Friday, March 12, 2010

D.C. Museum Rolls Out Red Carpet for HUBBLE 3D World Film Premiere

On March 9, 2010, the National Air and Space Museum held the world premier of “Hubble 3D” in its IMAX theater. This event was significant for me because in the year the first female won the Oscar for best director, I got to meet Toni Myers, the producer, director, and a writer on this film, as well as one of the inventors of IMAX, Graeme Ferguson. I appreciate the release of this film because it reminds me of how much space exploration fuels the imagination.

The 43-minute film tells the story of three astronaut crews’ attempts to make repairs to the ailing Hubble Space Telescope, the only telescope created to be serviced in space. After the telescope’s first deployment in 1990, it required immediate attention because its lens wasn’t working. For a project that cost NASA more than $1 billion, the fuzzy pictures being sent back to Earth just weren’t going to cut it.

Servicing Mission 4 became just as much a PR mission as a scientific one. The crew aboard this shuttle, referred to as STS 125, brought the camera equipment needed to create the large-format film. Not only did they need to repair instruments, but they also needed footage for Youtube – anything to increase the popularity of the space program can be put to use.

There in Florida to provide camera instruction, was award-winning filmmaker Toni Myers, who produced and edited the first large-format 3D film to be shot in space 10 years ago. Too bashful to be called the James Cameron of NASA, Toni has gone where no other female filmmaker has gone before. From the depths of the sea to the limits of the cosmos, she has pioneered the way for big screen educational entertainment. “I wish the film could have been longer,” says Toni, who combined the footage collected over three missions. “I was surrounded by a gang of geniuses, so I didn’t have to do a thing.”

The astronauts she taught to be filmmakers felt the same way about her. “Toni is a wonderful human being,” said Megan McArthur, who walked the red carpet with fellow crew members Scott Altman, Michael Massimino, John Grunsfeld and Gregory Johnson. “Toni tells you the why,” says Gregory. “She really knows how to help you understand something.”

Director of photography James Neihouse and executive producer Graeme Ferguson, also co-founder of IMAX, were in attendance as well. After teaching all those flight crews how to use the camera equipment, I had to ask, “is it easier to teach a filmmaker how to be an astronaut or an astronaut how to be a filmmaker?” Neihouse smiled and said, “I think it was easier for the astronauts.”

Gregory, for one, has no plans to leave the space program and head for Hollywood. “It’s humbling to get to be a part of all this,” he said. “I really enjoyed it but, you are always aware of time when you’re up there. You have to compartmentalize and not spend too much time on any one thing.” That also includes staring out the window at planet Earth 347 miles below. Of all the awe-inspiring images in the film, the shots of earth taken from the shuttle are the most beautiful.

“Hubble 3D” hits wide release IMAX theaters on March 19, 2010.