Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Our mission – a year later

It’s the traditional time of year to look back and reflect—and we zero-G dancers are nothing if not traditional. So I’ve just finished rereading our earliest blog entries about last year’s zero-g ride on December 30th, 2007.

The entry I wrote a week later on January 6, 2007 says it best, marrying the past with the present. I’m as committed today as I was then, following our first zero-g research ride. The thrill of that gift will remain with me for lifetimes. And I have Dr. Peter Diamandis and Zero G Corp to thank for their visionary generosity in giving me and the Stardance team that extraordinary gift.

As I’ve said before, being free of falling is an unforgettable experience. For a fleeting eternity, you feel bathed in a delicious, unspeakable delight. It’s a universally familiar experience the first time it ever happens to you; one whose memory lingers. Odd, really, when you consider that not one of my evolutionary ancestors was ever in zero-G for longer than it took them to fall off a roof. (Or maybe I’m just not going far enough back into my ancestry. Spider may be right: we may all be descended from stardwellers.)

Last year on the day of our flight my Zen Calendar offered a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away."

I said it then and I’ll say it now: be assured that I won't be silent about the gifts I've been given, and they are being fully used.

The Stardance team continues on its mission of discovery to expand the vocabulary of human feeling by presenting us with something we've never experienced before. Last year's zero-g ride was a breathtakingly weightless step toward the realization of our mission.

And the year just past has been a period of long, slow reentry, which as you know is a process of building energy that only starts to seem really exciting to an observer right at the end. Jim and I are now at that stage Spider calls the most paradoxical part of writing, where we are busting our chops so hard that to a hypothetical outsider it looks as though we’re both just staring into space, doing nothing at all. Things will continue like that, Spider says, for a hundred million billion years…and then we’ll suddenly look up and realize we’re holding a completed screenplay (our third) in our hands, ready for the cameras. And meanwhile we continue to beat the bushes for our angel: the funding source who can greenlight us to make the film. Exciting, satisfying times, for Jim and I both.

(There’s an added layer of meaning for me. I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to establish telepathic communication with my first grandchild—who is, at this moment, in free fall, being a zero-G dancer…in my daughter’s womb. But more on that after I’ve seen the kid, sometime in May.)

Today, right now, Jim and I just want to honor and thank all of you who have joined the Stardance mission of discovery. We could not have come this far without you—and we’ll continue thanks to you. We’re creating a new artform together: what could be cooler than that?

That is after all (somebody once said) what it is to be human: to persist.

Happy New Year!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Family Matters

Spider is celebrating his 60th cycle-around-the-sun today. Actually we’ve been celebrating for months, at any excuse. We’ve had parties in NY, MA, at home on Bowen Island, and now on-line. He says he doesn’t feel a day over 59.

In addition to our advancing ages, family news includes a story of extreme youth. Like Mike Callahan says, "Shared joy is increased." So I’d like to share the joyous news that our daughter, Terri Luanna and her husband, Heron, are pregnant! Spider and I are overjoyed, and looking forward to joining the ranks of Grandparenthood. Here’s the first sonogram of the little one, making baby Nameless even more real to us. Terri’s due date is May 11th. We plan on being in NY for the big event.

All of this happiness has made me reminisce about Terri Luanna’s childhood. Lots of great memories. When Terri and Heron got married, Spider and I posted a selection of photos with a poem to reflect where we were and what we were doing at the age she was on her wedding day. I’d like to share them with you.

Here’s another inspired reminiscence written by Spider in his Online Diary to Terri Luanna on her 28th birthday, including Terri’s response.

As for the Stardance project, Jim and I continue our efforts. He’s been busy re-designing the website to reflect our new direction. I’ve been working on updating the story. Jim will be here in January to work with me on the screenplay.

This weekend I’ll be off to Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, just north of San Francisco for the 7-day Rohatsu sesshin with Tenshin Reb Anderson Roshi. At the end of his life Buddha said, "Life is very short; please investigate it closely." Sesshins are traditional Soto Zen meditation retreats that include formal zendo meals, Dharma talks, sitting and walking meditation – offering practioners like me the opportunity for true investigation and to “wake up from our dream and help our world.” This is useful even when the dream you’re waking up from is a happy one, like the past few months have been.

Lastly, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American family and friends. Heaven knows all of America (and the world) have much to be thankful for this election year.

Many bows,

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A New Direction

When I originally approached Jeanne about creating an IMAX (or Giant Screen) version of Stardance, my strategy had to do with expanding on her short-film vision - in a kind of parallel track. Traditionally, short films don't really have markets - and with something as ambitious as Stardance, the budget would require SOME kind of market to justify it. Large format (up to this very moment, as you have read in Jeanne's recent posts) seemed a viable venue that created a market for shorter pieces - and though large format films aren't traditional big moneymakers, they nonetheless have financing opportunities beyond the traditional investor/producer relationship, be they grants or sponsorships. Sounds good, and even with the change in the industry it would still be a valid choice.

But with the giant screen choice there come limitations. The main limitation being that we have to take the TEETH out of the original award winning story to make it fit this semi-educational and agenda filled entertainment format. That's a shame, because Stardance is such a wonderful and powerful story with real conflict and heartbreak, hope and transcendence. Our newly derived story is filled with hope and transcendence, but like so many large format films the story really serves as a vehicle to get to the cool parts, the giant screen set-pieces that give the visceral thrill of immersion. But our giant-screen story doesn't really immerse the viewer in the drama - and since we've been collaborating on this new story my main cry has been "Where's The Conflict?"

The answer to this ancient question bandied about by aspiring and veteran screenwriters alike, was staring us in the face the whole time. Forget the "Stardance Experience" in IMAX, and make Stardance as a feature. The original story that caught the hearts and minds of so many, once updated beyond its prescient view from the mid 70s, has everything we need. And so much of what we have discussed and written together for this project WILL apply.

Jeanne and I are beginning the task of adapting the original story for the screen. Our primrose path has just taken a turn into the woods, and we have promises to keep (and miles to go before we sleep.)

Thank you all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Full Circle: Maitreya’s Circuitous Seat

I’ve been working part time on filming Stardance for four years. Originally I conceived Stardance as a short film. (For details, go to the June 19th blog.) When I started I was working alone, and thought I had a reasonable chance of raising enough financing for a 10 minute short.

That meant I’d have to re-imagine the story. The Stardance novella had too much story for a film that short. I needed just a thimble-full of story to frame the zero-gravity dance which was the heart of the film I was now imagining.

Here’s an excerpt from a February blog, "Holding Up Visions," about the first script: .
"When I began work on the original short film script, I named the protagonist, Treya. She is named after Maitreya, the Future Buddha of all-encompassing love -- the fifth and last of the earthly Buddhas. I feel we need to aspire to do all we can to bring the Future Buddha of Love here now. Our world can't wait several thousands of years. Iconographically Maitreya is depicted on a raised seat with her feet resting on the ground in a state of readiness -- ready to appear in the world to give us whatever is needed."

So I spent a lot of time and donated money creating a team, writing several drafts of the screenplay, setting up the website, doing photo shoots for posters and a brochure, and a lot more, all based on a 10-minute film featuring a new character, Treya Anderson.

Then on 07/07/07 I brought all that to the Heinlein Centennial Gala and made my pitch—and two remarkable things happened: first, Peter Diamandis gave me two free tickets to experience zero gravity aboard his Zero-G Corp’s 727, and second, Jim Sposto came aboard as producer/co-director.

One of Jim’s first achievements was to convince me we could find sufficient financing for a 44-minute film in IMAX-sized large-screen format. That would obviously allow for more and better dance, and some real story—though it still would not be long enough for even a compressed version of the original novella. So Jim and I invested a lot of time and energy and money retrofitting the project for longer length. We created a new website, a sponsor’s kit and other publicity material, and several more outlines and treatments.

Then, last month, Jim and I both attended the Giant Screen Cinema Association Conference in New York…..and Everything Changed yet again.

If you read the blog entry immediately preceding this one (below), "Change: the only constant," you’ll better understand what I mean by that. Basically, the whole large-screen-format industry is in free fall. This is the worst time in history to try and interest it in a 44-minute offbeat film with a story.

It took me nearly a month to fully realize what an incredible blessing in disguise that is.

If we’re not going to be able to make a 44-minute film, and we don’t want to go back to 10 minutes, the logical next step is to go up to a feature length film.

There is no need to reinvent Stardance a third time. Not at feature length. It’s already done. Spider and I got it right the first time. We won a Hugo and Nebula doing it.

Treya Anderson was originally created as a shorthand substitute for Shara Drummond, because Shara wouldn’t fit into ten minutes. Or 44. But that problem is now gone. We can have Shara, AND Charlie.

Movie industry people will love the fact that the public demanded, and bought, three books’ worth of sequels. It’s a franchise. They’ll also love that it was voted Best Radio Play in Australia.

All we’ll need to do is set the story 20 years from now, and most of it still works. And we can come up with fixes for things that don’t work.

Believe me, there’ll be plenty of hard work for us to do as writers, turning it into a workable screenplay. But the story part is solid, with character arcs already worked out and developed. And a novella is the perfect length for adapting to a feature film.

And the weirdest part is, none of the last four years was wasted work. This version of Stardance will, I think, be even better than the first, because it will be informed by the visions of Treya, engaged in Maitreya’s Mission—accelerating our evolution with a picture of a new, enlightened paradigm of humanity.

All I can say is, what a long strange trip it’s been, and still is.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Change: the only constant

Where to begin…

The latest issue of the LF Examiner – The Independent Journal Of The Large Format Motion Picture Industry just arrived. Here’s the top headline: GELFORD: IMAX IS NOT “GIANT SCREEN”

Gelford is Richard Gelford, co-CEO of IMAX Corp.   On the first day of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) conference Jim and I attended last month (see our last 2 blog entries below), Mr. Gelford stunned the GSCA with the news that IMAX is reversing 4 decades of company branding.   Of the IMAX experience he said, “we don’t think of it as giant screen.” Rather, he said, “it is the best immersive experience on the planet.”  Mr. Gelford’s announcement coincided with the rollout of the IMAX company’s new digital projection system, intended to be retrofitted into 35mm multiplex theaters.  IMAX is going digital with Hollywood movies in Multiplex theaters.

The news was not well-received by most of the GSCA operators of  IMAX large screen film-based theaters. They contend that the “wow factor” is gone when viewing a film in an ordinary multiplex house that has been modified slightly. The screens are only a fraction of the size of the “real” IMAX theater screen.

The changes the giant-screen association is going through as a result of the new IMAX branding are unlike anything the industry has seen in the last 25 years.

The transitional fallout from this digital revolution will be on-going for several years. The GSCA is in an “identity crisis” brought on by outside forces, leaving them very unclear on their market segment. They claim that, “if we’re confused, our audiences are very confused.”

I can tell you that this conference experience left me very confused. For the last month I’ve been trying to figure out what the implications of this change mean for Stardance. That’s why I haven’t written a new blog entry. Jim and I both needed time.

Earlier this week I made a decision. I sent Jim a long email laying out my reasons for deciding to switch from making a 44 minute IMAX to a full-length feature film. The events at the GSCA conference forced me to re-access our plans. A few days ago, Jim concurred with my decision. The result is we’ve agreed to forgo the Giant Screen.

My next entry will explain in more detail the effect our decision will have on our film.

In closing, I again want to thank all of you for your ongoing interest and support. Stardance lives!

Warm, grateful smiles,

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Jersey to New York to New England

Spider here--since this system just today arbitrarily decided there is no such person as Jeanne, and never has been. Because we're on the road at the moment there is no easy way to fix this. So for now I'm going to pretend I'm Jeanne and type for her.....much as I did back in the day, when we were writing novels together.

Jeanne here now, speaking through Spider's fingers:

As Spider just explained, we've been on the road for awhile, so this has been my first opportunity to blog since Jim and I attended the Giant Screen Cinema Association conference in New Jersey last week. And to my absolute lack of surprise, Jim has already given you a thorough, accurate and articulate account of our adventures there.  It leaves me little to comment on except to say that the more we pursue this, the longer and more complex the path before us seems to get. 

You might think that would be dismaying--but it's just the opposite.  Working with Jim at yet another conference continues to build my confidence that we're going to reach the end of that path with success.  Each time I get a closer look at the process, I better understand just how good my partner is at this, and how fortunate I am to be working with him.

We'll be on the road for some time yet.  We just had a Robinson family reunion last week in New York, and of course we've been lucky enough to also spend time with our daughter Terri Luanna and son-in-law Heron in the Bronx.  And this week will be spent with my family in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile work continues on the script, and Jim has some interesting new strategy ideas I'm sure he'll be discussing in days and weeks to come.  I give my continuing thanks to all of you for your ongoing support; filmmaking is an expensive game.

Meanwhile, for a quick reminder of how this all got started, go to Spider's website or the iTunes Store, and check his latest podcast, SPIDER ON THE WEB #54, which contains a short excerpt read by Spider from Blackstone Audio's newly released audiobook of STARDANCE.  The next podcast will contain an even longer excerpt from the next book in the trilogy, STARSEED.  And as soon as Blackstone can get it out there, STARMIND (which has already been recorded) will be available too.  Astute friends of Stardance will notice that Jim designed the covers for Blackstone's editions.  Aren't they pretty?

Warm, weightless smiles to you all,

Thursday, September 11, 2008

GSCA Conference

This week Jeanne and I are attending the Giant Screen Cinema Association conference in NYC. We're meeting all sorts of great folks here, and getting a warm reception to boot.

The nice thing about this crowd? No Hollywood Attitude - these are all incredibly sharp and dedicated people who love Large Format film. We've met people from IMAX, representatives of Technicolor, various theater principals and independent producers, film buyers and folks from various production companies. Greg McGillvray of McGillivray Freeman films was kind enough to invite us onto their chartered party boat on our first night here (that's a pic from our trip around Manhattan - under the Manhattan bridge, with the Brooklyn Bridge and the twin towers lights in the background.) A gorgeous night made all the more fun by good company, including our "mentor" Andrew Gellis - a man also responsible for some very successful giant screen films. He's been quite a boon to us as well.

We've seen a slew of large-format films, especially notable was Van Gogh: Brush with Genius - surprisingly good use of the giant screen. And today we had a speaker talking about marketing through blogging and viral video, etc. And Jeanne and I looked at each other and thought "We're way ahead of you, Buddy." (Well, I thought "buddy", she man have thought "man".)

But that reminded me, hence this post.

Speaking of which, jump out to YouTube, people, and share our clip some more - we'll get something new soon. Also, tell us what you think of the new home page intro on Stardancemovie.com.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Links To Us

Wow, lots of blogs linking to us. Nice to see - check them out.

In Russian: http://arisingmagic.info/tag/zvezdnyj-tanec/
In Verse: http://yldann.livejournal.com/49886.html
In Dance: http://blog.danceruniverse.com/blog/story/2008/8/11/111919/774
And more dance: http://danceadvantage.wordpress.com/2008/07/25/dancing-with-the-stars/

We're loving the attention. We love the support, and of course we love you all.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

From the Earth to NewSpace

We made First Contact. Lots of them—with minds so different from my own they might as well have been aliens. But they were all there in pursuit of the same ultimate dream, manned spaceflight, so these “aliens” weren’t strange to me at all.

The difference was, they want manned spaceflight so they can make money. I want it so I can make new art. But there was absolutely no conflict at all. Everyone James Sposto and I spoke with at Newspace 2008 in Crystal City VA got us at once, and without exception they were thrilled by our plans to film zero-G dance. None actually pulled out a chequebook—these are not flush times for most astropreneurs—but many rushed forward to offer us connections, contacts, referrals, ideas and advice, and we’ll be following those up for weeks and months to come. All agreed that the Stardance story is an excellent, indeed an iconic way to sell space to ordinary civilians and bureaucrats.

My only major disappointment was that, despite tall effort, I never managed to fight my way through the crowds to meet Esther Dyson.

Right now, James and I are getting ready to attend the Giant Screen Cinema Association’s International Conference in NYC and Jersey City, September 8-12th. There we will talk to distributors and other folks in the large screen format business to get them interested in the Stardance movie. As members we're privy to information that tells us one complaint most often heard from IMAX audiences is the lack of any IMAX movies that tell stories; they’d like some to balance out all those documentaries.

We’ve had lots of expenses recently: travel and accommodations, of course, and conference fees, and printing expenses for our sponsor’s kit and other graphic materials, and a dozen other things. In consequence, our Stardance Movie seed money account is nearly dry.

You readers and fans have helped us bring the Stardance Movie this far. Like the protagonists of Spider’s story “The Magnificent Conspiracy,” we are still in the early stages of this conspiracy. I need to ask for your continued help and support as we approach the most critical juncture in our quest. I’m once again Calling All Visionaries...

Ad Astra!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Big Trip to DC

I'm sitting in the Charlotte Airport - in my limited travels this is consistently THE MOST civilized airport I have been to in the USA. Courteous people, beautiful architecture, nifty airplanes hanging from the rafters...free internet access.

I feel like royalty - the spaceports of the future can take a lesson. I get to take some inspiration here, in this lush terminal of modern travel, while I play futurist and imagine the spaces (and space) that we will eventually bring to a very big screen. But I digress. I'm starting a trip that will take me from my home in TN to my offices in PA to culminate in capitol of these United States where I will meet up with my Canadian counterpart, one Jeanne Robinson.

What's in DC, you say?

Why "NewSpace 2008" is all - a convention of space entrepreneurs, or "astropreneurs" that Jeanne and I are attending. Not only attending, though, we are Exhibiting. We will have a booth, we will have assistants, we will have audio/visual presentation materials - and we will be sharpening our pitch as we believe that STARDANCE is set squarely (Tesseractly? - hows about thems references?) in the zeitgeist of this space-culture wave of 2008/2009.

The aspect of our film that is "a love letter to the future of space exploration" is rife for sponsorship from these self-same space-based businesses. The independents, the mavericks, the old establishment - all will benefit from our film's representation of (repeat after me) "an attainable, realistic and positive future of mankind in space."

All sorts of fascinating speakers will be there as well, including our friend David Beaver who will be discussing "The Overview Effect" and the philosophy behind the change of map that space-travelers experience by being in space and separate from this pebble in the sky we presently call home.

Jeanne and I are also attending a black-tie dinner in honor of Sir Arthur Clarke, and we're sure there will be a mindquake with this many thoughtful and inspired folks in one place.

Wish us luck, send us your love, do unto others (and when you do, do really nice things.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Story of our Founding Angel

In early June Spider and I were graced by a visit from our dear friend, John Barnstead. (That's him in a painting by Halifax artist Brooks Kind.) On the website's Supporters page there is a short piece about John's contribution to our film titled "Stardance's First Angel." Making this film was his idea, and he's been generously supporting our effort ever since. A true patron of the arts.

John has been a friend of ours for many years. Our friendship goes back to our time in Halifax when I was AD of Nova Dance Theatre and DancExchange. While he was recently visiting, we enjoyed long talks along the island trails and by the edge of the sea. During one of our conversations, he surprised me with the story of what inspired him to ask me the life-altering question about making a zero-gravity dance on film.

John told me he got the idea while we were watching the historic video of Walter Cronkite interviewing Robert Heinlein on the day of the moon landing in July 1969. The video was featured as part of the celebration at the first Robert A. Heinlein Literary Award Presentation at the 2003 WorldCon in Toronto. Near the end of the interview Robert talked about mankind's future in space, including the amazing new art forms like zero-gravity dance that will be inspired by the experience of being set free by weightlessness. In that moment, John observed me turning in amazement toward Spider and excitedly grabbing his arm. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I had never seen this interview before. My astonishment was profound. Apparently John noticed my reaction.

Later that evening while standing in a small circle of friends discussing the plans for the 2007 Heinlein Centennial, John asked me if it would be possible to create a zero-G dance on film, perhaps as part of the Centennial. That was the big moment. It was the beginning of what has become the making of the movie, The Stardance Experience.

As you know, John has done much more than ask that all-important question. Following that eventful evening, John went on to offer a 6-week course in SF&F at Dalhousie University for 2 summers, and sent me his entire pay cheque -- both times. That was the seed money I needed to start the Stardance Project. After that, he began giving me a monthly honorarium to continue work on the film. Today, without that support, I'd be working for a living, and not creating art.

Words can't reach the depth of my gratitude to this visionary man. Even though I make my living making things up, I couldn't have imagined a man like John. He's truly a member of Spider's MAGNIFICENT CONSPIRACY.

But I've left the best for last. John regularly insists that I remember the terms of our agreement. From the start he said he wanted me to work on this project in my own way, in my own time, and that he trusted me completely. More importantly, he told me he didn't expect anything in return -- not even a movie. He simply wanted me to be able to work on it.

How are you not going to love somebody like that? I ask you all to join me in saying "Spasebo, Professor Barnstead!"


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

News from the front

Jim and I will be attending the Space Frontier Foundation's next annual conference in Washington, D.C. -- "NewSpace 2008: Creating the Future or Living in the Past" from July 17 to 19. We plan to be exhibitors at the conference. Our intention is to dazzle the attendees -- a mix of revolutionary space entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, engineers and space policy leaders -- important contacts for us, as well as potential sponsors for the film.

We've also joined the Giant Screen Cinema Association. We'll be attending their International Conference and Trade Show in Jersey City and New York City in September. The GSCA is the professional development network to advance the international business of producing and presenting giant screen experiences for the public. Networking with our fellow GSCA members will be quite useful for us as well.

In other news, our novel STARDANCE was recently released as a Blackstone Audiobook read by Spider. My partner Jim created the fabulous cover art for the audiobook using a brilliant visual tie-in to our film. Check it out at Blackstone's site. And while you're there, listen to a sample of Spider reading our story. Perhaps it will inspire you to listen to him read the entire novel.

Over the next few months Blackstone will release the other two novels in the trilogy, STARSEED and STARMIND, also recorded by Spider with cover art by Jim.

That's the latest news from the Stardance front. Many thanks for your continued interest and ongoing support.

Warm weightless smiles,

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Daze of my Youth

I realize that most of you who are following this blog are big fans of Jeanne and Spider Robinson. You may have seen Jeanne dance, you have almost certainly read their collaborations, and likely have read a bit of Spider's fiction to boot.

"But what of this Jim guy who sometimes contributes to this blog, and about whom Jeanne says nice things?" you say. "I haven't seen any of his fiction stuff." Well you may have seen "The Intelligent Designer Speaks" but if you met me you might say that the piece doesn't qualify as fiction, and I wouldn't consider Designer Speaks cinematic in any case. So travel with me back in time, back when Jeanne and Spider were publishing Starseed - back then we didn't do "HD Digital Video" - when young filmmakers like that earlier version of James Sposto shot in good-old-fashioned Eastman T-Grained film stock - and didn't know if we "got" the shot until we saw it in the dailies, and we had to trust our guts to know when to say "that's a keeper" and move to the next setup.

A quick note of thanks: You are seeing this through the auspices of my good friend Mike Trevarthen, who still had a VHS copy of the film and digitized it for me. (I have all the original prints, but they are getting kind of scratched up - not to mention difficult to project over the Web.)

So sit back and enjoy Gin and Tonic. It has very little to do with space travel, but a lot to do with aspiration, self image and the nature of success as indicated by choice of drink.

Monday, April 21, 2008


For weeks I've been searching.  Waiting for inspiration — looking for a new way to express my wholehearted gratitude to you visionaries who have supported Stardance.  The list of supporters continues to grow.  Each of you is responsible for helping the film emerge from darkness.  Words can't reach the depth of my gratitude.

Jim and I continue to make pre-production advances.  Whether we're flying parabolic arcs on G-Force One, expanding the script from a 10-minute short to a 45-minute treatment, rewriting our site's About The Film page, becoming members of the Giant Screen Cinema Organization, making media kits and sponsor kits, writing press releases, or pitching articles to international magazines, Jim and I are hard at work.  There's much to do, and we have a long way to go.  In future we'll try to fill you in on our activities with more frequency and hopefully more details....until you tell us we're boring you.

Again, I want to express my gratitude for your generous support, and your belief in the Stardance vision.  It's something special we share; a way we can inspire humanity to return to space....the only road to its long-term survival.  If we keep pushing, we'll get to the stars yet.

Ad Astra!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Le Morte d'Arthur

Dear Sir Arthur,

Thank you for being a beacon of light, leading Humankind to transcendence, giving a vision of our future, and staying true to science. As you join your brothers in arms - the masters who have influenced us all - bring them our best wishes.

You will be missed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Feel the love - for Spider and Jeanne and Stardance

Having the Stardance Film described as "The Coolest Thing Ever" and Labeled "Things that do NOT suck." I would consider a compliment.

Check out this post from February 14th - a valentine to be proud of.

Creative Partner, True Friend

There are many degrees of creative collaboration - and I can't speak for Dance, because dance is NOT my art, but I can speak for film - and how one collaborates in film varies in the degree of involvement and focus.

I have always subscribed to the Auteur theory - that the director is author of the film.

This doesn't necessarily mean the director WRITES the screenplay (though the director can) but that the director is doing the equivalent of pressing pen to paper when the director MAKES the film. There are so many disciplines involved, highly specialized craftspersons and technicians and artists (often all three at once) working on a film - that the director must carefully select these artists and technicians and craftspeople - and get them to each bring their best game to the table, to concentrate on their art and pour forth their personal best to add to the final piece. It is a true team effort, and a good film requires an all-star team.

Through this team the director "authors" the film - In other words, the Director keeps and communicates the vision, guides the performance, specifies some details, but otherwise gets the hell out of the way.

In that kind of collaboration seeing the sum of the parts become something even greater is the biggest thrill for everyone involved. But there is another form of collaboration - when TWO directors collaborate - a dual role, and I am so blessed in this case to be co-directing this picture with Jeanne. I am proud to say that Jeanne and I have become good friends during these nascent stages of our collaboration, and we complement and support each other's talent and vision in this endeavor in such a way that I know our creative partnership in making this film will be as successful as Jeanne's creative partnership with her true-love and life partner Spider when they wrote the Stardance series.

Of course, we'll be authoring a film together instead of a novel. We each have things to say and communicate, we each have our own concentrations of vision, and the sum of THESE parts will make Stardance something even greater.

Humanity aspires.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Holding Up Visions

It's been awhile.  Jim and I have been hard at work with our post-flight media blitz.

Now that it's dropped back, we have turned our attention to the treatment.  Originally STARDANCE was written as a short 10 minute film.  When Jim came on board as my producer/co-director, we decided to make STARDANCE a large-format film, which means expanding its length to fit the 44 minute IMAX experience.  Working from an outline, the treatment will be a written condensation of our film.  One of its primary purposes is to help us sell our story to sponsors and investors.

So I'm asking myself again what vision do I want to put on the screen -- what vision do I want to hold up this time?  As an artist, I've always been interested in moving forward, in doing the next thing, in pushing the boundaries in new ways.  Much of my work has been a direct invitation to recognize and realize the deeper dimension of the silent bond between us.  In this film, I want to take the STARDANCE novels, and re-work them in a new way.  And I want to include my 35 years of Buddhist practice and study in a new way.

Collaborating with Jim on this film has been a true joy.  Our artistic lives share a transcendent compatibility that endeavors to create work that confronts us with the best we can be, the deepest we can feel, and the highest we can see.  We aspire to have our audience leave the theatre a little better than they were only minutes ago.  And his ability to think in pictures perfectly dovetails my own visual abilities.  During this incubation stage, his contribution of outlining our story for the treatment has been invaluable. 

When I began work on the original short film script, I named the protagonist, Treya.   She is named after Maitreya, the Future Buddha of all-encompassing love -- the fifth and last of the earthly Buddhas.  I feel we need to aspire to do all we can to bring the Future Buddha of Love here now.  Our world can't wait several thousands of years.  Iconographically Maitreya is depicted on a raised seat with her feet resting on the ground in a state of readiness -- ready to appear in the world to give us whatever is needed. 

Whether it's a dance , a poem, a novel, or a film, my work aspires to hold up visions that exemplify the best in humanity, reflecting our highest evolutionary potential.  Spider simply says we peddle hopes.

Whatever you call it, as Jim and I write the treatment, our intention is to accelerate our evolution with a picture of a new paradigm of humanity.  We ask you to hold that aspiration with us.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pre-Dawn Interview

It was 3:30am. I decided not to wait for the alarm clock to sing. By 5am, Kathleen and I were on our way to CTV's downtown studios to tape a segment for Canada AM. Once we arrived, it was suddenly awfully bright for the middle of the night. (Since the show runs nationally, a west coast segment must be taped quite early.)

A "live" remote interview is a strange and awkward experience. Your interviewer in Toronto is visible to you in the Vancouver studio--but on a monitor located several feet from the camera you're supposed to look at to answer his queries. So you find yourself trying to look in two directions at once, while listening to questions in your earpiece that the person on the monitor asked you several seconds ago, about something that was on the screen then and no longer is. Weird.

Despite the built-in confusion, Kathleen and I managed to survive alright. See for yourself - click here (this links to CTV's footage on their site, tell us if it doesn't work for you.) We remembered to say pretty much everything we needed to, except for the URL for this site....but it did get posted on the Canada AM website. And of course, we aren't hard to google. They used a lot of our footage. They spelled our names right--Spider's definition of a successful interview. (Except on the closed captions, where "Jim Sposto" somehow morphed into "Jim Fastow.")

One of my favorite moments came after the interview, as they were closing the show. The co-hosts were asked whether they'd care to try that crazy zero-G dancing stuff. "Oh yes," one woman said enthusiastically. "Oh my, yes. Definitely." Now that's the kind of response we like...


Footage Added

Hey Folks - I've updated Jeanne post with a new link to the interview.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Explanded Footage

Here's the official press clip used by CTV's AM Canada - it features a few more moments of Kathleen and Jeanne getting used to Zero-G and a few more attempted phrases (notice the drift I mention in the previous post.) The actual interview with Jeanne and Kathleen is linked from the next post.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Stardance II : : Las Vegas Drift

The stillness and perfection of simulated Zero G...is neither still nor perfect. Immensely cool? Yes. Loads of fun? You betcha! Stillness and perfection? I think we will have to be on board an orbiting vessel to experience that. In addition to the noise (see footage, wait for the end) there is "the drift".

First of all: there is a highly competent captain at the helm of Zero-G's 727, and he doesn't just press a button that makes the plane go into perfect parabolic arcs - no, he's a true artist, creating this experience by the seat of his pants. He pulls the yoke back and puts the 727 into a powerful climb, and we fliers (we are called fliers because we cannot legally be passengers, as we have no final destination - no passage made) are pressed into the padding with 2Gs of force - all the time marveling at the Zero-G staffers who can WALK AROUND IN THIS GRAVITY SOUP!

As we approach apogee of the arc we fliers start to magically lift off the padding and float up into the cabin - we are experiencing microgravity, and loving it. Drifting about. And there is the thing we didn't quite expect - DRIFT. Not only does one drift from that measly quarter newton push against the bulkhead that caroms you across the cabin - there is another relative motion effect at work. Remember the captain's job - making the airplane travel in a way that we groundhogs in the cabin experience as Zero G?

You will notice that a Boeing 727 has 3 engines at the rear of the plane - two placed in nacelles on either side of the eppenage, and one at true centerline - shooting straight out the back. As the plane approaches apogee the pilot IDLES the two outside engines, and then performs a controlled stall as the plane glides slightly belly first through the arc - during this entire time he is adjusting the ride by varying the thrust of the centerline engine - more thrust....less thrust...more thrust - artistically keeping the fliers inside the belly of the plane, and the aircraft itself, moving at the same relative speed.

Nobody is perfect, but this pilot comes pretty damned close (sorry Spider) and he does a great job of keeping us in play. But ultimately he must adjust, and from a flyer's point of view we drift. My feet were firmly strapped in as I shot the footage of Kathleen - but Kathleen would find herself floating either toward the bulkhead (away from the camera) or toward the cabin (closer to me) without any apparent motive force.

We will release some footage tomorrow evening that shows this a little more, stay tuned. And speaking of staying tuned - tune in tomorrow morning to Canada AM (I can't since I am State-Side) and see our beloved Jeanne and Kathleen chat about their experiences live on honest-to-god TV. (You remember TV, right?)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Canada AM TV Interview rescheduled to January 15th

I just got a call from our Canada AM producer.  We've been bumped to next Tuesday, January 15th.  Our segment will be broadcast at the same time -- just after the 8:30am news.  

Apparently this happens frequently in the live tv news business.  Between the NH primary and other stories that need to run tomorrow, she said our interview had to be re-scheduled.  We're now in the line-up for next Tuesday with a tag from our producer that supposedly commits the staff to running our segment.  Let's hope her magic tag-trick works.

We plan on posting our interview for all of you to enjoy.  With any luck, it will be up next Tuesday, before the end of day.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Interview on CTV's Canada AM

This morning we got word from CTV Canada AM producer, Janis Narun, that Kathleen and I will be guests on the show this Wednesday, January 9th around 8:30am.  During the segment we'll be running our 30-second zero-g press footage for the first time.  Hope you can tune in.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Our mission

Just 7 days ago during this exact moment, the Stardance team was falling freely.   Being free of falling is an unforgettable experience.  For a fleeting eternity, I felt bathed in a delicious, unspeakable delight.  The experience continues to linger in my dreams, and in my wakeful state.

On the day of our flight, December 30th, my Zen Calendar offered a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away."

Be assured that I won't be silent about the gift I've been given.  

The Stardance team is on a mission of discovery.  Our mission is to expand the vocabulary of human feeling by presenting us with something we've never experienced before.   With your help, the Stardance Experience will be a large format film that gives us the opportunity to explore the feelings of space travel.  It will offer us the experience of drifting freely in the vastness of space, as we look back at our beautiful blue planet.

Last week's zero-g ride was a breathtakingly weightless step toward the realization of our mission.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

some of what we learned

The suitcases have been unpacked, the emails answered, and only a few media interviews remain to be done. I've had at least a few minutes to try and assimilate the zero-g experience, start integrating all the different information we acquired in so short a time.

The first thing we learned was that all our choreography presupposed arcs several seconds longer than the ones we got....but much more important, assumed a much smaller amount of lateral drift than we had, with every arc.

You never knew whether Kathleen would lurch left as she went weightless, or gently right....or forward or back. But the instants of total stasis we had been expecting and hoping for just were never an option.

She basically partnered each parabola in a duet with the experience, using many of the preconceived ideas and phrases we had prepared, but adapting them on the fly to the constant change she was experiencing. I think Jim did a truly incredible job of capturing unpredictable movement in a small frame, while keeping track of his own position and his own neighbors' flying feet. Between us, we accomplished what we set out to do: made choreographic discoveries, experienced zero-g kinesthetically deep in our bones, got some images that will help us with promotion.....and I confirmed for myself and proved to others that zero gee dance is going to be beautiful almost beyond imagining, the next great art form. That's a proud thing to finally know in your cells, as well as you always knew it in your mind.

The stars are here....


the (w)rite stuff - 2

What is it to prepare for dancing in zero gravity?

The beginning like all performances requires a strong immersion to the imaginative world except this time I am very aware of the lack of one critical element I have been able to count on from day one of my existence - the pull of our gravitational force. At times I have made friends with it, other times agonized over it's consistency and dreamt of its abolishment on occasion. But I am a realist and it is something I attend to regularly perhaps in a more heightened sense than most homosapiens.

It is my business after all.....peripheral to this large part of the equation are all the other constraints that will exist within the freedom of zero g. What of the spatial limitations, dynamic restrictions (no fast movements or at least tempered due to their implications), what of the interpretation of Jeanne's choreography and translating that amidst a romper room of other flyers present that are there with the singular and most worthy of pursuits: play? There are timing issues, how long a duration for each arc? There is the discovery of the 'drift'.....drifting, drifting...... I am a sizable woman with a seven and a half foot stretch from fingertip to toe tip - expansion - will I be able to expand?

Preceding hopping off to Las Vegas I have read and listened to Jeanne, we have had much dialog and I feel an empathy with her aesthetic. I have a strong affinity with her ideas, her interests and I fall in love with her passion. It is easy to get on board with her and I have total admiration for her commitment and desire to fulfill her vision. I am also honoured that she has asked me to go on this journey with her, long before the zero g flight was even a possibility. From a purely physical/technical point of view there are 2 practices in my life that dominate and serve this work, the Gyrotonic® method and Contact Improvisation. These have followed a lifetime of dance that has seen me engage in numerous practices that have informed my 'body of work'. Gyrotonic® has a spherical 3 dimensional intention, works with arcs and spirals, undulations, while contact promotes a responsivity in the body by constantly addressing a mind/body connectivity and attention to gravity - a hyper inner ear attunement if ever there was one. I have always felt Gyrotonic® and Contact to be complimentary but never knew how much they would serve the zero g space. At the centre of all the elements in the soup and all the preparation with my imagination preceding the flight was the recognition that foremost is presence. We spoke of and worked on choreographed movement but there was always the very real 'but who knows?'

And indeed ambition takes a side seat to presence, not to say the effort to fulfill objectives wasn't present, it was, but assessment in the air came quickly as individuals and collectively and so we pursued the highest objective of space travel, 'exploration'. Wow, did I write that? Yes, it was short but somehow epic and I feel blessed. I hovered into a new year and though I feel firmly rooted back on earth I am truly grateful for this most unique experience of levity - a real physical imprint of what I have only before imagined. Big thanks to Jeanne and Spider, James Sposto and Zero G and all those who have been moved to participate in supporting this vision. In my dreams I'll revisit this land and look forward to more with the Stardance team!!! And yes, Spider from the moment we walked onto the tarmac with Maverick Helicopters nosing into lift-off and circling in for landing I felt my dad - rotors are like a lullaby to me - I call these my Mike fly-bys. nothing like slipping the surly bonds!

Kathleen McDonagh (kosmonaut kate)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Now THAT's a happy new year....

We're finally home from Lost Wages, more or less unpacked, back on our regular reliable internet connection, the email and mail have been....well, glanced at.....nourishment has been taken, and I'm just about to crash, several hours earlier than usual for me. But I do have the strength left to say that I am so proud of Jeanne I could float off the floor myself. She and her two fabulous free-fall friends accomplished something truly remarkable. She's tasted something she's been dreaming about since 1976. Awesome. Before she fell asleep tonight I had the honour and warm pleasure of hanging her blue Zero-G jumpsuit in our closet.

One day, perhaps, it'll be her pressure-suit. It wouldn't surprise ME.

That Prince Humperdinck, he must be some kind of fella....

Good night/morning to all you family, friends and strangers from all around the planet who joined Jim, Kathleen and Jeanne on their journey, whether through this blog or just through the noosphere; your presence and warm support were palpable and deeply appreciated.

The stars are HERE...