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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Paranormal Documentary: Interview with Director Mario Escobar

Ben and I recently got a chance to sit down with Mario Escobar, director of X-Band Transmission a Paranormal Documentary. I had the honor of working as a Production Assistant on this film late last year. It was an amazing and weirdly cool experience. Without further delay we bring you our interview and make sure to stay tuned to till the very end for your chance to win some REALLY cool prizes!

San Francisco. Haunted Hotel. 2 Sheep and 1 Director meet

Katie: Thanks for sitting down with us today Mario, let's start out by talking a little bit about what this documentary is about.

Mario: My pleasure, so hi. And thanks for your interest, and thanks for helping us with the production, Katie.

The film is called X-Band Transmission, and it is a paranormal research film about time-travel and metaphysical interpretations of premonitions. It is set in a creepy hotel in San Francisco.

What we basically do is follow a select group of unique individuals as they try to send a signal into the future, and receive a message today in the present. Essentially we are doing research on whether sending signals to alien or future beings is possible using a interesting group of folks from all walks of life.

Katie: Who came up with the idea for this doc?

Mario: That would be Blake. I met him at my local pub, Pittsburgh's Pub to be exact. He struck me as odd and disjointed in his speech so I ignored him like I do most folks in pubs that strike me as odd. Then someone told him I had made a few films and worked in film and video production. So he kind of hunted me down with this idea about doing a documentary about his research experiment. I thought he was a total bullshitter initially, but he kind of grew on me and offered me money for my time. So I considered his concept, and then got immersed in how we could tell such an odd story honestly, in a way that piqued my interest and honored what Blake was trying to do. When he came to me I had no idea what he intended to do or how he intended to articulate his vision, but I was definitely stimulated by the challenge.

Katie: How many different people did you find during this process?

Mario: Well, including cast and crew I was able to whittle down the initial craigslist ad responses from 250 to about 75 folks right away.

We had backup crew members at every position, but hadn't found a shooter at that point and I was producing and flirting with the idea of directing. We interviewed another director but she kind of didn't like Blake, and he didn't agree with her on concept. So I pitched him my idea and he liked it. So once I signed on to direct I hired another producer, Elisabeth Fogli, to help and found a great camera crew, and then it snow balled.

In terms of cast, we knew right away we wanted our two main people: Vinny and Paul Walker. We sent out a ad, and then had a a questionnaire filled out with all kinds of relevant info laid out. The answers they provided gave me an opportunity to understand these folks and their inter-personal dynamic and kind of sketch out how they would play against each other.

We needed people who were sincere. But also folks who were odd, but not too odd. We wanted people with different 'paranormal' backgrounds because Blake wanted all types and aspects of the unknown explored or touched upon in this film. So with that daunting task in mind, we set about finding our cast. In the end we had 3 experiments with about 15 people participating in the three different groups I arranged.

Ben: How did you find the people for your documentary? Did you just open the phone book to “psychics”? (Does anyone still use phonebooks?)

Mario: I don't use phonebooks, they weird me out. I had Blake put an ad out on craigslist. Craigslist can help you find subjects for a documentary, a new puppy, a film crew, or a one-legged tranny if that is what you are into.

Katie: What was the goal of the experiment?

Mario: The goal is to send a signal into the future or into space even, and see if we can receive a signal back in the form of premonitions or subconscious thought. It also was an opportunity for people who normally wouldn't be grouped together to explore their own unique experience and create a beacon of sorts, and a legitimization of the paranormal in a serious medium with a not so serious director. By that we meant that as complex as science and meta-physics can be, we aimed to have fun with the concept. To shed light on a commonality of experience, that what we feel is odd, funny, honest, and some what common in all humans. These folks are different, WAY different than your average individual, but in their differences lies commonality and shared experience and belief systems about the universe that are interesting.

Ben: When you went into this documentary, were you a supporter or detractor of psychic phenomenon?

Mario: I don't believe in any of it. Psychics, Scientology, Ghosts, Aliens, Jesus, Loch Ness Monsters-- None of it.

That said I know people are sensitive and have emotional intelligence. Some people see things or perceive that they see things in dreams or visions... I think that is a powerful thing that we all share. This need for a greater understanding of the universe. I come from a background that rejects, or more to the point, is skeptical of all the new age/paranormal/ religious mumbo jumbo. "I see the sandwich, I eat the sandwich" is about where my belief systems live and die. That said, I am fascinated by what fascinates people. So I gave these folks the full benefit of the doubt when proceeding with the concept. I don't believe time travel will ever be possible. Not in the sense that we travel to different eras, or realms twilight zone/star trek style.

Ben: Did your opinion change at all because of the documentary?

Mario: No. But I have grown to appreciate these people's beliefs and thoughts more. Maybe they are crazy, but maybe his or her belief system prevents them from going full blown crazy. Or maybe I am completely wrong, and ghosts and goblins, and aliens are all around us all the time. Maybe we are just arguing semantics. Either or, it is not for me to judge or offer my opinion on them as people or concepts. I just like some of their ideas and beliefs in so much as they relate to a general world view. And think for the most part they are genuinely trying to help the world, and themselves, through their belief systems. As contrary to 'rational' thought as they or their ideas may seem.

Katie: Who did the camera work?

Mario: Miss Shannon Pardini, and Mr. Brandon Shilling of First Launch Productions. An amazing crew if there ever was one. We had 5 total shooters on experiment day when people were running around en masse, but for the most part they were my team for a majority of production.

Ben: Did you ever have anything paranormal happen to you in the past that inspired you to direct this film?

Mario: I almost drowned in the ocean once. That sucked. I also had irrelevant deja vu a few times in high school. I would see meaningless things like an idiot saying idiot stuff, and then have a recognition of having seen it before. Nothing major, and certainly nothing to inspire me to advocate for the paranormal.

Inspiration to direct does not come from my need to advocate a view point. It comes from my need to tell a story that is about human nature and how truly weird we all are as people.

Katie: Have any of the predictions come true since the film was shot?

Mario: I can't say that just yet. We did have Edwin predict a number of things related to the turmoil in the middle east that surrounded the Mubarak (Egypt) and Ghaddafi's (Lybia) regimes. But to predict chaos in the middle east is like predicting the homeless are going to beg for change.

Ben: Do you think we can learn anything from the findings of your film?

Mario: Yes. That human nature convinces itself of an ideal, and in that belief system is our own truth, as we perceive it.

And people are weird.

Katie: [Looks at Ben and agrees]

Katie: When and where will the movie release to the public?

Mario: Hoping for early July.

Katie: What was the strangest thing you had happen during filming?

Mario: We had a scene with Paul Walker when he said he would bring all the ghosts in the room, and our producer/interviewer and our D.P. said they both felt the ghost.

I didn't feel the ghost, I just got a slight headache. And I think going to the UFO expo weirded me out because everyone there was so odd. I felt as if I was in on a joke with no punchline that would never end. It was a strange, surreal experience standing in a room full of people who are obsessed with their notion of things and convinced aliens are everywhere. Many thought the world was constructed by aliens. And they all seemed to talk for 8 minutes a stretch, without interruption or notion of their audience's level of indifference or shared interest. It made me want to say nothing for hours at a time. It was quite taxing on the brain.

I at times lost my mind during the making of this film. But that was only because at times, it feels like the longest bus ride ever and you are listening to the most rambling conversation ever. It is hard to edit dialogue that is rambling and esoteric about metaphysical constructs without exploring your own nature. If that makes sense.

We can't thank Mario enough for taking the time to chat with us. I am personally looking forward to checking out this film later next month, we hope all of you are too.

And now we enter the Paranormal Prize Giveaway. In the comments below make sure to enter BOTH things to be automatically entered to win:

2 Passes to the San Francisco debut

Starter deck of Tarot cards, Incense and some fun Masks.

If you have any additional questions about either the movie or something directly to Mario feel free to ask away below.

1. Your Email Address

2. Have you ever had a dream or feeling about the future? And if so, what was it about?

Contest will end June 5th at midnight.

Good luck!


  1. I did have a dream once that my dog was going to get hit by a car. and sad part is she did not soon after that dream. not a fun story but that's the only one i could think of. hehe

    this sounds like a very interesting doc, i hope it comes to dvd so i can rent it. great interview!

  2. I had a scary dream once. I had great and enlightening questions to ask Denise Crosby but I had to go through someone else to ask them, only she wouldn't ask them!!! As terrible as that sounds the worst part is that it came true. I had the best questions ever for Denise Crosby but the person talking to her refused to ask my in depth and thought provoking questions. I will need many years of high cost therapy for that. As always my email is

    Your friend forevers,


  3. @Nathan Well what was the dream? lol And the Denise stuff is going up tomorrow ding bat! :P But as always your comments are loved and adored by all around the globe. You humble us with your presence.

  4. Wonderful interview. This project really sounds fascinating.
    Hope I will be able to take a look at it some day- here in Germany. ;)

  5. nedsped AT verizon DOT net

    This is SO up my alley!! Fringe freak<

    Anyway, dreams... I have had dreams that predicted the SF earth quake about 16 years ago, the bombing in Oklahoma and I dreamt keno numbers (all the 6's except 16) and hit them the next night... so yeah, been there done that but for some reason lost it in the last decade. I blame my gypsy grandmother...LOL!

  6. now this sounds interesting... and I live in Novato. keep me updated

  7. joleene(at)joleenenaylor(dot)com

    (though tickets would be a waste on me since I'm in BFE Missouri)

    As for the dreams, oh yeah, I've had several. The most "instant gratification" one - ie the one that got "proven right" the fastest was in 2001. I'd been in Iowa visiting my family and came back to find that hubby, in my absence, had trashed the house. I was too tired to mess with it, so left it until the next day. That night I had a dream that hubby's father (who he was fighting with at the time) came to visit us and in the dream I was embarrassed about the house being a mess. For some reason I woke straight up from this, shook hubby awake and informed him we needed to clean because his father was coming. He sluffed me off and in the end I went back to sleep. Not three hours later we're woken up by a knocking on the door. It was his father who'd come to tell us that hubby's mother (they were estranged - she was still living in iowa) had been put in the hospital.

  8. By random drawing Joleene is the big winner of the prize pack! Woot!

    Thank you sooooo much everyone for taking the time to comment, these were pretty great responses. :)

    Keep rockin people!