Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Emmy™Award-Winning Documentary Film

"Broadcast" version now airing on most public television stations.

"Uncensored" version now on DVD and in film festivals.

Synopsis: A charismatic figure featured in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff, Florence "Pancho" Barnes was one of the most important women in 20th Century aviation. A tough and fearless aviatrix, Pancho was a rival of Amelia Earhart's who made a name for herself as Hollywood's first female stunt pilot. Just before WWII she opened a ranch near Edwards Air Force Base that became a famous -- some would say notorious -- hangout for test pilots and movie stars. Known as the "Happy Bottom Riding Club", it became the epicenter of the aviation world during the early jet age. Chuck Yeager celebrated breaking the sound barrier there in 1947, and Howard Hughes and Jimmy Doolittle caroused in the bar. The Club's destruction by fire in 1953 is seen by many to mark the end of a Golden Era in post-WWII aviation. In the same fashion Pancho herself has become something of a legend, a fascinating yet enigmatic icon whose swagger is often celebrated, but whose story has been largely unknown. Until now.

A documentary film produced and written by Nick Spark and directed by Amanda Pope. Featuring interviews with test pilots Bob Cardenas, Bob Hoover and Chuck Yeager, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and biographers Barbara Schultz and Lauren Kessler. Narrated by Tom Skerritt with Kathy Bates as the voice of Pancho Barnes.

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Women in Aviation
"Read Nick Spark's article about Pancho
from Women in Aviation magazine (.pdf)"
26 December 2006


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I sometimes think that the "Pancho Barnes" documentary is a little bit like one of those airplanes of yesterday — a Jenny powered by an OX-5 engine. The metaphor may sound a bit weak, but if you think about it, those old planes were awfully hard to start. But once you got the propeller cranking, an OX-5 would take you where you needed to go, and with a roar!

Getting the "Pancho" film off the ground has been difficult, but thankfully director Amanda Pope and I made a great deal of progress in 2006. Not only did we meet our initial fundraising goal, but we made some important discoveries for the film. We spent a several months this year going thru Pancho’s personal papers and documents, and found some wonderful, never-before-seen material. We visited archives and libraries, obtained Pancho's FBI files (!) and met some of Pancho's friends, a couple of her biographers, and a host of admirers — all of whom encouraged us in our efforts.

Thanks to the generosity of a great many people, both individuals and foundations, we’re moving forward in a big way in 2007. In January, we will begin shooting our final interviews with friends and acquaintances of Pancho. I'm not about to name names, but we've got some wonderful people lined up who will be a part of the film. They'll supplement interviews we’ve already conducted with a host of aviation luminaries that included Chuck Yeager, Bob Hoover, Buzz Aldrin, Babe Story and Robert Cardenas.

A lot of work remains, and a great deal of fundraising as well. You can help make it all possible by donating to our project through KOCE-TV (see the donations page on this website). Every gift is tax-deductible, and corporate sponsorship welcome.

Check in with us to find out about our progress, and tell your friends what we're up to. Tell them, the Pancho Barnes documentary is coming...and with a roar!

Happy holidays and happy New Year!

Nick Spark Producer

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The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club ©2008-2010 Nick Spark Productions, LLC.