You may think Daniel Myrick’s occult obsession centers around witchcraft but his real passion, ever since he was a kid, is UFOs and the universal questions that stem from just looking up at the sky and wondering…what if? The idea of his new film, Skyman, came to him years before he and Eduardo Sanchez even conceived of the Burkittsville witch; and the fascination he has with Ufology is definitely felt and carried over to the main character of the film, Carl Merryweather.
Myrick was kind enough to donate a good deal of time with us to talk about the real life cases that inspired Carl’s story, Skyman‘s score composed by Billy (or William) Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins, the new Southern Gothic horror anthology Black Veil, and how he could see the folklore of the Blair Witch universe expanding into new territories.
Synopsis: In 1987, just days after his 10th birthday, Carl Merryweather rocked the local news community when he claimed he was visited by an extraterrestrial life form. Despite other alleged sightings reported that same evening, skeptical authorities shrugged off the claims. Now, almost three obsessive decades later, Carl is set on a mission to reunite with the being he calls ‘the Skyman’ to not only prove the skeptics wrong but to ultimately find his own true sense of purpose. Through first-hand home videos interwoven with news footage and interviews, Skyman is a bold and compelling study of the fascinating and unquestioning world of UFO subculture.
Dread Central: Is Skyman based on a true story or is Carl Merryweather’s account based on a real encounter that you took inspiration from?
Daniel Myrick: Several encounters. Ironically, it was a story that came to me even before Blair Witch. I had grown up in the ’70s and ’80s with UFOs and Bigfoot being all the rage of the day. I started getting into UFOs, I had my own little UFO club and researched all these testimonials and came across a couple of these stories that really resonated with me. Carl ended up being a hybrid of a couple of those stories about someone who was visited when they were a kid and now they’re compelled to have this reunion on their 40th birthday. So there’s a little bit of inspiration from true events incorporated with my own spin on it.
DC: Of all the famous accounts of alien abductions, is there one that seems the most believable to you? Or one when you were a kid that really stood out?
DM: Betty and Barney Hill, that still to this day is hard to dismiss. Actually, a lot of what inspired this particular character, Carl Merryweather, was the Trent Farm event which was one of the most famous UFO photographs ever taken. So those are a couple of poignant, childhood memories…research that I had done that had a big effect on me. Much like Carl says in the movie, 90 percent of all this stuff is BS but there’s a few of these that are hard to explain away.
DC: The Travis Walton story always stuck in my head from Fire In the Sky…
DM: That’s another one. We saw him at the festival in Roswell. To hear him tell it directly is really compelling stuff. Like with Carl, whether you believe in the events or not, you definitely believe they believe it. I’ve always found that fascinating. What drives these people? Because you can’t argue with their commitment.
DC: It would have been great to get a Travis Walton cameo in there. So you actually filmed at a real UFO convention for those scenes?
DM: Actually, technically there is a very brief moment where Travis is present in the film. There’s a shot where a woman’s holding up a cell phone because I couldn’t get clearance for Travis, himself. You get a little bit of a blurry image and that’s actually Travis in the shot. That’s a little bit of an easter egg in there that nobody really, until this moment, knows about.
DC: Oh that’s great…I was going to ask if there are any other easter egg references to other UFO movies? I know there’s the mention of Close Encounters.
DM: Well, there are. You have the overt one to Close Encounters but there’s a very, very subtle one and I don’t know if I should tell it because I don’t want it to really get out. There’s another reference to Close Encounters that’s very subtle towards the beginning of the film, that if you know the movie you’ll pick up on it. There’s a numerology reference in there…
DC: That’s 11:11 right?
DM: Exactly. Those that know that will pick up on that. So, there’s a lot of these subtle shout outs for those in the know. Certainly the owls are messengers. There’s a whole book written about it which is a great book by the way. It’s the result of a lot of research on our part, both with me and Michael Selle himself who acted as Carl. We brought a lot of this to be in the film to give it a sense of realism and authenticity that Carl would definitely have known about.
DC: The Devil’s Tower is so iconic and I’m sure you’ve been there and I have as well, but the locations in Skyman of the huge dome and the massive rock are pretty iconic themselves.
DM: Yeah, that giant rock is stunning and it’s right next to the Integratron which is another big, local spiritual icon in Southern California that has a history of Ufology and the reason behind why it was built. So Carl goes into that a little bit. The giant rock is probably about a mile or two away from that area. So we wanted to incorporate that stuff in. We actually went to Trent Farm so we wanted to bring in these areas that are meaningful to the Ufology community that have a history and a backstory to them. Some of these events and some of these stories that surround these areas of our own backyards are just absolutely fascinating. The giant rock…I think if I’m not mistaken is the largest single mass boulder in the world. You feel like you stepped into Land of the Giants.
DC: I noticed the title design for Skyman looks like lettering that looks like Runes or Nordic symbols. It reminded me of Midsommar and even the stick figures in Blair Witch. Is there meaning behind the title or any connections between Skyman and Blair Witch or any other strange phenomena?
DM: Well, I liked it because it had almost this Native American reference…I didn’t want anything that came across has being too sci-fi or spooky looking because it’s really not that kind of movie. There is a sense of folklore and spirituality to the film without being too overt. Carl’s search for answers in this world of aliens and UFOs is a religious pilgrimage for him, so there is that subtext with the font and the logo that I think the Blair Witch Runes and stickmen being to bear on that film as well.
DC: Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins composed some music for this, is that right?
DM: He was involved, yeah! Billy loves this whole subject matter. Don [Miggs] helped incorporate some of Billy’s music in, they collaborated on it and came up with what I think is an awesome score.
DC: I know that Billy, or William? I’m not sure which one he’s going by right now…
DM: It’s William now!
DC: I know William believes in some pretty far out theories about the unknown and shape shifters. The idea of shape shifters living among us is something that scares me. Is that something you’d want to get into? I’m sure William Corgan would be interested in collaborating on that as well.
DM: Well yeah, there are so many different ideas, philosophies, conspiracies, science…that I find fascinating. Not only with respect to the actual stories themselves or ideas themselves but our compulsion to believe them. There’s something about our nature that feels a connection to some otherworldly connection in our lives. That is what I was trying to bring to bear on Skyman. I wanted to bring in the human element to this. Why are we compelled to explore this stuff?
DC: This is the first of a three picture deal with iHorror. Could you share any ideas and whether they’ll be horror or sci-fi?
DM: We’re doing a horror anthology called Black Veil, they’re helping us out with that. We shot the pilot episode prior to the pandemic which I directed and my friend Chris Pickenpaugh wrote. We have Jeffrey Reddick involved as an executive producer who was responsible for the Final Destination franchise and Danny McBride’s doing an episode with us who did Underworld. That’s a six episode project slated to be done which I’m very excited about. There’s another project called Lost in Ybor that I’d like to do which is more of a ghost story about a lot of the haunted places in Ybor City in Tampa which is just rife with those kind of stories. What makes Black Veil its own thing is that it’s centered around Southern Gothic horror that I’ve always been fascinated by.
DC: I saw that you still speak with actor Josh Leonard who’s gone from Blair Witch to have a great career. Are you still looking to do something with him? Maybe Black Veil could be a good fit for Josh.
DM: Actually, Josh reached out to me regarding Black Veil! He’s a super talented filmmaker in his own right. They’re sweet little fifteen minute horror shorts that you have full creative control on what you want to render…as long as they’re in that Southern Gothic mythos. It provides a real creative opportunity for people like [Josh] to just go crazy. I’d love to get Josh involved, he’s great.
DC: I know that you’ve wanted to explore some offshoots of the Blair Witch idea and I love the idea of the Burkittsville serial killer. Is there any movement on that or is that up to Lionsgate? I liked your idea of looking at these films and saying they don’t have to be found footage but they can still be in the same universe.
DM: I definitely would love to explore the whole universe that was created and I’ve always fantasized about doing a black and white noir-ish Rustin Parr movie. Ed and I even wrote a script of a whole new episode that takes place out in Burkittsville that we did for Lionsgate but they opted to go the found footage route again. It really is up to them at the end of the day, they own the rights. Our version of exploring this universe is definitely a higher budget than just doing a found footage film. We really think that’s what the fans want. You have this rich folklore that’s been created around the original film that could be explored in all these different episodes that take place out there. We think there would be a strong response to it, especially now. I think more thoughtful horror films are all the rage right now.
Skyman opens in Drive-ins June 30th and is available On Demand July 7th!