2015 was one of the most incredible years for our project. (I have been remiss in updating all of you. I will speak more about my absence at the end.) Each year that we have worked on the film, I look back and think “well…it can’t get any more amazing!” This past year, the film’s themes became clearer, we shot more incredible interviews in awesome settings (like the Enterprise), and I felt the most emotionally connected to the project than I ever have. We found our focus in 2015. When we first began Chasing Atlantis, the film was a story about going to see a space shuttle launch and understanding the shuttle’s technological legacy. Now, four years and change later, I see that the film is really a story about WHY I wanted to see a space shuttle launch. Outside the facility where Atlantis now resides is a quote by Carl Sagan “The Sky Calls to Us.” But how? Why do those shimmering lights in the night captivate us? This is what Chasing Atlantis has become for me; a journey to understand that call and to connect with those that hear it as well.
Star Trek Las Vegas
One of the most powerful opportunities we’ve had to connect with you – that community that hears the call of the sky – was this past August at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention.
I truly appreciate the vulnerability fans show when we shoot at cons. Convention goers openly share their projects and passions from cosplay to comics and are eager to form new friendships. I found this vulnerability particularly strong at the Vegas Trek Convention. Some of the most touching interviews we’ve shot were captured in Vegas – and in incredible settings such as a replica of the original series USS Enterprise bridge. That’s where we caught up with Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry. Rod gave us an amazing interview in late 2014 at his home in Los Angeles. Since Rod spoke of the Star Trek fandom as his “family” in 2014, we thought a shoot at the convention, with that family present, would make for a fitting follow-up interview.
Rod also gave us a guided tour of the convention on camera sharing the incredible atmosphere. Rod himself encouraged us to come down in 2014 saying it was an experience we couldn’t miss. Rod, I can’t thank you enough. STLV was the experience of a lifetime. Without your generosity and thoughtful invitation, we would’ve missed something truly incredible. (Rod also defeated me in a game of 3D Chess. Well played Rod, well played.)
During the convention, we were able to interview some of the Trek cast members. Since beginning Chasing Atlantis, I have always wanted to meet Robert Picardo who played the Holographic Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager. Robert not only portrayed one of my favourite Star Trek characters but works alongside Bill Nye as a member of the Planetary Society’s Board of Directors. Robert talked to us about the importance of the fiction to inspire the science. He also spoke of his passion for space saying that “given the challenges that we’re facing as a species on Earth, our survival is out there. Our survival really depends on our exploration of space.”
In addition to celebrities, convention attendees shared incredible stories with us; some of the most powerful interviews I’ve experienced. Even months later, as I write this, I have goosebumps thinking of those of you who shared emotional stories of how Star Trek and the stars themselves captured your imagination, connected you to others, and gave you a sense of hope and inspiration. Ellie Kaiser shared one of those stories. I met Ellie as she joined an audience that had formed while we interviewed Rod Roddenberry on the bridge of the Enterprise. (She’s in Chekov’s position in the left seat on the bridge in the photo below)
When I asked Ellie about the influence of space in her life, she became emotional. She told us of times she spent with her grandmother who kept a yurt far away from city light pollution. Together they would look out into the stars. I was reminded of the times I spent watching the night sky with my grandfather and the legacy that he’s left in my own life; certainly one of the reasons I’m working on this film. Ellie spoke of feeling connected to the universe in those moments with her grandmother and said that she had not thought of those memories in a long time but was reminded of them through the interview. Ellie left a lasting impression on me. She represents the future audience that I hope will come with us on the journey that Chasing Atlantis has become. When working on a film, you rarely have opportunities for feedback. For years at a time, we haven’t known if we were headed in the right direction, or if anybody will resonate with our story. Ellie’s response to our interview was exactly what I hope people will experience when watching Chasing Atlantis; a reminder of a moment in life where a person, or journey, or nature itself made them feel connected to larger possibilities. As we left the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention for Los Angeles, we passed through parts of the Nevada desert. I was reminded of Ellie’s story watching the stars far away from city lights. I took advantage of those dark desert skies to take a photo thanking her for sharing her story.
In Los Angeles, shortly after the Vegas Trek Convention, we caught up with Star Trek writers/producers Judith and Garfield Reeve-Stevens. As you may recall, we met Judy and Gar a few years ago at the Constellation Awards in 2013. Since that time, we have been trying to make our parallel universes align to interview them about Trek, space, and our propensity as humans to explore.
Judy and Gar put eloquently how I often feel about Star Trek. As Garfield said “Star Trek is not just about the quest to explore but also about family; a group of people who have something to share – this dream of the stars, the calling, the sky calls to them. They got together through adversity and challenge and fun.” Judy finished this thought saying “…and they are forged into a family. And that is something we all yearn for. We all want to be a part of a family and that’s something I think speaks to the fans of Star Trek and speaks to everybody as much as this desire to explore; that we’re not exploring alone. We’re out there with a group of people that are our family.”
In 2013, we had the incredible privilege of interviewing Ann Lemay, writer on the epic sci-fi video game series, Mass Effect. Mass Effect demonstrated to me that video games could be just as powerful a story-telling medium as print or video. I absolutely loved the series and we had the opportunity, after our interview with Judy and Gar, to travel to Austin, Texas to meet with Drew Karpyshyn, lead writer for the first Mass Effect game.
Each person I’ve spoken to about their passion for the cosmos conceives of that passion in different ways. When we interviewed Howard Trottier at Simon Fraser University, he spoke of humility and awe as he thought of the individual photons that had traveled for millions of years to reach his eye through his telescope. Ann Lemay spoke of Star Trek. For Ann, space was a means of celebrating diversity and her writing was a way to connect to those who shared her passion for diversity citing the Vulcan concept of IDIC – Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. When I asked Drew about his own draw to the stars he described space as “infinite darkness wrapped around infinite matter.” He continued, saying “Out there, with literally billions of worlds, there must be so many possibilities. And some of those possibilities have to be good.” I really resonated with Drew’s words. His sentiments on possibility are truly what I feel each time I look at the skies at night, when I am processing an astrophoto, or watching/playing a work of science fiction. Drew has released a new fantasy series called The Chaos Born which you can check out here:
The Final Frontier: 2016
“What’s next!?” you may ask. Production is far more glamorous than post-production where we now find ourselves transitioning. Interviews with the absolutely awesome people we’ve met is an incredible experience. Afterward, it turns into hours and hours and hours of transcribing. We’ve now shot over 80 interviews for Chasing Atlantis and, over the past months, have been cataloging all the transcriptions by themes. Paul arranged all the key themes and highlight quotes into one giant document and then printed it. The resulting mosaic is 12 feet tall and takes up an entire wall at Paul’s studio (and some of the floor.)
I am ever grateful for Paul’s attention to detail. We have also thought critically about what the film is going to look like. How does it start? How does it end? How do we clearly articulate everything that has happened – that we began as a road trip and grew into a multitude of trips across North America? How do we talk about Atlantis’ transition from a space vehicle to an icon in our journey? Most importantly, how do we honour all the memories and thoughts and emotions shared with us from all of you? With over 8 terabytes of footage, there are many puzzle pieces to sort. Honestly I’ve been feeling overwhelmed which is why I mentioned at the start that I have been remiss to post an update for quite some time. Las Vegas was amazing. And then…I felt like I was drowning. That carries a negative connotation. I don’t intend it to. The flood of emotions I felt from my experiences were all incredibly positive. But I have often felt at a loss to process them in a way that does justice to all those who have contributed to our adventure. How can so many life changing moments, both mine and yours, fit into a blog post or a 90 minute movie? Perhaps they can’t. Maybe that’s the point. When life gets so big that it seems to not fit in any container we can make for it, we look upward to where it will fit, the universe. Dr. George Baxter-Holder said in our interview with him in Las Vegas “I think all this emotion comes out because people realize, at some level, that what’s not explored out there [in space] is similar to what’s not explored in the depths of their own souls. The vastness of the human soul is unexplored too. As it is above, so it is below.” I feel that vastness as we work toward completing Chasing Atlantis.
There is a responsibility in telling this story now. It is no longer just ours. I believe the film belongs to all of you as well. That was the sentiment I felt as 2015 closed. And so I sit to write and share these thoughts with you. Know that the work on the film continues and how grateful we are to all of you. As Judith Reeve-Stevens said, when we explore together, we are forged into family. Thank you for exploring with us.
Stay tuned for for updates on our most recent trip at the end of February which saw us back on the USS Enterprise with Star Trek Continues!
Also be sure to check out our main production page at www.chasingatlantis.com