'Kecksburg' filmmaker offers new look at fabled UFO incident
To say that filmmaker Cody Knotts is passionate about his latest movie project, “Kecksburg,” is an understatement.
The native of Taylorstown, Washington County currently living in West Point, N.Y. just began filming the first scenes of his film based on a controversial reported UFO incident that occurred in the Mount Pleasant Township community of Kecksburg in Westmoreland Countyon Dec. 9, 1965.
Even though he has a long way to go with production and financing the project, Knotts says he has tentatively booked The Palace Theatre in Greensburg for the movie premiere on Sept. 12, 2019.
“Kecksburg” was written and is being directed by Knotts, whose film production company, Principalities of Darkness, is producing “Kecksburg.”
He says the story is a fictional account of the incident based on historical facts.
Key scenes were filmed April 10-12 in southwestern Pennsylvania and Morgantown, W.Va., where one of the featured locations was the historic Clarion Hotel Morgan, where ballroom scenes utilizing more than 70 local background actors were shot.
The scenes feature two Pittsburgh area actors, Richard John Walters (Harry Warden in “My Bloody Valentine 3D”), cast as President Lyndon Johnson, and Thomas Fuchel, portraying former Pennsylvania governor Gen. Edward Martin, who heads the O.E.I., a secret government agency that oversees the legendary Men in Black.
Knotts' wife, Emily Lapisardi, is a historical re-enactor who is playing former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in the movie. She also directed a 2015 horror film, “Gore Orphanage,” that she co-wrote with Knotts. Caesar James, a Los Angeles-based character actor, portrays West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd.
There are various theories about a large fireball that streaked across the sky that night seen by people in six states and an object that landed in Kecksburg 53 years ago. Some theorized it was a meteor or debris from a Soviet space probe; others were convinced it was a UFO.
Knotts says similarities have been made between the Kecksburg event – which was the subject of documentaries and an episode of a former TV series, “Unsolved Mysteries” – and the Roswell incident in 1947 involving a large disc that crashed at a ranch in New Mexico, prompting conspiracy theories that still draws tourists to the area and adds to the region's economy.
The movie producer says Westmoreland County and western Pennsylvania could benefit from the Kecksburg incident in a similar fashion. He has struck out so far in applying for tourism grants and funding from local agencies.
“Urban legends have power. This is one that has real legs that has generated interest all over the world,” he says.
Knotts plans to attend Kecksburg Volunteer Fire Department's 13th annual UFO Festival at 1 p.m. July 27-29 at the department's social hall, where there will be UFO, Bigfoot and paranormal presentations and displays.
In an effort to increase support for his film project, he is offering an advance tickets package for the movie premiere that will include being listed in the credits as an Alien Abductee, sitting in VIP seats and walking the red carpet at the Palace Theatre.
Knotts says filming of “Kecksburg” will resume in September.
His previous films include “Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies,” a 2013 horror movie he directed that featured WWE legends “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Pittsburgh's own Kurt Angle.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.