Facebook reminded us that it was 3 years ago today we were surprised by a phone call from Bill Nye The Science Guy which led to this amazing photo and an awesome interview for Chasing Atlantis.
I had finished a call with Bill’s agent thinking that there was no way this was going to actually happen. With the size of our team, budget, and Bill’s schedule I didn’t think we would be a serious consideration. I walked back inside, got lunch, sat down to eat, and the phone rang again. It was Bill’s agent’s number, but when I answered I heard ‘Matt. This is Bill.’ Here I am juggling salad at the Simon Fraser University dining hall getting a call from Bill Nye. He asked me about the film and, in that moment, I knew I had to give a legitimate “elevator pitch.” I recall saying something to the effect of ‘imagine that the science kids that you raised have now grown up and want to interview their science dad about the wonder of space and the retirement of the space shuttle.’ Silence for a moment. Then…’Sounds great. Let’s do it. Come down to California.’ Bill and I got to talking for a bit. We spoke about the Science Guy Show. I recalled parts of an episode about the circulatory system and he knew the exact episode number. I finished the call saying ‘Bill, talking to you is like a metaphysical experience’ to which he replied ‘No it’s not…it’s a physical experience.'” Of course he was right.
Our interview with Bill at The Planetary Society was amazing. After giving him a Chasing Atlantis themed bow tie (which he’s wearing in this photo) that we had custom printed he asked if we were hungry and if we wanted “Mars Cookies.” Bill explained that they were cookies that “replicated the surface colour and texture of Mars…but not the taste.” They were indeed the best planet cookies we ever had.
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.
Today (Sunday Oct 25th) Is ThunderCon! ThunderCon is a first ever comic convention being hosted in Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada…our home town!
We will have a booth open all day on the convention floor at the Valhalla Inn where the convention is being hosted. And I’ll be giving a talk in the “Cantina” at from 4pm to 5:30pm
Thunder Bay is where my geek began. During the 80’s and 90’s, geek culture was not nearly as prolific. To see a convention in my home town is amazing and my congratulations to all the event coordinators. To have Chasing Atlantis invited to present is such an honour. I spent the evening yesterday walking past houses of friends who have since moved away remembering long D&D and video game sessions. I write this blog post from my old room where I spent evenings watching NEW Star Trek episodes, Sojourner’s landing on Mars, and Discovery Channel documentaries about the Space Shuttle. Now we’re back with an opportunity to meet a rallied geek community in my home town showing off interviews we’ve done with those who created Trek and built the probes that went to Mars, and flew the Shuttle. I am at once humbled and proud.
If you’re at ThunderCon this weekend, please be sure to visit our booth and check out our talk at 4pm!
This past November, we shot an awesome interview with Rod Roddenberry. During the interview he asked if we’d had ever been to the Las Vegas Star Trek convention. Truth is we never have.
Rod suggested we come down to experience the con (Khan) and we thought it would also be an incredible opportunity to meet with some of you to talk about the way that space / science fiction has influenced your life and given you a sense of belonging…on camera!
So if you’re going to be in Vegas for the convention, be sure to come find us. We’ll be the guys with a camera wandering around wearing a Chasing Atlantis tee shirts (or Trek shirts with a big camera) Furthermore you can tweet us at @chasingatlantis to let us know that you’re looking for us and we’ll hang out!
See you at the KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!
At the time of writing this we are less than 11 hours from the Pluto Flyby!
I missed out on the first images of the distant solar system. When I was old enough to fully realize my interest in space, we had already flown past of all the planets (all 8). Voyager 2 was the first to visit the outer gas (ice) giants Uranus and Neptune in the mid to late 1980’s. I was too young to appreciate what we had just accomplished. We brought planets into focus we’ve known about for decades and centuries but for the first time with detail, colour, textures, and data. These distant points of light pondered by astronomers for centuries were made very real as they clutched our own technology in their gravity.
While Pluto is no longer classified as a planet, knowing that this famous celestial body is about to be imaged at this distance for the first time has me so stoked. New Horizons has given me the opportunity to go back in time during the days of Voyager 2 to see what I missed and have my mind blown. Not only did Voyager 2 provide us with the clearest images of the most remote planets in our solar system, it reminded us that yes…this is where we are! We are in a system of planets and bodies orbiting this incredible ball of plasma called the Sun flying through space on an existential crisis asking what we’re all about and if there is anybody else out there also asking these questions and launching probes. Furthermore, we can blow everybody’s mind in real-time (ish as it takes about 4 hours for messages to get from Pluto plus lag time in bandwidth and processing) as everything that is transpiring over the next few hours will be online. It’s a good time to be taking photos of planets.
An incredible privilege we’ve had in producing this film is interviewing a diverse array of individuals from space station commanders to science fiction writers. Each of them is a larger-than-life personality and has contributed something amazing to our film that has helped us tell our story. Outside of their participation in Chasing Atlantis, our interviewees are contributors in their own fields and it is important for us to keep tabs on them and promote their endeavours just as they have supported ours.
To that end, we wanted to share a new work by one of our most influential interviewees, Ann Lemay, a writer at BioWare studios in Montréal. Ann worked on my favorite video game series of all time, Mass Effect, and is currently writing for the newly announced Mass Effect: Andromeda. Ann’s discussion of narrative design for video game writing and science fiction really shaped the way that we are developing the narrative for our film. In her new work, a book she has co-authored entitled the “The Game Narrative Toolbox”, Ann explores the role a narrative designer plays on a development team to write video game player-centered stories, dialogue trees, and interactive vs cinematic segments of narrative. The book also includes exercises to hone your writing skills, as well as tips for applying for jobs within the industry or creating independent projects. If you ever thought of getting into the game industry as a story writer, this would be the place to start.
Below is a segment from our interview with Ann where she discusses the role of science-fiction in exploring our own sense of belonging in the universe; a theme which has become central in Chasing Atlantis.
Congratulations on the book release and on the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda, Ann!
We are only a few hours away from a monumental experiment in space craft propulsion. Ever tried sailing on sunlight?
The Planetary Society is going to be launching their solar sail space craft LightSail in a matter of hours. LightSail is designed to deploy 32 square meters of 4.2 micron thick sails once in space. The sails literally catch solar “wind”; charged particles emanating from the Sun that will push LightSail through space. (It’s kinda like the “Explorers” episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) Anyway, talk about green energy! (Or Yellow) What are the implications? Well according to the Planetary Society says
LightSail represents a major leap forward in the concept and technology of solar sailing. Through this program, we’re making it possible for other groups, including NASA, to utilize this innovative propulsion technique on CubeSats and other small spacecraft—opening the door to a huge variety of low-cost missions throughout the solar system.
As you might know, Bill Nye currently heads up the Planetary Society as CEO. We had the incredible opportunity to interview Bill during the production of Chasing Atlantis. You’ll get to see Bill talk more about space exploration once Chasing hits a film festival near you.
LightSail is currently running a Kickstarter Campaign that you can support for a chance at some amazing incentives ranging from LighSail merch, to cool gear like a Raspberry Pi rigged up to tell you when LightSail is travelling overhead, to lunch with Bill himself!
The main LightSail website can be found here where you can also watch the launch live at 10:45am EST today (May 20th). This launch will be a shakedown cruise to ensure LightSail survives orbital insertion and to test the sail deployment system. The test of the solar sails themselves will occur on the next launch scheduled for 2016.
“Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available, a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.”
– Sir Fred Hoyle, 1948
When we set out to shoot Chasing Atlantis, we thought our film would primarily focus on the legacy of the Space Shuttle. However, Paul first noted how frequently our journey turned introspective, examining space’s impact on my own life. For example, I hadn’t anticipated that a road trip to see the last shuttle launch would result in interviews with my grandfather and his repairing the old telescope we used to look at planets when I wasn’t much taller than the tripod.
Seeing myself reflected in our journey made me uncomfortable. This wasn’t supposed to be a film about my story. This was a film about space’s story. And that discomfort sat with me until I read a quote from Astronaut Jim Lovell of both Apollo 8 and 13: “We learned a lot about the Moon, but what we really learned about was the Earth…and how insignificant we really are, but then how fortunate we are to have this body and to be able to enjoy living here amongst the beauty of Earth itself.”
“Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship I marvelled at the beauty of our planet.
People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty — not destroy it!”
— Yuri Gagarin, 1st human in space.
It’s Yuri’s Night! Today, April 12th marks the 54th anniversary of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s epic journey into space; the first time a human ever ventured across the threshold of Earth’s atmosphere into the Cosmos.
One of my fav bloggers/science evangelists/astronomers is Phil Plait AKA, the “Bad Astronomer” said that:
This past weekend we had front row seats to a conjunction of the Moon, Mars, and Venus; our three closest celestial neighbors.
One of the advantages of my day job working on campus at Simon Fraser University is having a roof access key to the residence dorm towers. It made for a great view of the conjunction especially as it approached the horizon. Here is a collection of some of my favorite shots from this past Friday and Saturday. By Saturday, the Moon had moved away from Mars and Venus in the sky, but it still made for a spectacular view. The shots were taken with 24mm, 50mm, and 300mm lenses on my DSLR. The last photo of the Moon and Mars was through my 80mm telescope at 600mm focal length also using my DSLR.