A Beautiful Planet's Toni Myers spills on space and women in STEM
Just one week after Earth Day, we couldn't be more excited to finally get a glimpse of A Beautiful Planet, the IMAX film sharing a look at Earth in a way you've never seen before. We talked to director Toni Myers about filming the movie, working with NASA and narrator Jennifer Lawrence. Check it out—then hit the movies to see this film for yourself.
GL: What inspired you to make this film?
Toni: This is the seventh film we've made in space, and I think, ever since we made the original film, which was called Blue Planet, I’ve always wanted to revisit that one. The earth is so incredible to observe from that unique platform; there are so few of us that ever get a chance to see it in that way, and I think it’s a view that ought to be brought to the public, and especially young people. After we finished Hubble 3D, I decided really it was time that we should start a project that looked at the earth now and what the astronauts are seeing of it right now, and what’s happening to it.
GL: What do you think you were able to fit into A Beautiful Planet that didn't make it into your previous films?
Toni: Well, I wanted to make a film this time that inspired young people to try and find solutions to problems. The idea of the film is not to tell people, "You’re bad people, you’re trashing your planet," and send them out of the theater depressed and fatalistic. I wanted to make a film that will inspire young people to try and find solutions for the future about our energy means, because those are the things that are coming downs the pipes. These problems aren't going to go away—our populations aren’t going to stop expanding, so I wanted to inspire them about the beauty of the planet and why it is so worth saving.
GL: What's it like getting to work with NASA on these films?
Toni: We’ve always been blessed with great astronaut crews. They just jumped onboard this project with the greatest of enthusiasm, and they just poured their hearts into the shooting and telling me about the experiences, and I think it really reflected very strongly in the film, not only in the footage that you see, but you hear their voices describing in their own words their experiences, and a lot of that is very, very moving, because they’re very passionate and incredibly intelligent people, so I just had a ball working on this film.
GL: What do you think is so special about their perspective as scientists, as astronauts, as people who are outside of the planet?
Toni: Well, I think that is articulated very clearly by all the astronauts who speak in the film, and I think it is that when you’re on orbit, you realize that you’re seeing the earth from that very unique perspective and it’s that drawing back and getting that grand overview of it that gives you a sense of broad strokes about the planet as a whole, its beauty, its fragility and the fact that it is an object traveling through space that’s carrying each and every one of us with it. It protects us and nourishes us.
GL: What impression are you hoping that this film has on young girls who are coming to see the movie?
Toni: That’s a really, really great question, and believe me, I had them in mind. I’m hoping that a 10 or 13 year old girl will see this film and say, "I am going to crack the fusion problem," and build a nuclear fusion reactor that will give us all the power and energy we need without any pollution, without the burning of valuable fossil fuels. That’s a tall order, I understand, but the main thing is to inspire young girls to pursue careers in science, whether it’s in biology, or related fields of aerospace that help us to know more about our planet and how best to look after it for our grandchildren.
GL: How did you become involved with Jennifer Lawrence for this project?
Toni: I certainly always wanted a female voice to narrate this—I did the first one, Blue Planet, by myself—and Jennifer came up as a possible candidate. We showed the rough cut to Jennifer and she loved the film. It’s very important that this person be onboard with the subject matter, and trust in the film, and she certainly did. She agreed to do it on the spot—we were thrilled.
GL: Why was it important to you to have a female voice?
Toni: Traditionally, narrators have tended to be mostly male, and in this kind of documentary, you take the risk of sounding like they’re shoving facts at you in a more aggressive way. Not all male narrators are like that at all, but I just thought that a woman’s voice is easier on the ears, not meaning soft pedaling at all, but that the information would be heard in a better way, coming from a female narrator.
GL: Was it important for you to have a lot of women working on this project?
Toni: I choose the best people. We do have a lot of women, ours is a tiny team, but it is predominantly women, and that’s because they’re the best people I know at their jobs. I don’t think that I would ever choose for a specific function on a film someone just because of their sex, it has to be because of their skills.
GL: Definitely. So what about A Beautiful Planet are you most excited to share with viewers?
Toni: I am most excited to share with them exactly what the title says, the beauty of the planet. There may be some things that are, you know, not so nice to look at, but when you look at it from space, it is absolutely extraordinary. The night scenes, just a variety during the day of the climates that you can see, from the extremes of things from deserts to ice traps, you see a world of breathtaking contrast and color. It’s absolutely breathtaking, and it fills you with the feeling that we’re so lucky to have this beautiful, beautiful home in space, and that’s what I’m most looking forward to showing people.
What do you think about A Beautiful Planet? Will you take your family to see it?