Encounters – A timely and timeless cosmic detective story

Encounters is a landmark four-part series that travels the globe to explore four extraordinary true stories of encounters with otherworldly phenomena. As told from the perspective of firsthand experiences – in the places where the sightings occurred – and guided by cutting-edge scientists and military personnel, the series goes beyond the science to highlight the profoundly human impact of these encounters on lives, families, and communities.

Explosive new revelations from military whistleblowers of alien encounters, UFOs, and clandestine Pentagon programs, as well as coverage from major news sources, have breathed a fresh urgency into a topic that, for decades, we’ve relegated to the realm of conspiracy.

This series is a true collaboration between Amblin, Boardwalk, VICE, and Netflix – and it’s hitting screens at the same time as UFOs are back in the news.

Directed by Yon Motskin (Generation Hustle) and executive produced by Amblin Television, Emmy-winning Boardwalk Pictures, and Vice Studios, is a landmark four-part series that travels the globe to explore four extraordinary true stories of encounters with otherworldly phenomena. Each cinematic and
the deeply-researched episode tells a single story: strange lights in the sky over small-town Texas; submersible space crafts haunting a coastal Welsh village; an alien encounter with schoolchildren in Zimbabwe; non-human intelligence reportedly interfering with a nuclear power plant in Japan.

“I was the beneficiary of all those entities, who approached me to direct a project that they had done a great deal of development on,” says Motskin. “They’d conceptualized this incredible thing: four mass sightings around the world, one episode in each place. I was honored to be asked but reluctant to take it on because I wasn’t into aliens and wasn’t sure I was the best fit. I said something like ‘If I could make it as a character-driven detective story, focusing on emotion and narrative, that feels like one large film, maybe…’. They were into it and I ran with it.”

(Photo by Fred Hayes/WireImage)

On Netflix from 27 September

How Encounters Originated

“VICE Studios brought Motherboard’s excellent reporting and deep knowledge in the UAP [unidentified anomalous phenomena] space to Netflix,” says. Andrew Freston [Co-head of Unscripted, VICE Studios, Executive Producer]. “When I got the call to combine our project with Boardwalk and Amblin’s, we knew we had something truly special. VICE helped map out this world, and Boardwalk, Amblin, and Yon really finessed the framework”

Comments Andrew Fried [CEO of Boardwalk Pictures, Executive Producer]:” We’ve had a nice relationship with all the folks at Amblin for a while. We’re nonfiction storytellers, and we wanted to look at this topic as nonfiction – not as fringe, not as conspiracy, not as sci-fi, but as something that’s true. How do we explore it with journalistic rigor? That became really, really interesting, given all that was going on in the world around us in real-time. So from Boardwalk’s perspective, this is the right storytelling methodology
for the moment that we’re in.”

“It does feel very timely – so many things are being declassified, so many people are coming out and
claiming they know the government did this or saw that. There’s great video evidence as well. Obviously, this is a genre in which my boss has done so many impactful and iconic projects. It’s that age-old question: Are we alone?” says Darryl Frank (President of Amblin Television, Executive Producer).

“I think we’re lucky that it’s the right moment,” says director Yon Motskin UFOs, UAP’s, non-human
intelligence, whatever we might call it – I didn’t before but now I think it exists. It’s out there. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know what shape it takes, why it is or is not showing itself to us. It could be non-human intelligence from far away, from the past or future, or even us from the future. But I believe ‘the phenomenon’, as it’s called, has been around for a long time. There’s ample evidence of it since at least Fermi split the atom in the 1930s, and before then in myth and folklore for hundreds of years. Jacques Vallees, computer scientist and the inspiration for Spielberg’s Close Encounters, talks about this. People are just now starting to accept it as something that’s acceptable to talk about..”

“We’ve all seen American-centric, military-centric, conspiracy-centric stories in the UFO world. As we did our research, we fairly quickly discovered that was yesterday’s story. And maybe today’s story. Tomorrow’s story is a global one, it’s about science, diversity, humanity, and belief, and it’s nothing that we’ve seen before. It was tough for me to grasp at first, and still is, but it might be less about material things like spacecrafts and beings than consciousness and other worlds. One scientist told me this way: Imagine we are like ants. And a giant shoe has just stepped in front of us. We have no idea whose shoe that is, why it’s there, or what it wants, let alone anything about that shoe-person’s world, that shoe person’s technology, way of communicating or traveling or thinking. All we see is a piece of shoe. That’s what these UFOs are to us ants. A clue” Yon Motskin

Each of the four episodes tackles a single encounter

Messengers – In early 2008, residents in and around the small central Texas town of Stephenville
experienced something unexplainable: UFO sightings, reported by hundreds of people, including local business leaders and law enforcement. Steve Allen, the owner of a trucking company, described blinding lights and a feeling of great peace. Pat Leatherwood, a bank chairman, saw a “flying Dorito.” Constable Lee Roy Gaitain and his son watched an orb appear in the sky and then suddenly zoom away. According to one former military analyst, the Stephenville event and surrounding data prove we should no longer be asking, “Are UFOs real?” but rather, “What’s your version of reality?”

The Broad Haven Triangle – It all started in a field behind a school. In 1977, the Cold War was raging, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was in theaters, and a group of boys spotted a cigar-shaped spacecraft rising from the trees beyond their playground. Suddenly, the area surrounding the Welsh coastal town of Broad Haven was gripped by over 450 reports of UFO and alien encounters – the largest mass sighting in U.K. history. As investigators and media dug into the sightings, they realized many bore a close resemblance to tales from Welsh and Celtic folklore, in which faeries are known as tricksters with sinister intent. So were the otherworldly visitors in Broad Haven a new phenomenon… or had they been there all along, hiding in the sea?

Lights Over Fukushima – Tomonori Izumi is the 29th chief monk of Enmyoin Temple, which is only a few miles up the coast from the Daiichi nuclear power plantin Japan. In 2011, he walked out onto the temple’s plaza, and saw what he describes as an undeniable UFO – and thenthe earthquake came. That 2011 quake sparked a massive tsunami that set off the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, during which many residents saw mysterious balls of light over the reactors in the wake of their meltdown. Researchers have long traced the connection between nuclear energy and UFOs, with a clear rise in sightings coming after the advent of the nuclear bomb. But otherworldly sightings run deep in Japanese culture, like anime, where natural and supernatural are one. So were these balls of fire UFOs? Hitodama, or souls of the dead? Or, as many believe do they signify an alien intelligence that cares about us, and wants to restore balance to the

Believers – It was a bright and sunny day in Ruwa, Zimbabwe, when 62 young students at Ariel School saw spaceships and strange humanoid figures in their playground. This 1994 encounter – considered by many to be the most significant of the 20th century – profoundly changed the lives of the children, the headmistress, and even the preeminent Harvard psychiatrist who came to investigate what they’d seen. For some former students, the hostile aftermath of that day – in which parents, media, and other authority figures discounted their experience – continues to be traumatizing. It also raises important questions: Are kids reliable witnesses? Why isn’t eyewitness testimony enough evidence, when it is other in many other situations? How can we bring empathy to credible witnesses, even as so many of us still struggle to embrace their truth? What does this say about who we are?

“We spent almost six months researching about forty years of sightings around the world, ultimately putting together a research packet of close to 100 sightings that fit our criteria. Then we discussed and started to make tough decisions,” says Motskin. “For me, first it’s about a great story and characters. Can we get access? Is there an archive? Another big factor was diversity. We were a diverse group behind the camera and wanted the same onscreen. Diversity of color, gender, and geography. Because aliens don’t just land in America but around the world. So we looked hard for a story in Asia and Africa because we rarely see that, so we chose Japan and Zimbabwe. And we rounded it with Wales, so we had four different continents. Diversity of themes, like pop culture bullying, or nuclear catastrophe. And then we were looking for stories that had a diversity of time periods, and diversity of encounters, like first, second, or third kind. So the first episode is Lights in the Sky. The second one, there’s a craft. In the third, they actually see beings come out, and then in the fourth, there’s physical contact and abduction. Most important is the diversity of impact on the people: some were stigmatized or even traumatized. Others were inspired. Some mystified. But all were completely transformed.”

“We’re creating a non-fiction series that delves into intimate moments of the extraordinary,” says Freston “Capturing their uniqueness and profound impact poses a thrilling creative challenge. This theme of belief—both theirs and ours—underpins the series. Portraying this on-screen empowers Yon and the team to authentically express it. The result is an unconventional UAP series that pushes limits while respecting each subject’s personal encounter.”

“This is a character-based premium drama. It just happens to be unscripted,” says Frank “We wanted to learn what it is about these people that, at the risk of sounding crazy or hurting their relationships or losing their jobs, they stick to their story.”

“Science. Belief, and science. Let’s have an open mind. Let’s believe,” says Motskin. “Because why not? And then let’s empower and fund scientists and use advanced tools that are credible and trusted to continue to explore. I think the possibilities are very hopeful. It’s going to completely transform every single aspect of our world and lives, and I don’t say that with any kind of hyperbole. We might discover a new technology or alter our understanding of physics. Look at semiconductors and gene editing.”

“At the very least, let’s not start from a place of total skepticism or dismissing people. Storytelling at this level makes it far more difficult to just dismiss somebody who thinks they experienced something,” says Fried