The Paracast was pretty much the pioneering paranormal podcast when it started around 2005. Initially hosted by David Biedny and Gene Steinberg, Mr. Biedny left the show some years ago.
David is also known for his imaging expertise (he literally wrote the book on Photoshop) and his work in Hollywood creating special effects for famous films.
He currently teaches at the prestigious Yale University in the United States.
Here’s my interview with him.
1) What kind of a background do you come from?
I’m a first generation American, my parents were both European immigrants to the US, my father by way of Venezuela. We moved to Venezuela in the early seventies, which exposed me to a foreign language and culture at a formative age, an experience which opened my eyes up to the larger world, and wired my brain to be bilingual and a half (I am culturally Jewish, studied Hebrew from a young age, and can still somewhat read and write it). My parents were liberal intellectuals, my father was a creative, a professional photographer and artist, and my creative side was always completely encouraged and nurtured. I didn’t grow up watching football and baseball, I was too busy drawing, making music and reading, the typical nerd lifestyle.
I fell into technology journalism in the early eighties, was one of the founding editors of MacUser magazine, had a pioneering multimedia company in New York right at the beginning of the industry, and got to work on all sorts of wild software projects, creating media in just about any deliverable format. Fun was the key operative term, and for many years, I only worked on things that personally and creative compelled me, I’m a terrible businessman. LOL
2) How did you end up working on special effects in Hollywood? What was that experience like?
My early involvement with the software world eventually had me speaking to John Knoll when he was developing Photoshop with his brother. I had my own multimedia company in New York, and I was getting frustrated with my partners, and one day on the phone, John told me I should consider moving out west to work with him at Industrial Light and Magic. I had never done motion picture work of any kind, and told him so, but he responded by encouraging me and telling me my overall multimedia knowledge, production management experience and understanding of Photoshop were a great combination of skills for ILM. I went out, interviewed with the general manager, and was offered a job on the spot.
Working at ILM was both a dream come true, and a harsh lesson in Hollywood politics and personalities. I lasted just around a year, and even though I was being promised a management path within the company, my overall distaste for the industry led me to resign. I returned as a freelancer over the next few years, and was happy to play that role, one which let me work on my own terms.
3) What special special effects project are you especially proud of?
I was asked to work on the movie “Spawn” by my ILM friend Mark A.Z. Dippe, and I put together a crew of motion graphics and 3D artists, we ended up producing 35 effects shots in 35 days, a tough schedule for a seasoned crew, one almost impossible for a novice team. Those shots included the very first digital fart in motion picture history (as per Cinefex magazine), a milestone that brings a smile to my face all these years later. And here’s the trick: we used a particle system as a displacement map on a separate particle system, entropy in action. At the time, it was the only way to make a realistic, more natural effect; these days, particle software is much more powerful and flexible.
3) Tell us a little inside secret from Hollywood? 🙂
The amounts of money thrown around have little to do with the way normal business is conducted in just about any industry. It makes the music industry look well-managed and legitimate by comparison, which is just astounding.
4) When did you become interested in the paranormal?
It’s more like it became interested in me, I never sought any of it out, and it has not brought much good into my life overall. The experiences so many crave were ever present in my life, and I truly wish none of them had ever happened to me, my life would have been less complex and confusing.
5) You have had several personal experiences with the paranormal. Could you share them with us?
My experiences with UFOs have been extensively covered in my corresponding episodes on the Paracast, as have some of my other anomalous encounters. Pick just about any major category of paranormal experience, and I’ve probably undergone at least one instance of it in my life. I’ve spoken all I plan to about my experiences publicly, the material is out there for anyone curious enough to seek it out.
Some Paracast episodes with coverage of my experiences:
6) Why do you think some people have such experiences and others don’t? Is it a coincidence, or is there something “different” about people who experience supernatural events? A sensitivity of some sort?
I honestly have no idea, as it ended up being exceedingly difficult to find folks with what I felt were legitimately anomalous experiences. Sensitivity to these areas seems to be a genetic trait, passed down family lines, and my research into my own family background seems to partially confirm this possibility.
7) How did The Paracast come about?
It came out of my desire to introduce critical thinking and logic into the discussion of the paranormal, and to be able to seek some answers to the many questions I had about my own encounters. It proved to be a frustrating, counterproductive and negative experience overall, not one I’m very happy with, and these days, I almost entirely avoid any participation in the “field”, it’s mostly a swamp of charlatans, attention-seekers and assorted lunatics, not much light to be found there.
8) Do you have a favorite interview from those days? My personal favorite was your interview with Dr. Jacques Vallee. Plus I have to admit, it was funny listening to you wipe the floor with Billy Meier’s “spokesman” Michael Horn.
I would agree, the Vallee interview was quite a coup at the time – he tended to avoid those types of shows – and it took a year of bugging his publisher, but apparently, he listened to some episodes and decided it was a productive idea. It was one of the only times I was genuinely nervous about conducting an interview, but he was an exceptional guest and amazingly clear thinker. I also quite enjoyed the episode with Dr. Richard Haines of NARCAP, who showed a side of himself rarely seen publicly.
9) As an image expert, do you think the photograph has any power left as a piece of evidence for paranormal events, considering how far we’ve come with CGI?
Photographic evidence is no longer valid as a source of corroboration for anything, much less the study of the anomalous, without extensive non-visual supporting data. The same can now be said for video materials, it’s all far too easy to fabricate.
10) Do you think we will one day arrive at a definitive explanation for paranormal events, or are they unknown “by design”?
I do not think our species is intelligent enough to ever truly understand any of these mysteries, we are simply not mentally or emotionally equipped to handle the challenge, or even comprehend any of the actual information we gather. We are a very young, immature species, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to progress much anytime soon, it’s much more likely we’ll wipe ourselves out in the process of being what Bill Hicks called “viruses with shoes”.
11) What are you up to in 2017? Where can people follow your work?
I teach digital media for the design department of the Yale School of Drama, it’s my primary gig, and my students are some of the finest minds in that world, which warms my heart and sustains my soul. I am also deeply involved with making music, but it’s a very private, personal thing, not meant for public consumption. I don’t really have much of a public presence these days, mostly by design. The political reality of my country these days has severely discouraged me on every front, I am living in interesting times, as per the proverbial Chinese curse.
And finally, my usual questions to all guests:
12) Your top 3 films
– Citizen Kane
– Natural Born Killers
– Yellow Submarine
– The Day The Earth Stood Still (the original, obviously)
(yeah, I know, four, but that’s the deal)
13) Your top 3 books
– Jews Without Money, Michael Gold
– Ideas and Opinions, Albert Einstein
– The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
14) What model phone do you use? I’m a cell phone enthusiast and collector since the late 90s 🙂
No cell phone, I detest them. Landline only. I’m a true rebel. 😉