Aliens? No, it’s just a movie filming in your neighborhood


If you happen to spot an alien hanging around your neighborhood in the near future, don’t worry. It’s likely a scene from“Chaska,” an epic sci-fi trilogy aiming to film in parts of Riverdale and Kingsbridge in 2024 and 2025.

The creator and screenwriter of the low-budget project is Liz Guarracino, a former Kingsbridge resident previously featured in The Riverdale Press for her ice photography. She was also featured in 2022 for having the concept trailer of Chaska, a series of stills around Riverdale, win best sci-fi trailer at the Phillip K. Dick Film Festival.

Now the first 10 minutes of the first installment is being screened at the same festival April 4 to April 7.

“I was able to view the short in its completion yesterday on the train coming back from the city,” Guarracino said, “and I was crying on the train. I was so happy. It was awesome.”

The short was filmed in 2023 in Pine Bush, which is often regarded as the “UFO Capital” of the world. The film follows Chaska, a Latino high school student who submits her DNA to learn about her father’s side of the family, only to learn her blood has been put on a watch list by the government. She is then forced to have tests performed on her, after which she learns she is a descendant of an alien who landed in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.

The idea was beamed into Guarracino’s head after watching an episode of “Ancient Aliens” that talked about DNA and an episode of “What’s on Earth?” that spoke about ancient structures. While she did not pick up the pen immediately, that idea stayed with Guarracino for three years. When she lost her job between 2013 and 2014 she decided that it was the best time to get writing. She ended up typing a 65-page screenplay in about three days.

“Over the years, I kept telling people about the screenplay,” she said. “But you know people kind of shrug when you tell them you’ve written this blockbuster movie. They’re just kind of like ‘yes, so have I and so has my cousin and some other people.”

It all changed for Guarracino when she showed the script to her friend and business partner, John Moran. He was pleasantly surprised by the writing and ended up joining as not only the films’ director and producer, but also editor, sound and VFX artist.

The first installment of Chaska had a budget of about $2,200, some of which came from investors as well as a GoFundMe Guarracino launched in 2022. Several of those who dedicated their time to the project did not ask for money.

Guarracino is not done with the first installment. In fact, about 90 percent still needs to be filmed. She anticipates finishing it at about $30,000. That budget will go to equipment, paying actors, catering, rental of locations, and backup if anything goes wrong.

Diversity was at the forefront when creating characters, said Guarracino, who is Puerto Rican and Italian. She consulted with actors about how they wanted to be seen in the film. The name “Chaska” originated from native-American culture.

“For so long the representation has just been like you got your white leading man, your white leading woman, and the Spanish maid or Black comedic sidekick,” she said. “I wanted everything to be real life because there are Black doctors, there are Black nurses, there are Black people, Puerto Ricans in the military. But I wanted them to be in the foreground and then not so much the white actors in the background but it’s just an even balance.”

Guarracino knew she wanted the lead character to have a connection to the city, so in addition to filming in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn for futuristic military scenes, she also plans on returning to her old neighborhood of Kingsbridge and Riverdale.

“Riverdale, Kingsbridge will have that homey neighborhood feel,” Guarracino said. “But when you see agents [in pursuit of the lead] it’ll have that uneasy feeling.”

She envisions a scene in which the lead meets with an abuelita, or guiding force, who is a strong Hispanic woman in her life. It’ll also potentially be a scene in which the character learns how her alien grandfather came to Pine Bush and New York. Guarracino wants to also film a scene at an apartment at her old block on Corlear Avenue.

The project has gotten the stamp of approval to film at An Beal Bocht Cafe in Fieldston.

“We love Liz. (She) has been a regular and a part of the community for a really long time,” Keely Burke, a bartender at the café, said.

Guarracino hopes to finish her subsequent screenplays this summer. When she is finished, she plans on a casting call for locals in the area to be actors or extras.

Those interested in learning more about the movie can go to

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