Destination: Truth [Syfy, Wednesday, 10 p.m.] returns for its third season and host Josh Gates, host/explorer/photographer and all round genial nice guy agreed to talk about the show’s premiere – and much, much more – with a number of journalists/bloggers from a unique cross-section of web sites ranging from travel writers to sci-fi bloggers. It turns out that, like his series, Gates is unique – and extremely personable.
Participants included: Ken Gold [Media Blvd], Steve Eramo [Sci Fi TV Talk], Monica Gorsky [Flash News], Jenna Bush [SciFi Wire], Trisha Miller [Travel Writers Exchange], Josh Bozeman [thebluesite.com], Kristen Allen [Singularity – Josh Gates fan site], Aaron Sagers [Tribune], and me.
Hey, my first question for you I was wondering if I could get a laymen’s definition of cryptozoology from you? And kind of a two-part question, I know in the UK the show is called the Monster Hunter.
And when I’m trying to explain to people why they should watch this show I usually end up going to that – it’s the Monster Hunter. And what do you think about the name Destination Truth compared to that? And again, cryptozoology and…
Josh Gates: Well I think a laymen’s definition of, you know, a laymen’s definition of cryptozoology is the study of or the search for unknown creatures. And I actually, in some ways, think that Destination Truth has over time served the show better as a title because we really don’t just do monsters anymore.
You know, when we started the show it was really about being, you know, a show that could complement Ghost Hunters and that would go out and look for more creatures, more biological-based stories.
But over time we’ve realized that, you know, the real heartbeat of the show, I think, is that it’s a real travel adventure show at its core. And so we have realized that there are great stories other than creatures including the paranormal, including phenomena and curses and things like that that definitely fit the mold for our show.
So I think that Destination Truth I really think serves the show well because it really is more than anything about travel I think.
Okay great. And can you give us a preview of the some of the things that you’re going to be looking at or going after this season?
Gates: Absolutely. You know, Season 3 we really sat down at the end of Season 2 and asked ourselves, you know, what can we do to raise the bar from the second season which was not just, you know, really successful but which we felt, you know, covered a lot of really interesting places in the world.
And we came up with some really interesting stories so we’re going to do the world’s first overnight paranormal investigation in King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.
We’re going to be doing our first US investigations. We have a great story out in the, you know, frontier of Alaska and also in the swamps of Florida. So we’ll be kind of, you know, book-ending the US and doing two stories here. We’ve never done a US episode before.
We spend an entire night doing an investigation at the ruins of Chernobyl in the Ukraine which is a really sort of high-stakes episode. And we have an extraterrestrial episode in the deserts of Chile. We’re going to be doing some stuff in the Amazon. We’ll be spending part of the season in South America.
And then we’ll be returning, you know, we sort of wanted to kind of – through-lines of the show season after season is that we always do a sort of big story on Big Foot or one of the sort of, you know, Sasquatch stories.
And so we’re going to be continuing our Yeti story we did in Season 2 which was in Nepal by doing a one-hour special in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan which was a great episode and a really beautiful country for us to showcase. So it’s going to be a really exciting season. We’re really looking forward to it.
That’s awesome. Can you talk a little bit about – what is the process? I mean, there are a lot of things out there that are pretty cool that you might want to investigate but how do the ideas come up and then once you have an idea just what is the process for going about going after it?
Gates: Well, you know, we have a couple of different thresholds that we try to meet for the stories. And I think the first threshold and the most important one is we want to look for stories that people are having some sort of current encounter with.
We want to talk to people that are having a recent experience, you know. There are great stories all over the world that are folkloric and mythological that aren’t really topical anymore.
And we want to go and talk to people that are having a genuine and authentic experience because that’s a mystery, right? If you can find credible people that have been shaken up by something whether or not there’s a monster there or whether it’s a mistaken identity of some sort of known animal you have a mystery on your hands.
And that’s really what we want to do is we want to travel to places where we can get our hands dirty and roll up our sleeves and try to investigate these really interesting stories.
And then once we have a story that meets that criteria we want it to be someplace exotic, and often those two things go hand in hand. You know, we want to take our viewers to parts of the world that they don’t get a chance to see everyday.
We have primarily stayed out of very industrialized nations. We’ve stayed out of Western Europe for the most part. We’ve stayed out of America for the most part. And we try to go to places that are, you know, for lack of a better term, off the grid. You know, places like Bhutan where most people just have never had a chance to see.
And if we can meet those two criteria, find a great story with great eye witnesses in a really interesting place then more than likely we’ll be buying a plane ticket.
What can you add to Season 3? Can you talk maybe about any specific production challenges you guys had or maybe an episode that was especially difficult and challenging to pull off would you say?
Gates: Well, you know, the thing about Destination Truth is that it’s a pretty lean and mean machine. You know, we travel with a very small crew. And that’s really by design because we want the show to feel like people are on a real adventure. You know, and they’re riding shotgun on something that’s a little bit crazy and not completely smoothed out and designed.
And so there’s always production challenges because we try not to over-fix each of the stories. But this year I think we kind of, you know, put ourselves in harm’s way more than a few times. I think the Chernobyl story is a great example of that.
You know, we actually pitched that internally as a joke almost at first. We said, you know, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could go to Chernobyl. There’s a whole ruined city that sits right in the shadow of the reactor there that has been abandoned for, you know, 30 years, and that is still very radioactive.
And then we sort of started saying, well, you know, could this be done? Could you actually go and spend a night there? And we talked to the government in Ukraine and we talked to producers in Ukraine and we started to realize that if we, you know, were able to meet certain production challenges and keep, you know, people from being exposed to radiation then we could do something that really hadn’t been done before.
And really have free reign to wander around a totally abandoned city. And so it’s a lot of not just kind of how do you keep a crew from being exposed but how do you keep your cameras and your microphones and your battery packs and your pens and paper and everything else – how do you bring those things into a place like this and then bring them out safely?
And that’s something we’d never tried to do before obviously; there’s very few places in the world you can attempt such a thing. And so that was a great production challenge. And, you know, we all, you know, got our decontamination checked on the backend and so far we all are, you know, alive and kicking. So that was a, you know, that was a really particular one.
I think the same was certainly true with places like Bhutan. It’s a very traditional country that’s sort of staved off the modern world. And to bring a television production there and interact with a very traditional Buddhist, you know, culture is a real challenge.
And I think that’s the fun of the show because sometimes you meet those challenges, you know, in real time, in the field. And that’s I think some of the fun of the show is seeing me and my team come up against, you know, cultural roadblocks, production roadblocks and that’s I think part of the fun.
What an amazing opportunity.
Gates: Yeah it really is. And I think that no place I think more than Chernobyl did we all sort of feel, you know, who gets to come here and who gets to do this? And even though it’s a scary place it’s one of those places on the show where you think, wow, this is a really amazing opportunity.
Well you actually led perfectly into the other question I had for you, Josh. And I wanted to find out where did your – if you don’t mind me asking – where did your love of exploration first stem from would you say?
Gates: I think it came from a couple different places. You know, my father who’s retired now spent his career working overseas for the most part as a commercial diver. So I grew up, you know, in a family where my dad was always kind of coming back from someplace really exotic, you know, and bringing presents from the other side of the world.
And I think that initially was what really – from an early age led me to feel like, wow, there’s a lot of stuff out there that I haven’t seen. And I was also a movie nut as a kid. And I was, you know, fixated on Indiana Jones and things like that; I loved those things as a kid.
And I think that my imagination kind of got the better of me at an early age and I decided that this is something I wanted to do. And the more I traveled the more I realized that I just had a real love for travel.
So to be able to work on a show that lets me not just travel but travel to some really unique places has just been a dream come true; it’s been great.
You guys are really adventurous on the show obviously, you know, hanging with aliens and chupacabras and what not. So tell me there has to be instances where you guys are just really scared. What has been like the scariest occurrence to date for you personally and maybe one that had you like actually believing, you know?
Gates: Yeah, well there’s two different types of scary occurrences on the show; there’s the scary occurrences where you’re looking for whatever creature or, you know, phenomena that you’re looking for where you think wait a minute, maybe this thing is here. And then there’s the scary occurrences when, you know, you’re doing something that’s sort of physically perilous.
And there’s, you know, both of those things happen on the show. This year we had a very close call in an airplane on a very old plane in Romania that we chartered for a flight to try to do some aerial photography.
And we had, you know, essentially an accident in the plan while flying. And that’s actually in the premiere episode.
So that’s a great example of one of those. You know, there’s a lot of old vehicles, old Jeeps, old planes, old boats on the show because the places we go to, you know, have a lot of well-used equipment. And so that’s a great example of a situation like that. That certainly was a moment where I thought maybe we were, you know, filming our final episode.
But I think sometimes what is really scary on the show is that whether or not you think that there’s some sort of unknown creature lurking in the jungles in the Amazon or wherever we happen to be there’s certainly plenty of other things that are that we know are there.
And so we’re always very mindful of, you know, what if a tiger comes out right now? What if, you know, what if an anaconda shows up right now. And so we have had a lot of close-calls with wildlife. We’ve had a couple of snakes and spiders and animals show up while we’re filming.
And I think we’ve been really lucky to, you know, capture some of those things on film and not have any real incidents with them.
And there are cases occasionally where you’re someplace, you know, that is purportedly haunted or that purportedly has a creature and things start to happen that are unexplainable and you start to think well wait a minute maybe there’s something to this.
I know that you have a major in taking photography and everything so, I mean, have you gotten really good kind of shots through all this traveling? And any, you know, crazy orbs in your pictures or anything like that?
Gates: Yeah, I’ve been really lucky. I take my professional camera, you know, with me, my big camera and I – and, I mean, I just sneak off, you know, photos whenever I can. And I bring a lot of those back. And some of those are actually on the Website if you go to syfy.com some of those are on there. And there’ll be some new photos from this season.
But I’ve had a great opportunity to snap some great photos over the last few years in places where I just simply would never have been to shoot. You know, I mean, these – we did some great stuff in Central Mexico this year and, you know, stuff in the Ukraine and episodes in, you know, Eastern Turkey near the border of Iran; we do a great episode there.
And these are places that I probably would not have touched down in if it weren’t for the show. And so it’s been a great, you know, pleasure for me to sneak in a little photography as we go.
Yeah, definitely. Now I know you guys have been covering some curses and stuff like that like you were mentioning it’s more than just monsters now. Have you guys actually – has your crew experienced a sort of hex or curse on you guys at all throughout the show or, you know…
Gates: We did a – there’s a great episode actually this – the season premiere episode was slated to be originally we were going to have it be our King Tut episode because it’s such a great promotable episode. And we spent a night investigating, you know, Tut’s tomb is supposed to be cursed and so we spent a night in his tomb alone. And it’s a great episode.
And the reason we moved it – it’s actually now the third episode in the rotation. The reason we put this haunted forest into the first episode in Romania which you’ll see is one of our crewmembers, our cameraman, Evan, has this really scary experience that is captured on film.
And Evan is one of these guys who’s a road warrior; he’s shot on, you know, a million reality shows. He’s shot in war zones. He’s a real pragmatic, you know, down to Earth guy. And he got really shaken up by something unseen in this forest.
And it’s a really compelling moment where a member of the crew has an experience that fundamentally physically, you know, knocks him around and so we moved that into the premiere episode because it’s just such a neat and really scary moment.
So it does happen on the show and there’s plenty of times when everybody from the crew at one time or another, you know, when we go out at night and do these investigations we sort of scatter to try to cover as much ground as possible so you have a lot – it’s that classic horror film setup, right where… we all go in separate directions. And so inevitably it seems like, you know, you put people out alone or in groups of two in very remote areas and sometimes scary stuff does happen.
Exactly. You never split up in horror films, hello.
Gates: I know, I know. That’s the problem.
You mentioned this is a travel show essentially so have you guys kind of scared people into traveling in these crazy remote places because we don’t want to run into the chupacabra or something like that or…
Gates: I don’t think so. You know, I think what we really try to do on the show, I mean, I may well have scared people from their upcoming vacation to Chernobyl. But I have to assume that’s a limited amount of people.
But for the most part, you know, we really try to blend into every episode some interesting and really comedic travel up at the top of each show. So you’ll see a taste of the cities and the people and the culture and the food of the places we go.
And then, you know, we clearly on the show are kind of going off the beaten path to look for these creatures or to experience these phenomena. But I think the takeaway in a lot of the episodes is that the locations themselves are pretty amazing places.
And I think if you watch Episodes, you know, like our stuff in Egypt that we do this season and the episode in Bhutan and even the incident in Turkey is just – it’s just beautiful looking. And I think that more often than not people come away from the show thinking wow I’d like to go check these places out.
While everyone is concentrating on the investigations aspect of your job what I’d like to know is have you ever gone someplace on an investigation and after the investigation you thought the place was so cool that you went back on your own dime to just explore on your own?
Gates: Absolutely. And there’s plenty of places that are, you know, that I’m waiting to go back to. You know, I – Maureen and I were talking about this yesterday on a call, you know, I’m a real frequent flyer nut, right? Like I horde my collection of frequent flyer miles because I’m always looking to use them and go back to some of the places we’ve gone.
We did an episode in Season 2 in Cambodia and an episode in Thailand and I’ve since gone back there a few times just because I really fell in love with Southeast Asia and really – that was a part of the world that just kind of spoke to me. And I thought I’ve got to go back here and just, you know, just bum a round a little bit.
Because that’s, you know, I mean, if there’s a downside to the show and I’m certainly not complaining, it’s that sometimes we don’t get a chance to take in some of the tourist sites or some of the major sites that, you know, most people traveling these places would normally go see.
A great example of that is last season we did an episode in Zambia. And, I mean, the only reason anyone really goes to Zambia is there’s a massive waterfall there, right, Livingston Falls. And so we were within, you know, a half hour of it by car and our schedule just didn’t permit us going over there.
And so that’s one of those cases where you think, oh God, I was so close and when am I going to be in Zambia again, you know. And – but there’s been plenty of places that I just can’t wait to go back to, you know. Bhutan among them is just the place that I could spend a month just backpacking around there.
I had never been to Alaska before this season. And we really went out there in Alaska. And that was another place where I just, I mean, I always knew Alaska was rugged but it’s really in our own backyard and it’s a pretty, you know, amazing place.
And so I’ve got a whole list cooking. And I’ve also got a whole list of places I want to go, you know. I’m of course always secretly plotting to take the show to places that I’ve never been to before as well.
Have you ever gone back to a place on your own dime and found something else that turned out to be worth maybe doing an episode?
Gates: I don’t know if that’s happened. But we had a unique experience this year which has never happened to us before which is that we went to Northern Chile to film an episode. And we passed through, you know, this ghost town; this old mining town that’s really way out in the middle of nowhere.
And it was really just meant to be a pit-stop. And it was so good, it just looked so terrifying and it was, you know, as soon as we got out of the car we knew, oh! There’s a whole episode here, you know.
And so we actually filmed a little bit there and then shelved the footage because we want to go back and make a show there. So, you know, that was an interesting case of just sort of stumbling upon something that could well be a future episode of the show which doesn’t happen very often; we usually kind of know the lay of the land of where we’re going a bit.
Egypt, I know that’s sort of traditionally a nightmare to film in. What kind of issues did you have filming there?
Gates: Well, you know, it is; it has a reputation as being a very hard place to film in. And in fact Ghost Hunters International had filmed there or gone to film there and had hit some real snafus. And, you know, a lot of these countries, and Egypt is certainly a prime example of this, it’s kind of who you know on the inside.
And all these episodes depend largely on local producers which we call fixers. And we had been recommended a guy in Egypt who another production company had said don’t look any further; this is the guy you want.
And we got him on the phone and he’s this really young guy, he’s like 22 years old. And his father is a very famous fixer in Egypt that has been fixing there since, you know, the 60s. And so this kid has sort of apprenticed his dad and is just dialed into everything.
And we talked to him a few times and he seemed to either be putting on a good show or he seemed to really know how to grease all the right wheels and make everything work.
And true to his word we went to Egypt and filmed two different locations, one in a village called Armant, which is near the Nile down by Luxor and of course the Valley of the Kings which is, you know, roughly in the same area.
And it was just, you know, effortless. And this guy just really got everything working for us. And it’s amazing a lot of the roadblocks to filming in countries like this are things that are difficult to smooth out from here and you really need someone good who really knows the local politics, the local economy, the local government and, you know, often, you know, military things.
You just need someone who understands the whole mechanism. And this guy was just terrific. And so, you know, I – we managed to get in and out of Egypt without a problem.
India has always been a place we’ve wanted to go and that’s another place with a very dodgy reputation for filming. It’s just a lot of red tape. And so we’ve kept India off the list but I’m sure at some point we’ll try to tackle that too.
Are there any other places like that that you haven’t been able to go for political reasons or…
Gates: There are a few places, I mean, there is also a certain, you know, safety threshold for NBC, right? I mean there is a certain level of danger that they are not willing to assume the risk of. And so there’s a couple of great cryptozoological stories in Central and Western Africa. And we’ve just never really been able to do it because they’re in countries that are not politically stable enough to film it.
And that’s not necessarily even just an NBC issue, it’s an issue for us to. I think that, you know, we don’t mind going to places that are, you know, a little bit unstable. But I think you have to have, you know, a certain degree of safety on the horizon.
And there are a few countries where that’s just not the case. There’s some great stuff around the Congo in terms of these stories. But it’s just we’ve never been able to figure out a way to do it, you know, safely enough.
I’m sure that we will at some point make our way into India because it’s just such a vibrant culture that we’d love to experience. And there’s good stories in places like Sri Lanka and, you know, it just sort of depends on how you hit the sort of political current, you know.
You have a new team, so what kind of preparation do you do with your newbies?
Gates: Well we give them all this really scary speech, right? Everyone gets this terrifying speech about how, you know, it’s going to be really hard and you’re going to be sleeping on floors and you’re going to be eating bugs and all that kind of stuff.
And we’ve had people work on the show who have really thrived in those kind of environments and we’ve had people who really got out there and realized wow this is going to be a challenge I’m going to have to rise to because this is not what I thought it was.
And so we’ve had people who have worked on show that are, you know, big international productions we’ve had people who’ve worked on Amazing Race and Survivor and they find the experience of working on Destination Truth a lot more difficult.
And the reason is that on those big shows you typically put in your eight-hour shift and you’re done. And Destination Truth by its very design everything is kind of fair game to film, you know. We film getting up and going to breakfast. We film stopping at gas stations. We film going out and night and we stay up all night looking for the creature or the phenomena that we’re looking for.
So it’s really a 24-hour a day job. So I think the first thing we do is we try to tell everybody that that’s what it is, that it’s – you have to be the kind of person that really wants to go and have a real round the clock adventure.
And also, you know, these people are on the show and a lot of these folks are great camera operators and audio technicians and producers who that’s a new experience for them. You know, because we’re not casting the show, right, we want people out there that are great at their jobs.
And so it’s a really interesting experience to see people go out into the world and have, you know, the cameras turned on them and to be a part of this team. And we’ve had great success at it, you know. As we look ahead to our new episodes we’re trying to get everybody back that we just worked with because they’re terrific.
And that’s a big part of the speech as well is that it’s really about a team. You know, there’s only about eight of us that are out there so everybody is a really important gear in the machine. And we try very hard to get the right people and so all those gears fit together.
I know everybody has been asking out the investigations and all of that. But my audience is primarily made up of aspiring travel writers and journalists.
So, yeah, so my question is what advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your shoes? Is there a specific path they should follow or maybe some shortcuts they should avoid?
Gates: I mean I think especially if you’re looking to do something in the travel world and it’s probably the obvious answer but you just have to do it. I mean, you have to have a pedigree of being a traveler. And that’s really what got me the job on Destination Truth.
You know, they didn’t want someone that was necessarily an advocate for these creatures or these stories. You know, I’m kind of a skeptical guy by nature. They didn’t want that; they wanted someone who seemed authentic as a traveler.
And I think the more that you travel and the more that you – the more not just countries that you get under your belt but the more that you can go to other cultures, integrate with them, experience them, the more prepared you are to have a career obviously in that field.
And so for me that’s what it was about. You know, when I met with the Syfy channel originally I had just come back from a trip to Africa. And that’s what they wanted; they wanted someone who had been out there.
And I think that that kind of field experience even if it’s just backpacking, even if it’s just you’re doing freelance writing and you’re taking a train trip across, you know, across Russia or you’re, you know, climbing a mountain the Andes or you’re doing whatever – just getting out there and getting that real world experience I think matters most.
I got a question, the whole Mount Fuji, there was a lot of comedy at the front end of that; is that important to you to kind of balance out the comedy with the more darker elements of the show?
Gates: I mean, I think if I’m being honest it’s more important to me. You know, by nature what I really love about Destination Truth is the rough shot travel and that rough shot travel always ends up being kind of funny, right? And so that’s the part of the show that I think pulses the best for me.
And I’m always fighting to get as much of that into the show as possible because I think that, you know, people really respond to it. And it’s pacy and it’s the part of the show where you get to see a lot of the people from these different countries and you get to experience a bit of their culture.
And the investigations are where the show obviously gets very dramatic, where the show gets very tense. But I try to strike as much of a balance as I can between the two in each episode. And I fight as much as I can for that material to be in here because I think that’s also what makes Destination Truth different, you know, is that we don’t want to be, you know, another Ghost Hunters.
You know, the Ghost Hunters guys and the GHI guys on Syfy they’re really great at what they do. And they have great hit shows because they have a very specific way of doing things that really works. And we wanted to be something different.
And I think that if you look at any great adventure if you’ve ever been on a great adventure, right, if you’ve ever taken a trip it usually doesn’t look like the travel brochure; it’s full of mishap and it’s full of the unexpected. And so that’s a big part of what we try to get into the show. And I think that makes it authentically a real travel adventure show.
What is the filming season there? Like what months to what months are you actually out on the road traveling doing this stuff?
Gates: It is completely erratic. And you can, you know, it is like we will go – the Syfy will order bizarre numbers of the show and then we spool up the machine and we go and we get everything ready and then we go film that number and we come back.
And then, you know, sometimes we have a long break and sometimes we have a short break. And then we’ll go film another set. You know, we just filmed nine, before that we filmed seven, before that we filmed seven, before that we filmed six. I think we’re talking about going to film another six.
And so it kind of depends on the order. But to do the nine that we just did took us three months in the field. And that is – that’s one of the, you know, tricky parts of the show is that it’s not fast to make because the places we’re going to are far away and the stories are often – well even once you get to the country in question you’ve got to track and hike and, you know, take Jeeps and planes.
And so, you know to do six episodes takes us about two months. To do the nine that we just did took us about three months. And it depends where the episodes are, you know. Bhutan is an incredibly remote country and so that dictated that to film that episode we really spent almost two weeks there filming. So some stories take a lot less than that.
And in terms of the solace here with a job like yours, I mean, you know, somebody like me that sits behind a desk or a computer most of the time, you know, it’s like my dream is to go out and do these, you know, great travels and stuff like that.
So what do you do when you’re – in your off time, I mean, do you sit down and read or book or…
Gates: You know, it’s funny.
…with a job like that how do you…
Gates: Yeah, I mean, I spend a few months when we get back from the show working in post and helping to put the show together. And then I spend a few months before we leave prepping the show. So it’s become a real full time, you know, job for me.
But the weird thing about me is I’ll come back and I’ll take a week and get, you know, reoriented to Los Angeles and, you know, somehow decide that Los Angeles is normal, right? And then in pretty short order though I start looking at the map and trying to figure out where I feel like going.
I get kind of antsy quickly and I like being on the move. So I think for me the way that I relax is weirdly to keep traveling.
That’s awesome. I love to hear that. So is there anything or anyplace, any – I don’t know, maybe, mystery that you haven’t investigated yet even on the upcoming season that you really want to do at some point?
Gates: Yeah for me, you know, for me it’s a lot – it’s often about locations. And I think, you know, when I look at the globe the places that I’m most kind of gravitated towards along with places like Southeast Asia is I’m really kind of intrigued by a lot of these small Pacific island nations.
And they’re really hard to get into the show because some of them are very difficult to get to. And they’re difficult to build into a route. Because when we film the show we typically bounce from location to location. And so there are a couple of great stories or many great stories in the Pacific from, you know, Polynesian curses to cursed or haunted islands.
There’s shipwrecks, there’s – there’s all sorts of, you know, sort of amazing things that are just sort of, you know, floating out there in the middle of nowhere. They’re just hard to get to. So I certainly would love to figure out a way to, you know, maybe we do a season where we take the show on a boat and we go around the Pacific or something.
But that’s a part of the world that I really want to kind of dig my hands into.
And last season was kind of – it was really cool me, I mean, with your crossover with Ghost Hunters on their live show and on the follow-up to the (round table) thing. It was kind of like I guess a (unintelligible) angel or, you know, Bionic Woman and Six Million Dollar Man…
Is there going to be anymore of that ever or Ghost Hunters and Destination Truth?
Gates: There is. You know, I’m actually appearing in a Ghost Hunters episode and Maureen can jump in if I get this wrong but I think that the episode that I’m in is occurring the night we premiere.
Maureen Granados: You’re right.
Gates: I am right – which is the ninth. And so I’m actually in a Ghost Hunters episode that night and then we actually – there’s a little bit of crossover this season when Rob and Dustin from Ghost Hunters International are going to be appearing in one of our episodes.
We actually brought them down to the jungles in the Amazon in Peru and had them come out on a creature investigation with us. So, you know, I appeared in an episode of Ghost Hunters International last year and did a ghost hunt with them and this was a great opportunity to bring them into our world and put them on a creature hunt. And so that’s a great episode.
And then you’ll also be seeing Steve and Tango as well as Jason and Grant in a few episodes where we actually to go them and have them take a look at our evidence from our paranormal episodes. And since their, you know, seasoned at what they do, get their take on our evidence.
So that’s a great way to kind of, you know, do the Flintstones meets the Jetsons routine on the show.
Totally looking forward to those episodes. What do your friends and family think about your job and what you do? And I mean do they understand this and just what do they think about, you know, this great gig you’ve got there or great boondoggle where you get paid to go to all these really, really cool places?
Gates: I mean everyone is really supportive of it. You know, my family have been great about. As I said earlier in the call, my dad traveled for much of his career. So I think for him it feels like a, you know, something that’s really natural.
And they, you know, they know that I’m a guy who loves to travel so, you know, I’m sure they’d rather see me getting paid to do it than bleeding out my bank account to backpack and bum around the world.
So, you know, and in terms of my friends they’ve of course been really supportive as well. It’s difficult, you know, I find myself now spending five to six months of the year overseas making the show. So that’s difficult.
You know, it’s hard for me to keep up correspondence the way that I would like. But, yeah, everybody that I know has been terrific about it. And I’ve really become close with the crew as well. You know, you really work with them in such close quarters that I’ve made great friends on the show as well.
I am speaking for the fans out there and I wanted to know a lot of the fans have the universal question of how or what it takes to be on the show which I know you’ve answered a little bit already. And can you give us a visual of the qualifications for an ideal Destination Truth crew member and production comes across all of these great cast members.
Gates: Yeah, I think that, you know, we want people that are, you know, authentically interested in travel. We’ve had people on the show that have been to the four corners of the world and we’ve had a few people on the show, our new medic this year, Rex, had – was very poorly traveled.
He’d been I think to – he might have been to Canada once or he’d been to Cancun or something but I don’t think he’d ever really, you know, been outside of North America.
And so, you know, it’s not a prerequisite to work on the show to be an international traveler. I think what we really are looking for are people that are hardy enough to get through a two or three month shoot and stick with it. You know, we really, you know, not to overstate it but it is hard.
And the chips are definitely down sometimes out there. You know, when you’re up all night in the freezing rain and you’re, you know, some of these investigations are long cold days of trekking up into the mountains, you know, lugging a bunch of gear in bad weather.
And we want people that are okay with; that who are excited about that. And because the worst thing that can happen on our show is for somebody to – as we always put it – turn a corner. You know, you never want someone to kind of say this is too hard or this is too difficult because it’s hard to get them back from that.
And we need people that are cheerleaders for each other. And so that’s the first thing we want and that’s about attitude, right. And then the other thing that we want are people that are really good at what we do.
We have this great director of photography this year, Evan Stone, who has a great visual style and he’s brought a lot of great little tricks and gizmos to the show and has found interesting ways of filming in very difficult environments.
We have another shooter who’s been with us for a few seasons, Gabe Copeland, who, you know, will do anything to get the shot. He will jump on top of cars, he will, you know, hang out of a tree. He’ll do anything to get the shot. And we love Gabe because Gabe is this guy who, you know, will not quit until he can bring the show to the people who are watching it.
And what’s really interesting especially from a fan perspective is, as I mentioned earlier, this medic, Rex, who was actually a fan of the show. And he came into interview for it because that’s a difficult position for us to fill; we need someone who is a certified paramedic, who has good experience doing, you know, paramedic care in really rough environments.
And can also, you know, be on camera and be right for the show. And we brought Rex into to interview for it and he was just beside himself because he had watched the show; he loved the show. He told his girlfriend he was going to come into the interview for it and she thought he was lying.
And we offered him the job. And, I mean, for the first half of the season he just kept shaking his head, you know, because he couldn’t’ believe he was out there making the show. And that’s a great example of how we really have been able to integrate someone who watches the show and put them on the show.
And we continue to look for opportunities to bring fans out onto the show. It’s something we haven’t been able to do yet. But we – it’s something that we want to do. And I’m hoping in the future we can – whether it’s a contest or whether it’s a guest investigator which is something that we’ve seen on shows like Ghost Hunters.
We want to try to bring people out into the field. So I would stay tuned for that. Hopefully we can make that happen at some point.
That was going to be my next question; that’s what the fans are looking for to some sort of contest or special when you can integrate the fans.
Gates: We’ve asked for it before. There’s a lot of, you know, like anything there’s always a lot of logistics, right. And so there’s a lot that goes into doing a contest or bringing people into these, you know, pretty intense environments.
And so it’s something that we want to do and we’re hopeful about it and hopefully people will be patient and we can find a way to do it in the future.
Another thing, are you going to be hosting a Ghost Hunters live special this Halloween again?
Gates: That is a really good question that I’m not sure I know the answer to. Maureen, do you have any information on Halloween?
Maureen Granados: Yeah, you know what we’re still putting together our plans for Ghost Hunters on Halloween so stay tuned.
Gates: Yeah, nothing has been announced on that front yet. And I know the channel is working on it so, yeah, stay tuned.
Do you feel the (claims) of cultural insensitivity that you or the crew are (unintelligible) unfair?
Gates: Oh I think that those claims are unfair. And I – and luckily they’ve been few and far between, you know. And I think that there is a – there is something that happens a lot which is that people sometimes look at other cultures around the world and there’s something sacrosanct about them.
And they get this idea that you can’t have fun with or fool around with people in the developing nations or people in other cultures because it’s somehow insensitive.
And I think that if you were to, you know, be on the crew and watch our interactions with the people that we deal with, what you’d find 10 times out of 10 is that we maintain a terrific relationship with not just the people that we work with but the folks that we interview and the places that we visit.
And that’s always been really important to me is you have to have a respect for the cultures that you’re going to. But what you also find is that people all over the world, you know, have a great sense of humor. And we meet terrific, funny people that we play around with and when the cameras turn off we go have a drink with them.
We go out to dinner with them. We go into their villages and their homes and they cook for us and they introduce us to the people in their community. And so, as much as I always hate to hear things like that because every once in a while you’ll hear someone say oh well you were joking around with this guy in this village and stuff.
I know and everyone that works on the show knows that, you know, nothing could be further from the truth in terms of the kind of respect that we have for the people that appear on the show.
I know earlier in the interview you mentioned, you know, you come from a background of being a film buff and enjoying Indiana Jones. And so let me ask you when you’re not filming, when you’re back at home, what kind of pop culture have you been checking out lately? What do you like?
And also the second part of the question is do you live this whole kind of monster hunting and creature feature in your own entertainment? Like do you like watching monster movies and things like that?
Gates: I love watching – I’ll tell you what, I’m really a nerd at heart. I’m a big – and it’s not because the channel forces me to say it – I’m a huge Sci-Fi genre fan. You know, I love science fiction. And I’ve loved it since I was a kid. And I’m always amazed that I’ve ended up working for the Syfy channel.
But I can’t get enough of, you know, I love big summer movies. I love science fiction films. It’s been a lean summer, you know, for great movies I think. But, you know, that’s really the stuff that I get into. Love District 9, you know, love classic cinema. I’m just a big movie guy in general.
And that’s typically where most of my sort of pop culture interests lie. But most of it’s sci-fi. I think more sci-fi than creature stuff.
Okay, but are there any monster movies that when you’re out there in the field, you know, you think about a theme from a certain movie where you think, you know, this kind of reminds of Creature from the Black Lagoon or…
…or something will pop up.
Gates: Absolutely. I mean Jaws is often quoted on the show. That’s a, you know, for all of our water episodes we – there’ll be, you know, long reenactments of scenes from, you know, Hooper and Brody from Jaws. And certainly, yeah, I mean, there are times when you’re in these places where you can’t help but reference, you know, whether it’s some of the classic even universal monsters.
We just did a werewolf episode that’s going to be appearing this season in Romania. And it’s hard not to, you know, hearken back to some of the classic monster movies. And so, you know, that stuff sometimes even makes its way onto the show. You’ll see occasionally references to films on the show.
Since you guys do reference Jaws a lot then who amongst your crew is sort of the devil may care, you know, rebel, loose cannon, Quint character?
Gates: I don’t know that we have a Quint, right. I mean Quint is sort of Ahab. I mean he ultimately is sort of insane. And I think there’s a little bit of – there’s probably a little bit of Quint in me. There’s probably a little bit of Quint in my director of photography as well.
But I think that, you know, I think if we had a true Quint on the show we would probably all be, you know, at the bottom of the ocean somewhere at this point.
He’s a loose cannon. I mean you really can’t have someone that crazy out there.
Yeah, yeah. You know, maybe, you know, maybe one episode you need to bring like a Quint out there for the hunt.
Gates: Absolutely. I would love to have someone who’s just a complete, you know, obsessive Ahab-type on the show who will essentially stop at nothing to find the creature in question.
Well I mean speaking of that, I mean, everybody thinks that the wildlife and if you were to encounter the monsters how those would be the frightening things. But are you ever spooked by some of the – especially eccentric characters that you encounter in these towns and villages or I know speaking to Jane Grant in the past they’ve said that sometimes the scariest part of their job are, you know, the homeowners.
Do you ever kind of…
Gates: Yeah, we had a few instances on the show where, you know, typically when you’re in the more urbanized areas where you start doing the interviews and meeting people in the sort of gateway cities; that doesn’t really end up being a problem.
But occasionally you’re guided into these locations or accompanied by, you know, individuals or rangers or government officials or local police. And every once in a while we find ourselves certainly often on the show we find ourselves surrounded by a bunch of, you know, dudes with machine guns. I mean that happens a lot.
And so there’s a lot of assessing, you know, who am I with and who’s that guy with the AK-47? And we’ve had a couple of instances where we were in very, you know, rural areas – tribes in the Amazon, tribal communities in Papua, New Guinea in the first season, some stuff in Zanzibar in Africa where, you know, you’re very much at the mercy of a very local political system.
Right, and so that – to put it diplomatically. And so it’s very much about keeping people happy and making sure the chief is happy and making sure that everyone, you know, is working as a team. And we try really hard to not get in over our head in those kind of situations because those can get sticky quickly.
Does your crew have a – kind of a code red, you know, code system set up or is there, I mean, how do you…
Gates: That’s a great idea. We actually don’t. I need a safety word out there. We actually don’t have that. But, you know, if we’re in a place that is really politically dodgy sometimes we’ll travel with additional security personnel. There’s been a few instances of that where we’ll travel with someone who’s, you know, either armed or has really intimate knowledge of local politics.
And those people can often be, you know, extremely helpful to have around; having someone who’s, you know, part translator, part security, who knows the system, who in some cases knows the sort of locals in charge. Those are great people to have at hand.
Well maybe Syfy can set up a Choose Josh’s Safe Word contest where…
Gates: I like that a lot. But then I’m also going to need some sort of like air support. I can’t just, I mean like what – so I call the safety word and then I’m in the middle of Africa still. Like what do I do? I need like – I need some sort of like swat team to come and get me in a moment’s notice.
Well you need a Robert Duvall to fly in with Wagner’s Valkyries flying, you know…
Gates: That’s exactly what I need. It’s true.