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FRIDAY FEATURE: Q&A With ‘A Beautiful Planet’ Director Toni Myers
Apr 29, 2016

Andrew Stewart | Manager, Corporate Communications 

Hey, IMAX fans!

Earlier this week, I had the great pleasure of speaking with the visionary filmmaker and director of A Beautiful Planet, Toni Myers.

SEE ALSO: FRIDAY FEATURE: 11 Fun Facts about IMAX’s Upcoming Jennifer Lawrence-Narrated Space Epic ‘A Beautiful Planet’

In celebration of the release of A Beautiful Planet exclusively in IMAX® theatres starting today, here is a special Q&A with Toni as she dishes on life, space and her brilliant career to date at IMAX:

Q: Throughout the years, you’ve brought to IMAX screens some of the most iconic images from space ever seen. What do you find most compelling about space and space exploration?

A: Certainly, in light of A Beautiful Planet, I will never cease to be astonished at how the Earth looks from the vantage point of space. That is, without question, a highlight of my life and I feel so lucky to have been able to feel like I’m alongside the astronauts on those Earth-looking scenes. But I also liked all the explorations we did in Hubble 3D; and, of course, exploring weightlessness and all of the joys of life on orbit. It’s a wonderful quilt of emotions. 

Q: What’s been the most fun working on these films?

A: Each film has been a complete education unto itself, which is an absolute bonus. It’s like getting a university education in astrophysics, orbital mechanics, earth-systems science and astronomy with every film. And that goes for the underwater films as well. Both of those are very experiential. Also, training astronaut crews, setting up for launches, traveling to the Russian launch site Bikaner are experiences I would have never had otherwise. Going to Kazakhstan to film the Russian launch was just like going to the high frontier. I like the adventure of it.

Q: Do you have a favorite shot from any of your films?

A: Going back to The Dream Is Alive (1984), one of [my favorite shots] has to be the second shot we ever saw come back from space in IMAX. We had no idea what it was going to look like. We might as well have been Sir Francis Drake or something! We didn’t know what to expect! I will never forget being in the theatre in Ontario, a place where there was no soundtrack [with] just raw footage. Then up came this shot [of the Earth] out of the aft-window of the shuttle flight deck, and in front of it was a satellite. They were about to deploy.  It was the first time that any of us had ever seen the Earth from space in IMAX. It was absolutely breathtaking. I remember being reduced to stupid platitudes like, ‘Oh boy, it really is round.’ [laughs] I remember saying that!

Image from The Dream Is Alive, 1984

Q: What have been some of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on so far?

A: I love them all. I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t completely captivated. But I certainly loved working on A Beautiful Planet because we were using completely different technology. We were getting to see things that we had never seen before that we were not able to capture with IMAX film. That was very exciting. And also the way we received the data directly from space and being able to communicate with the crews so directly. I mean, they would call me on their cell phones whenever they had a question.

For the first time ever in an IMAX space documentary, Myers and the team of astronauts aboard the International Space Station were able to capture a cloudless image of New Zealand by using digital cameras. Featured in A Beautiful Planet.

I also think Space Station 3D because I really felt we were recording for history. To this day, the general public is unaware of what that achievement really is. To build that complex structure on orbit, taking up every piece, to have six or nine people able to live on there at a time is such a monumental technical achievement. I just loved being a part of that. But then I also loved all of those animals at the bottom of the ocean!

Q: You’ve worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars — Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio and now Jennifer Lawrence — all of whom have provided narration for your films. What most people don’t know, however, is that you yourself also narrated Blue Planet (1990). What was that like?

A:  That wasn’t my intent, believe me. We were partnered on that film with the Smithsonian, Lockheed Martin and NASA. So every time we would go down to screen [the film] I would do the rough narration. Sometimes I would do it live, just because it’s easy and I’m there. When it came time to choose the real narrator, I knew I wanted a female voice. I gathered a whole slew of female actors’ voice demo tapes and sent them off to our partners. [They] came back all rejected. They said, ‘No, we want you.’ [laughs] I said, ‘Are you kidding? I don’t do that. I’ve never had any training. I’m very flattered, but no.’ But they insisted. So Graeme Ferguson (IMAX co-founder, co-inventor) talked me into it and agreed to direct me. I did get a few jobs out of it outside of IMAX. So I guess he did a great job directing me!

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from your films?

A: I suppose, simply, if a few people are inspired by them. The whole idea of making A Beautiful Planet was [based on] the hope that I could inspire a new generation to appreciate their world through that lens, and if this film can inspire [young people] to go out and work toward a solution and work together and spread the word then that will make me extremely happy.