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Posted October 30,2009

"Well done. A sad tale but a fascinating one. As best I can tell you have captured the man.. warts and all."
- Stan Friedman

"You've made a smart, unexpectedly moving film, and I give you my heartiest congratulations. I've watched it four times now, and it stands up each time. I've also learned things I didn't know from it."
- Jerome Clark

 

Posted April 2009

http://thegazz.com/gblogs/wvfilm/2009/05/20/wv-filmmaker-chip-hitchcock-finishing-film-based-on-davis-grubb-story/#more-2436

WV filmmaker Chip Hitchcock finishing film based on Davis Grubb story

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 Chip Hitchcock in action filmmaking

Chip Hitchcock is one of the state’s most active filmmakers, working on both WVPBS projects and many others including Mike Lilly’s landmark indie feature, “Correct Change.”(2002) Most recently, WVPBS aired his “Bridgeport to Baghdad” documentary about WV military traveling from their homes in WV to Iraq. One of his many other projects includes a film version of Davis Grubb’s story (posted) “The Man Who Stole the Moon.” ( Interesting article about Grubb’s “weird” stories.)

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Drawing of Davis Grubb by David Martin for WVLC poster

It seems that there is a renewed interest in the life and times of Davis Grubb. Several years ago Kate Long won national awards for her radio documentary series, “In Their Own Country” about some of WV’s greatest writers including Grubb. Hopefully, this summer Prof. Thomas Douglass’ biography of Grubb will finally get published.

Northwestern University Press recently published Jeffrey Couchman’s book, “The Night of the Hunter - A Biography of a Film.”

WV filmmakers Bob Wilkinson and Rober Tinnell are working on a documentary about the source of the story Grubb used in “Hunter,” Harry Powers of Clarksburg. ( They recently finished a great new doc on Clarksburg UFO man, Gray Barker, called “Shades of Gray.”) Grubb spent his last year’s living in Clarksburg with great assistance from Merle Moore. His family was forced to moved to Clarksburg after his family was evicted from the family home in Moundsville.)

Hitchcock hopes to have his Grubb film finished in time for the 2009 WV Filmmakers Festival held in Sutton. I hope that he does. Maybe Prof. Douglass will even be able to give a presentation at that event as he once did several years ago when he spoke about his book “A Room Forever,” about another great WV author, Breece Pancake. His presentation was given in support of a showing of Russ Barbour’s unique film on Pancake that received an award that year. ( The ONLY extended film made about Breece Pancake was recently shown in primetime WVPBS for the first time since it was made in 1989. ”Elegy - The Life and Work of Breece D’J Pancake”  is a shorter student film made about Pancake that uses some of his footage. The shorter film won an award at the 2004 Rural Route Film Festival.)

I contacted Brad Stalnaker of WVU who co-directed the great WV animated film, “The Griffin and the Minor Canon.” He wanted to make an animated version of Grubb’s great Christmas story, “A Tree Full of Stars.” At that time, Grubb’s brother had just died, not leaving a will. As the executor of his brother’s estate, there was no way to get clearance to make the animated film. Presently, Susan Grubb (suzbud@hotmail.com) and her step brother Trevor McNeil are in charge of the Davis Grubb estate. Given Davis Grubb’s great imagination, I for one hope that there are many more people out there who will eventually make film versions of his many books and short stories.

Who knows - maybe someone like Bob Wilkinson and Robert Tinnell will finally make a feature film about WV’s great writer finally? ( I have been trying to get one made since I met Grubb in 1979, attending a party in Clarksburg for one of his works.)

UFO OVER WEST VIRGINIA

Kevin Carpenter, a friend of mine and someone who helped out a great deal with “Shades of Gray” gave me a call one day with a tip. Someone had spotted a UFO while watching the Lunar Eclipse over Braxton County, West Virginia. The kicker was this took place one half a mile from where Barker had lived on Exchange Road. I decided to visit and interview the witness, this youtube video is what I found.


This was the first time I had interviewed a witness to a UFO sighting. I can say the witnesses seemed genuine and believed they had seen something that night. I can see how Barker was drawn into this world of visitors from other planets and men dressed in black seeking to silence those who, “KNEW TOO MUCH”. Hopefully I can bring some more interviews and stories such as this to the website.

Send comments to astraydogfilm@gmail.com

also visit myspace.com/astraydogfilm & youtube.com/astraydogfilm

 

Posted April 16,2009

Here is an Interview I did with West Virginia Public Radio . . .

Gray Barker movie reveals the man behind the men in black

By Scott Finn

Download MP3

April 10, 2009 · "Shades of Gray," a new documentary about the West Virginia man behind several UFO legends, premiers Saturday.

You’ve probably heard of the Men in Black – the idea that the government has special agents who investigate UFOs and paranormal activities – and find a way to silence people who know too much.

But you might not know that the idea behind the Men in Black originated in a book written by Braxton County native Gray Barker.

Now, filmmaker Bob Wilkinson has made a documentary about Gray Barker’s life called “Shades of Gray.”

Wilkinson’s movie is being premiered 7 p.m. Saturday at the old LaBelle Theatre in South Charleston.

We spoke with Wilkinson about the story behind the man who knew too much.

You can find out more information on the movie's Web site.

 

 

Posted April 15th, 2009

 

Bob Wilkinson’s new WV film - Shades of Gray, premieres at SCM LaBelle Theater

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Bob Wilkinson introducing “Shades of Gray”

Bob Wilkinson, one of WV’s leading new filmmakers, presented the expanded 72 minute version of his new film“Shades of Gray,” on Saturday, April 11th at The South Charleston Museum’s La Belle Theater. The film tells the story of Braxton County native Gray Barker who was the most influential person in the 1950s promoting awareness of UFO’s, especially in relation to WV. He invented the idea of “Men In Black,” and wrote extensively about the Braxton County Monster, which made national headlines, the Mothman, the Philadelphia Experiment, and much more. His book, “They Knew Too Much,” was the bible of the suicide cult called Heavens Gate.

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 Photo by Amos Perrine. Bob Wilkinson in front of SCM La Belle Theater

The shorter version of the film has been shown at the 2008 Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, WV and at the 2008 WV Filmmakers Festival.

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 Photo by Amos Perrine. Myself, Bob and his mother Diane eating at the Main Tin before the film

Wilkinson told me that the media group Media 8 Entertainment will be distributing the film, first to film festivals around the country and world, then in commercial film showings, and finally on television. They are known for distributing the Oscar-winning winning film “Monster” about a female serial killer that got star CharlizeTheron an Oscar for best actress. They are also interested in two other projects to be directed by Wilkinson including his coming film on Clarksburg serial killer, Harry Powers, called Rev. Harry Powell in “The Night of the Hunter” by Davis Grubb,  who was one of America’s first known serial killers.

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 Bob, mother Dianne, daughter Stormie and wife Charessa eating dinner before film

Music for the film was created by WV musician Michael Lipton, a “Mountain Stage” crew member, founder of “Graffiti magazine,” author of a history of “Mountain Stage,” and founder of the WV Music Hall of Fame.

About fifty people attended the premiere including Wilkinson’s family and some students of Robert Tinnell, the producer along with his brother Jeff Tinnell,  of the film through Allegheny Image Factory. The students drove down from Pennsylvania where they take courses taught by Tinnell. He is the director of The Factor Digital Filmmaking Program at Douglas - located in
Monessen, PA.  The program was founded by fx wizard Tom Savini and
Douglas owner Jeff Imbrescia. The program is on the same campus as the world-class

Tom
Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program.
( Savini has worked on many classic horror films including the “Night of the Living Dead” films directed by George Romero.)

Wilkinson introduced the film and answered questions afterwards. One fellow in attendance said that his family owned the drive-in movie theater where Barker once lived. Another audience member knows the Barker family who lives near his family’s farm in rural Braxton County.

Read my review of the shorter version of the film that was first shown at the 2008 WV Filmmakers Festival. The film won the “best feature documentary” award at the festival.

WV Writers blog story on film.

Charleston Gazette interview with Wilkinson on the film.

WVPBS radio story on the film with a clip.

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After the show - neon marquee

UFO Investigators Flock to Stephenville, Texas

 

Filmmaker explores the life of UFO writer Gray Barker Filmmaker Bob Wilkinson isn't out to convince anyone there are such things as UFOs. The arguments for and against are well worn. Rather, Wilkinson is interested in one of the early voices of the UFO community: Gray Barker. By Bill Lynch Staff writer

Courtesy photo Filmmaker Bob Wilkinson (right) traveled as far as Key West to interview subjects for his documentary on the late Gray Barker, who wrote numerous books on UFOs. His film, "Shades of Gray," screens at 7 p.m. Saturday at the South Charleston Museum.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Filmmaker Bob Wilkinson isn't out to convince anyone there are such things as UFOs. The arguments for and against are well worn. Rather, Wilkinson is interested in one of the early voices of the UFO community: Gray Barker.

Braxton County native and later Clarksburg resident Barker, who died in 1984, wrote extensively about alien encounters during the height of the UFO paranoia in the 1950s and '60s. Among other highlights of his life as a UFO writer, Barker introduced the idea of the "Men in Black," those reportedly government agents sent to harass or threaten UFO witnesses into silence.

Wilkinson will premiere his new documentary, "Shades Of Gray," at 7 p.m. Saturday at the South Charleston Museum.

Wilkinson doesn't say for sure whether he believes in UFOs. The 34-year-old shrugs when asked. Over the past three years, Wilkinson has heard lots of stories about flying saucers and men from outer space. He collected about 50 hours of video footage, and many of the people were fervent believers.  

"It got pretty tough keeping them on task," he acknowledged, "but I wanted to keep this about Gray."

Wilkinson came upon the idea to look into Gray's life while reading Jeanne Mozier's book "Way Out in West Virginia." The book has a short write-up about Barker and mentions that his papers are kept at the Waldomore in Clarksburg, a historic house that's been converted into a culture and history repository.

"I drove up and spent a couple of days reading what he was all about," he said.

Wilkinson found him fascinating and a far more complex a character than he expected. There was a good story there and they weren't all about little green men.

For three years, Wilkinson juggled the documentary with his day job as a videographer and editor at West Virginia Public Television. Some of the people he talked to were skittish. Occasionally, interviews arranged in advance folded when Wilkinson showed up.

"What sort of surprised me is how very intelligent some of these people really are," he said. "I spoke with a guy who was just another kind of smart. He quoted Yeats and Voltaire."

For parts of his project, Wilkinson got off-the-clock help from friends and production associates at WVPBS. Jim Lange of West Virginia Public Radio's "Music In The Afternoon" contributed voice work. Michael Lipton of "Mountain Stage" created the music.

However, in the field, the crew was largely just Wilkinson. It helped him keep his production costs low. In the beginning, it was less than a shoestring budget. He took inspiration from filmmaker Robert Rodriguez's book, "Rebel Without A Crew" and B-movie institution Roger Corman's "How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime."

"Not having a crew would never stop me," he said.

For several out-of-state interviews, though, Wilkinson needed an extra set of hands to carry gear. He enlisted the help of Brandon Mouser, a man his sister had just started dating.

"I told him I couldn't pay him, but I could cover his room and things," Wilkinson said.

Mouser went along with it. The two traveled to Key West, toughed out a blizzard on a trip back from Minnesota and eventually became brothers-in-law.

Wilkinson also found support for his film through Robert and Jeffrey Tinnell's Allegheny Image Factory. They have credits as producers and are helping find distribution. He says he's been signed to a three-film deal with them, and "Shades Of Gray" has been submitted to several film festivals. Wilkinson doesn't even want to guess where any of this could lead.

"That's the thing about documentaries," he said. "Nobody has to buy it."

Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.

 

"That was a touching film. Thanks for sending it.  Well done. A sad tale but a fascinating one.   As best I can tell you have captured the man.. warts and all." . . . Stanton Friedman

"Having been involved in Ufology for what seems like a long, long time, I thought I was fairly well informed about Gray Barker, when in fact, I hardly knew anything about him until I watched this film." . . . Scott J. Santa of MUFON

"Watching it, I was lulled into thinking, "Oh, another one of those."  Man, was I wrong.   You've made a smart, unexpectedly moving film, and I give you my heartiest congratulations.  I've watched it four times now, and it stands up each time.  I've also learned things I didn't know from it." . . . Jerome Clark, Author of the UFO Encyclopedia

 

"Shades of Gray" winner of Best Documentary Feature at the West Virginia FilmMakers Festival in Sutton, WV.

http://www.landmarkstudio.org/wvfff/

Also have a preview of the film up in the Mothman Museum in Pt. Pleasant, WV.

http://www.mothmanmuseum.com/

 

Posted Oct 8, 2008

Scott J Santa of MUFON reviews "Shades of Gray"

SHADES OF GRAY

A Film by Bob Wilkinson

A retrospective of the life and times of Gray Barker. Victim, Joker, clever researcher, promoter, anyone of which can apply to Gray Barker. For that matter, all can apply to Gray Barker. So you think you know who Gray Barker is? I'm telling you that you don't, but you will after watching this new DVD (release date unknown as I write) based on his life. Running time is approximately 60 minutes.

Included in this documentary, are the following people; Jim Moseley, John and Tim Frick, our own "lovable" Rick Hilberg, Jerome Clarke, Jeff Wamsley, Stan Friedman, and few others of whom I was not familiar with, plus interviews with several family members.

The film presents a chronological overview of Gray's life and his contributions, of which there are many, to Ufology, and of course, all things weird. I believe the word "fringe" was used quite often and liberally by several of the interviewed people. Here are some of the subjects covered in the film and of which Gray had his fingers into;

1) The Flatwoods Monster
2) M.I.B.s
3) Philadelphia Experiment / Morris Jessup
4) Mothman and The Silver Bridge
5) The R.E. Straith letter (Gray's zinger on George Adamski)
6) Who was "Doctor" Richard Pratt? (That mystery is solved in this film).

These subjects are not all inclusive for sure, Gray was involved in many paranormal arenas, but these topics were some of the headliners of his day.

The film begins with a very effective shot of the backside of a man, presumably Gray Barker, sitting at a desk typing, (yes on a manual typewriter) with a small lamp the only light, surrounded by darkness. The narrator speaking Gray's words. This shot is interspersed several times throughout the film.

As the film progresses we are treated with recollections and memories of the aforementioned personalities, each giving their take on Gray. What, why and how he was involved with, for instance the Flatwoods Monster story, or Rick Hilberg giving testimony about Gray writing the book "The Silver Bridge". The film takes the viewer on a chronological trip through Gray's life starting as an eager and ambitious young man in West Virginia to his tragic ending 1984.

Having been involved in Ufology for what seems like a long, long time, I thought I was fairly well informed about Gray Barker, when in fact, I hardly knew anything about him until I watched this film. The movie is very informative. It also brought forth fond memories for me, of the Golden Age of Ufology, which for me ended at the close of the 1960's.

Gray wrote several books about his involvements in Ufology such as:
"They Knew Too Much about Flying Saucers", and "The Silver Bridge", the former considered a classic, the latter delving into the Mothman and the collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant WV. He was also the editor and creator of "Saucerian News" a self published periodical.

All things considered, I give this film a very big two thumbs up! The interviews with Jim Moseley, Rick Hilberg, Jerome Clarke, Stan Friedman, etc, were short, direct and very informative in nature. Although it was approximately 60 minutes long, the movie went by very fast for me and left me wanting to hear more of this fascinating man and his adventures(or mis-adventures if you will) during the early and formative years of Ufology. Legend and pioneer apply to the name Gray Barker as the movie so deftly makes clear.

Highly recommended and must-see viewing for everyone from "been around-the-block" serious researcher to "just-now-opened the door" novice.

Many thanks to Rick Hilberg for providing me the sneek-peek opportunity to view the film before it's official release, and to Bill Jones for trusting me to write this review.

Reviewed by Scott J. Santa - October 2008.

 

Posted Sept 27, 2008

Production Blog, Appearances & Events

Shades of Gray - a new WV masterpiece
By Steve Fesenmaier

Bob Wilkinson and Robert Tinnell, two of West Virginia's most creative filmmakers have combined forces to make "Shades of Gray," a masterpiece film about one of the state's most interesting personalities since WWII, Gray Barker (1925-84).

Wilkinson is a WVPBS filmmaker who previously had directed a great film about Harpers Ferry called "John Brown's Body." Tinnell is a well-known graphic novelist and filmmaker, best known for his hit graphic novel, "The Feast of Seven Fishes," and a long previous career making films in Hollywood. The film is called "Shades of Gray," a new 55 minute biography that is full of insight and dark humor. Congrats to both for making an accessible and intense film about a man who helped create the contemporary obsession with UFOs and local monsters.

The film includes fascinating interviews with Barker's family and friends, revealing that Barker never really believed in all the amazing things that he wrote about including UFOs, the Flatwoods Monster, Mothman, "Men in Black" (MIB) but apparently enjoyed the invention. He was just a small town man with a very great imagination, and the intelligence and energy to invent worlds that only he could really imagine.

This biography includes clips from two of the Hollywood films that have been made based on Barker's inventions - "The Mothman Prophecy" and "MIB." Both films starred the biggest actors in Hollywood, and the second became such a hit that a sequel was made.

I particularly enjoyed the recreation of Barker writing at his typewriter, showing a lonely character who almost single-handedly invented the world that super-star directors like Spielberg and thousands of others were able to mine for their own creations. Could there have been a hit TV series like "The X-Files" without the work of Barker? Could Spielberg have invented E.T. and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" without "Saucerian" magazine? I doubt it.

There is an earlier film, "Whispers from Space," by Ralph Coon that also profiles Barker. Coon came from L.A. back in the 1980s to explore the life and times of Barker, interviewing some of the same people shown in this film including Merle Moore, the Clarksburg-Harrison County library director who purchased the Barker Collection for her library. (She once called me on a Saturday, asking me to come to town to evaluate the collection. At that time I had no idea who Barker was and declined the invitation. I did work with Coon then, programming the world premiere of the film at the Spring WV International Film Festival, and put Wilkinson and Tinnell together since they both expressed great interest in Barker to me.) This film, unlike Coon's, explores the very dark side of Barker's life including his homosexuality and his possible death from AIDS. Barker was arrested for illegal sexual activities, and as Moore says, being gay in a small town can be dangerous.

This film is for adults, and probably will not be shown in West Virginia grade schools. However, I think that it would be great to show in West Virginia high schools and colleges, studying the vast UFO universe that came from Barker's typewriter.

The film has been shown at the 2008 Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, West Virginia and will be shown in Sutton, Braxton County in early October. Hopefully Barker's family, some of whom still live in Braxton County, will attend the premiere. I hope that there is a Clarksburg showing of the film since David Houchon, the curator of the Barker Collection, is one of the main experts interviewed. Hopefully, the will be shown all over the U.S. and world. The people of West Virginia can be proud of this honest and artistic film about a man who made our universe a whole lot bigger despite having little to work with except his own intelligence and flare for the amazing.

 

Production Photos

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