of the documentary in greater details. Per and Alexander will continue presenting their work throughout October, posting updates on the development of their project'. Daniela de Paulis.


I see that you have been spending time and interviewing some of the most renowned SETI and METI scientists, what is the documentary exactly about?

It’s a journey into the world of alien hunting, starring Jill Tarter, Seth Shostak, Jon Richards and Douglas Vakoch (among others). The film is a parallell story about the search for an alien signal and the controversial quest to start broadcasting messages from earth. The focus is on the people who devoted their life to try to find ET and their ongoing quest and the questions it raises during the journey. What drives them, and who are the people doing this. We find it super exciting with these people working with a quest that can take so long time, but if they succeed will have such a huge impact. This is the behind the scenes story.

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SETI scientist Jill Tarter

What has been the focus of your filming so far and how do you want to progress with the documentary?

The focus has been to establish a close relation to the characters we are following, to understand who they are, what motivates them pursuing a dream of such long distance both in time and space. We think this is such a thrilling and exciting film which involves many questions about being human and our dreams and fears. Then as the film has progressed we have followed Douglas Vakoch as he left the SETI Institute to start up the brand new organization METI International who wants to start broadcast messages from Earth in a hope for a reply. Something that is controversial among a lot of scientist, with Steven Hawking as the most known voice.

We have a lot of exiting filming a head of us and recently spent two weeks in Puerto Rico where METI International held its first meeting. Douglas Vakoch had gathered experts from around the world from different fields where they discussed what kind of intelligent we might find out there based on what we know from intelligence here on Earth.So what we really are focusing on in this film is both the work of the scientists, who they are and also their struggles in the quest to make contact.

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SETI Scientist Jon Richards

How was the filming process? there is a lot of travelling involved, how and where are you following the scientists?

The filming process has been quite an intense adventure. The process is a journey for us. We have been interested in this for a long time, but we really feel that we are diving deep into the world of real alien hunting, and learning a lot during the way. Our process is also becoming part of the film, the audience will be able to do this journey with us when they watch the film.

Our approach have been to try to avoid doing to much of interviews. We don’t want to have a lot of talking heads.We have always been interested in what the scientist are doing when she/he leaves the interview situation. In this case, what it actually means to be work as an alien hunter, trying to make contact.

We put a lot at stake when we traveled to US from Sweden the first time 1,5 year ago, to meet Seti Institute. In the beginning we honesty thought most of them were rather confused with our approach, that we wanted to tell this story mostly through scenes. But we think they noticed our passion and devotion to this film, the subjects and our will to bring this story also to the people not common with the subjects. We have been filming a lot at the Seti Institute and surroundings. We spent long periods at the Allen Telescope Array as well where Seti Institute are doing their observations. So long that even the person working there, Jon Richards were a little bit confused what we were filming all the time.

During the process one of our main characters in the film, Douglas Vakoch left Seti Institute and his position as Director Of Interstellar Message Composition, and started his new organisation METI International.

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Interview with Doug Vakoch (left), President and Founder of METI

Any interesting insights to share with us from your filming experience?

There is of course always a lot of interesting things happening when you are allowed to follow people on a close range. Jon Richards told us early on that we were his best friends in the whole world simply because we ware interested in his work. Jon added that media always edited him out from interviews so when we told him about our film and the framing of it he really shined. Douglas Vakoch on the other hand admits that we sometimes can be a pain in the as, but he always adds that its for a good cause. So we believe that our way of following them might be irritating but they are getting used to it now.

On our last trip to Puerto Rico we followed Douglas Vakoch for his first workshop with METI International. It was such an intense week where we got really close to him as a person and then we traveled to Arecibo.There he met two women that lived close to the Arecibo Observatory. As the three of them ware standing on the porch with the concrete pillars of the Observatory in the background one of the woman told Douglas that she was 19 years old when the famous Arecibo message was sent by Frank Drake and Carl Sagan.

When are you planning to release the film?

Our plan is to have the premier beginning of 2019. We want to film for a long time and and give the stories space to evolve. We strongly believe that this film can have a broad and international audience.

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Interview with Doug Vakoch (left), President and Founder of METI

What is your personal view on the possibilities of finding intelligent life outside Earth?

We are filmmakers, not experts in this field. But fascinated by these questions. But in all our discussions you can hear that we do believe that we could find something in our lifetime.The scientific discoveries always seems to surprise us by being bigger, greater and more fantastic then we ever could imagine! It feels weird if we should be the only planet with intelligent life in the universe since the possible places for life almost seems infinite. And that life could evolve in the most impossible places, it’s almost a mystical element, the force behind life. It could still be the case that we are alone, but the quest to try to find the answer feels so exciting and important! During the journey to find other intelligent life we put a huge mirror up that reflecting ourselves in a unique way, thats one of the most interesting parts as well.

TRAILER Earthling's Quest - A Feature Length documentary film from Fosfor Produktion on Vimeo.


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