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!"