7 , 2003
man's film says we are not alone
to The Chronicle
a recent Friday morning, Marin filmmaker James Fox was in
New York City trying to do what he calls "some guerrilla
marketing." In case you missed him, that was Fox on NBC's
"Today" show - standing in the crowd behind host
Matt Lauer, holding up a sign that posed the question, "Are
The sign also listed a Web site where viewers could learn
about Fox's newest documentary, "Out of the Blue,"
which ponders the existence of UFOs and how much the government
has actually revealed about them. It was Fox's second time
on "Today" in a week - having pulled the same stunt
on Monday morning after arriving in the Big Apple.
The unscheduled background appearances on national television
were a success, the Bolinas resident said.
"My Web site got more than 1,700 hits on Monday alone
and sold enough copies of the video to pay my airfare. It
more than paid for the trip to New York," he said.
While Fox's "Today" show antics might be viewed
by some as extreme, praise has come from those who have actually
seen the film, including the publisher of Skeptic Magazine.
"With what seems like an almost illimitable supply of
documentaries on UFOs one begins to wonder what else can be
said about these elusive craft. 'Out of the Blue' breaks out
of the paradigmatic mold and emerges as one of the very best
films ever produced on this, one of the most interesting subjects
in the history of science," Skeptic Magazine Publisher
Michael Shermer said.
The film also won two EBE awards in March 2002 at the International
UFO Congress - one for Best UFO Documentary and the other
a People's Choice Award. EBE stands for Extraterrestrial Biological
An executive at the Sci Fi Channel confirmed that negotiations
are under way to purchase broadcast rights to "Out of
At 34, Fox is making a name for himself in the world of documentary
filmmakers and flying saucer chasers, sometimes referred to
Not bad for someone with no formal journalistic background
or film and video training and who, until recently, hadn't
given much thought to government cover-ups or the existence
The video is Fox's second work on the existence of extraterrestrials.
His first film, "UFOs: 50 Years of Denial?" sold
to the Discovery Channel in 1999 and was broadcast there (and
on the Learning Channel) for the past three years.
The documentary features interviews with astronauts Gordon
Cooper and Edgar Mitchell, who sy scientific investigations
into the existence of extraterrestrial life are warranted
based on evidence from high-ranking military officials they
have met who say they have worked with alien technology and
"Out of the Blue" offers a more in-depth look at
the flying saucer phenomenon and skewers government officials
for allegedly concealing facts.
The two-hour documentary, which is narrated by actor Peter
Coyote, who lives in Mill Valley, offers an alternative view,
including astronauts, former presidents and retired military
personnel lending credence to the possibility of alien life
and flying saucers.
In the film, former President Jimmy Carter claims to have
seen a UFO hurtling across the Georgia sky in 1969, and former
President Gerald Ford verifies that as a Congressman he ordered
hearings into UFO sightings that the Air Force officials had
been dismissing as being "swamp gas."
Mercury 7 astronaut Cooper tells how, in 1955, he witnessed
an event that has yet to be explained. While he was supervising
the filming of a precision- landing facility for F-86 fighter
jets, a saucerlike craft flew directly over the cameraman.
According to Cooper, three landing gear apparatus opened,
and the object landed on the dry lakebed. Apollo 14 astronaut
Mitchell tells of a covert effort to keep the subject matter
had a connection to journalism through his family;
his father is Charles Fox, a writer whose work has
appeared in Rolling Stone, Playboy and Esquire magazines,
among others. Fox remembered going along on an interview
with his father for a PC Magazine article about physicist
Stephen Hawking in the early 1990s.
"It was a story about the software that helps
him communicate with the outside world. But we didn't
want to talk about software; we wanted to talk about
the black hole. He ticked away with his thumb for
a few minutes writing out his response. What finally
came out was 'I thought this interview was supposed
to be about computers - not God.' "
Fox's career in filmmaking happened accidentally.
He majored in French at San Francisco State University,
graduating in 1988, but several years later, he picked
up a video camera and he was hooked. The passion for
video production led him to working in freelance production
and making promotional videos.
"I did PSAs for the Black Coalition on AIDS and
a video about homeless people in different parts of
the country," he said. "Then I did everything
from videos about migratory songbirds to winemaking."
His co-filmmakers on "Out of the Blue,"
are Tim Coleman, a British journalist and documentary
filmmaker whose work has appeared on BBC-TV, and Boris
Zubov, a production designer based in San Francisco
and New York.
Fox said that his interest in the UFO phenomenon developed
a few years ago after a friend told him about the
infamous "Area 51," and UFO crash recovery
information associated with the 1947 crash in Roswell,
"I dismissed him as a crackpot immediately,"
But then the story was corroborated by another friend,
Richard Van Sickel, whom Fox was apprenticing with
at a video production company. Shortly thereafter,
with a handful of friends, Fox and company road-tripped
down to the Area 51/Groom Lake region of Nevada, 90
miles east of Las Vegas, where, according to Fox,
they had a UFO encounter. "It was a saucer-shaped
craft with the ability to hover, about 200 yards away,"
Returning home, Fox found that family members doubted
"That is when I decided to launch my own investigation
- because my own family didn't believe me," Fox
Fox found working as a documentary journalist took
"I spent two years establishing a rapport with
President Ford's secretary, Penny Circle," Fox
said. "I found a letter in his personal archives
initiating congressional hearings (on UFOs) in 1968.
President Ford confirmed it. He said,
'I undoubtedly wrote to a general on the armed services
committee that such an investigation be taken.' Previous
to that, the Air Force's explanation of UFO sightings
as being just swamp gas was absurd - a spit in the
face. (Ford's hearings) were the closest we came to
Fox said that in order to use the telephone interview
with President Ford, the former president first had
to view the film and approve it.
To finance his second film, Fox said he used some
of the money he made from the Discovery Channel -
and was fortunate to get a $20,000 donation from an
"He was a gentleman I had never met. He contacted
me and offered the money with no strings attached,"
Fox said. "He was former military and didn't
want his name to be known.
"I only look at myself a little bit as a UFOlogist,"
Fox said. "I look at myself more as a documentary
His next topic, he says, will be on the history of
alternative energy sources.
"Dealing with the subject of UFOs has generally
not been a subject worthy of serious consideration,"
Fox said. "There is a preponderance of evidence
in this film. You can dismiss one or two testimonies
- and I challenge people to discredit some of the
testimonies in the film.
"You get to a certain point when you can't dismiss
each and every witness. You have to ask yourself:
Are UFOs real?" Fox said.
"Someone asked my father recently if he had any
doubts about my work or the existence of UFOs. He
replied, 'Not anymore.' "
full-length feature article on OUT
OF THE BLUE
is published in the San Francisco Chronicle: