It was May 1. We had arranged for a premiere at the Playboy Mansion for May 15, and we didn't have the money to finish the edit. Enter angel No. 4, Dr. Mark Fortune, whose contributions saved the day. But we needed the days and all the nights to finish. I remember being stuck in Lakers' NBA Finals traffic at 5 p.m. on the 10 freeway, and the premiere [was scheduled] at the mansion at 6. The sound engineer called to say that my company credit card didn't process, and he couldn't release the master he had just finished. That hole in my stomach didn't fill until a courier handed me the master at Hef's gate with less than a half-hour to screening. We had so many angels help out in this production that I truly feel this film was destined to be made, with or without me.

Nihi screens at Edwards Island, 999 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach. April 17, 1:30 p.m.; and at the Orange County Museum Of Art, 850 San Clemente Dr., Newport Beach. April 17, 3:30 p.m.

The Great Yearfeatures the combination of two documentary genres I'd typically cross county lines to avoid. It's equal parts somber, Discovery Channel-style science doc and one of those mystical, astrological, hippie dealies of the Chariots of the Gods school. Yet somehow these two genres work surprisingly well together; the film's seriousness and scientific rigor help to mitigate a lot of the New Age woo-hoo, while the more wacky stuff spices up the dry science. Screenwriter Walter Cruttenden has lived in OC since 1960, "when it was nothing but farmland and you could get a wave all to yourself!" He consented to an interview and was commendably polite in the face of my smart-ass questions. OC Weekly: Where did you first get the idea for all of this "Great Year" stuff?Walter Cruttenden: As a young boy, I always wondered why there is all this evidence of ancient cultures that mysteriously disappeared. The ancient Indians, the megalithic builders (Stonehenge, etc.), the Sumerians, ancient Egyptians and hundreds of other cultures around the globe seemed to decline into a worldwide Dark Age. Then, after a thousand or so years, the Renaissance began, and civilization was back on the rise. My teachers in school did not have a good answer [for this], but one day, I found a book by an Eastern Indian sage, Sri Yukteswar, and he mentioned that the rise and fall of civilization was due to our sun's motion around a companion star (meaning we are in a binary star system) and that this motion was also the cause of precession. So I set up a research institute to check this out and found there were a lot of problems with the current theory of precession . . . and lo and behold, it turns out the binary (sun) theory solves many of the problems! Doing further research, we found that consciousness, and therefore civilization, could indeed be affected by a stellar source, and furthermore, the myths and folklore of most ancient cultures describe this pattern of rising and falling ages based on the movement of the heavens. I thought, "How cool!" And then [I] determined the best way to tell the story was through film. You obviously have a lot invested in putting across this idea. Where does that come from? Why does it matter so much to you?

I had a bit of luck with investments and founding a few banking firms, which I sold to Fidelity and E*Trade, so it seemed right to give something back through our nonprofit organization and try to resurrect some ancient wisdom. Hey, the world needs it! It was Plato who coined the term "Great Year" to describe the cycle the Earth and man go through during the 24,000-year precession period, where the equinox can be seen moving through each of the 12 houses of the Zodiac, one every 2,000 years on average. Astronomers and astrologers alike agree we are at the dawning of the "Age of Aquarius," and the ancients said this is a time of positive change—although change is often preceded by misunderstanding or turmoil.

I've never taken astrology very seriously, but one of the things I liked about your film was that it wasn't pushy about it, and you obviously tried to be as scientific as possible. What inspired you to take that more rigorous approach, instead of the more typical, mystical approach?

I never thought much about astrology myself, but it is clear the electromagnetic spectrum of our nearest star [the sun] has a profound effect on life on Earth. So, it did not seem that far-fetched to think that if we are in a binary system and moving in and out of the EM [electro-magnetic] field of a nearby star, it, too, might have an effect on man much like our own sun causes the seasons. Turns out there is a whole bunch of highly acclaimed research papers to support various facets of this hypothesis. I just thought it time to tell the story.

How did you go about securing James Earl Jones to work on this film? I did find myself wondering, "Does he believe in all this stuff?"
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