Here's how I ended up looking for aliens and UFOs in the tiny Argentine village of Capilla del Monte, just outside Córdoba, for a series called Outpost on HBO (video at the bottom of article). As you can see in the photo below, I was pretty young - I'm going to say...25(?). I had only made short videos for The Sun newspaper, which I won't link here, because they're dreadful.
But I decided I wanted to be a TV presenter and documentary maker, a little like Louis Theroux. I was told very early on by producers and agents I got in touch with that it would be nigh-on impossible for a white, male presenter to break through at that time, without something different. (I know that's a contentious issue, and I'm not espousing any strong political opinion one way or the other, aside from stating a simple fact that you'll find on Diamond Diversity.) Having already lived in France for a few years and become fluent in the language, I figured that maybe becoming a polyglot would give me an edge.
I moved to Medellín to learn Spanish, and then to Argentina, where I ended up living for six years. I got in touch with a Dutch production company out there called Studio Baires - I actually met one of their producers Thomas Seegers at a language-learning event in Buenos Aires.
We put our heads together to think of some ideas that I could present, to make use of my language skills. They had some contacts at a US channel called Fusion, owned by Univision. We got in touch, jotting down a bunch of ideas and never expecting to hear back. Several months later, I received a phone call and picked up to American accents. It was the Fusion production team calling from Miami. They wanted me us to make two of our concepts. One was about infidelity in Buenos Aires (I'll make a separate blog post), while another was on UFOs in Capilla del Monte.
This tiny village had become a bit of an off-the-beaten-galaxy tourist attraction. In the 1980s, some sort of weird fire had burnt part of the forest on a mountain called Cerro Uritorco. Since then, it was decided that Capilla del Monte was the epicentre of all things UFO in South America.
This was a big deal for me at the time. The TV channel paid us about $15k to make a 7-minute short documentary. I couldn't believe how easy it had all seemed; it gave me a false impression of the industry, which turned out to be absolutely impossible to break. But it was a start; a very lucky one, I realise now with hindsight. (Although, they did try several times to remove me as presenter, but that's another story.)
For the 8-hour overnight ride, we got a posh bus with chairs that converted to beds, with curtains around them. The team was me as presenter, Bas Voorwinde as director and Javier Cortilleras as cameraman. Thomas Seegers, Peter Scheffer and Remi Lehmann stayed in Buenos Aires to produce from afar. It felt amazing to be paid to go on a trip like that; as though we'd really made it.
Upon arrival in this tiny village, we had the impression that all eyes were upon us, as rare Gringos with shiny equipment. Everyone wanted to tell us their alien stories, while we found store after store in the town centre adorned with New-Age nonsense and alien tat.
A Colombian migrant called Luz made the best impression on me. She heads up the UFO Museum. As she took me around the exhibits, she kept mentioning a Señor Jorge Lopez, a shining light in the UFO hunting biz. He'd apparently passed on to the other side a few years ago. After some time, it dawned on me. I asked, 'Was Señor Lopez your husband?'
'Yes,' she replied, eyes shimmering like flying saucers. None of this made the cut for such a short report, but Luz told me how she had been struggling in Colombia with an existential crisis. She decided to fast for eight days, and on the final day, she fell into a hallucination and dreamed up a very particular shape. She drew the shape on a piece of paper, and showed a friend, who immediately compared it to the shape of the village of Capilla del Monte. She immediately moved down there and fell in love with Jorge Lopez, who ran the UFO Museum. When Jorge died, she took the reins - and she still speaks to aliens who keep her up to date with Jorge's goings on in the afterlife.
I mean, she believes that she does. It's a nice story anyway, right?
P.S. Fusion sold the series to HBO, so now I get to tell people I made documentaries for HBO.
Check out some of my podcasts, such as the Coffin Confessor who reveals the secrets of the dead at funerals, Dr. Tessa Dunlop on flirting and marrying boy her family adopted when he was 12; and a more serious topic in the form of Bobby Caldwell, currently serving 17 years for manslaughter that caused the death of the mother of his child.