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UFO sighting legend coming to the big screen in rural western Pennsylvania

December 21, 2018

(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories about the movie being made about the Kecksburg UFO incident.)

A community effort has set the scene for next fall’s release of “Kecksburg,” according to the feature film’s writer and director Cody Knotts.

The movie is a work of fiction, based on a real event witnessed by thousands of people, according to published reports. It involved the small Westmoreland County community of Kecksburg and an unidentified flying object on Dec. 9, 1965.

Children, adults and entire families are playing extras and provide local faces in the scenes.

Filming has provided interesting spectacles.

Height deprived, big-eyed aliens have been seen on the set. Groups moving through daily routines in 1960s garb walked on Mount Pleasant streets, eating in a local diner. Military personnel brandishing weapons were filmed rushing over rutted fields outside the village of Kecksburg. There was a scene filmed of a man in period clothing jumping into his Jeep, parked in his driveway in Somerset Borough. The Jeep plays a key role in the film.

The event

The film delves into the legends surrounding the 1965 sightings, including the fireball seen in the sky going across Canada and several states before its descent in Kecksburg. What many eyewitnesses later described as an odd-shaped object fell to Earth in a blaze of brilliant light and smoke in the wooded hollow, where many of the movie’s scenes have been filmed.

Within a short time the military arrived with guns in hand, and roped off the area. It appeared as if something was hauled out in a covered truck a couple of hours later, according to some reports. The military and the state police, who were among the first on the scene following inquisitive locals, told people that they found nothing, according to numerous published reports.

But many witnesses described an acorn-shaped object partly buried in the Earth.

Knotts thought the story deserved to be made into a movie.

As a native of Taylorstown in Washington County, now a New Yorker, Knotts was well aware of the story. The filmmaker’s creative juices flowed when he had the career opportunity to do something with the story through his film production company, Principalities of Darkness.

On location

Knotts recently spoke to a Daily American reporter, while at work on the film during the final day of shooting on location until May. He took time to direct a West Virginia woman with a baby on her hip, telling her where she could stand to be out of the way of the camera crew, and still be able to watch the story unfold.

“This is an example of what I mean by community,” he said.

Victoria Hoffman, of Grafton, West Virginia, said her family has been on an adventure. She traveled east to bring her homeschooled children, Joshua, 16, and Anna, 10, to be part of the movie. Little did she know that her family would become even more involved in the filming.

“We were happy to hear there were auditions. Being involved in that way we found out there was need for extras in the movie. We also pitched in with others to find a certain prop that was needed. My son has been an alien, an extra and helped with the sound. My daughter has played part of an alien role. It has been a really neat thing, and since my kids are homeschooled, we can use this experience as an avenue for an elective as well.”

Funding by ’very small increments”

Finding money to back an independent film can be difficult, Knotts said. Most independent filmmakers do not disclose their budget until the film’s release. Although not made by a Hollywood studio, “Kecksburg” will be released to movie theaters.

Indie films are made by small production companies on a limited budget. Sometimes they become widely popular, like 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project.”

It helps that after nearly five decades there are still people talking about Kecksburg. An annual summer festival in the village still draws a crowd. The Kecksburg UFO Festival raises funds for the local volunteer fire department and emergency medical services. This year members of the film project sold shirts and tickets to the film’s premier showing to help fund the endeavor.

People have donated their time and money to get the movie to the big screen, and without the community help, the film would not be possible, Knotts said.

Many of the people provided period clothing, cars and weapons used in the film.

The filmmakers, while on location, slept on air mattresses on the floor in a house in Uniontown to save money.

“We ate a lot of pasta,” he said. “We are doing everything we can to get this done. It’s crazy.”

(Pick up Saturday’s newspaper to find out how one family got involved in the movie.)

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