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

Travel Air Reunion at Flabob Oct. 2nd

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The Legend of Pancho Barnes will be screeningTravelAir2 at the West Coast Travel Air Reunion at Flabob Airport in Riverside on Friday, October 2.  This unique fly in event is made possible by the Travel Air Restorers Association and our friends at Flabob, notably John Lyon and Tom Wathen.  For those of you who have never been out to Flabob, it is quite an intriguing place.  The airport was founded in 1925 as Riverside's municipal airport, and retains quite a bit of its historic character.

Pancho probably flew in to Flabob on occasion, and if she did she most likely did so in one of her Travel Air biplanes.  She owned at least two, including a "Speedwing" (so-called because its reinforced wings allowed high speed maneuvering) previously owned by director Howard Hawks.  That was the airplane Pancho used during the recording of sound effects for the movie "Hell's Angels", since its big engine made a heck of a lot of noise.  Of course, Pancho's favorite Travel Air aircraft was her Model R "Mystery Ship".  At the time she owned it, it was the fastest aircraft in the world.  The plane was so impressive that Union Oil put Pancho under contract just as soon as they could, and paid her to fly it up and down the West Coast.

Want to join us at Flabob?  Well, don't wait.  There will be only a limited number of seats available.  RSVP by calling Kathy at (951) 683-2309 x 104, or email her: kathy(at sign)

Directions and more information about Flabob are located at this link.


What a Premiere it Was!

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Aero5It was a screening that almost didn't happen! Not that any of our guests knew, but during the run-up to the premiere Los Angeles screening of The Legend of Pancho Barnes, frantic efforts were being made to get the projection system at the Aero Theater to operate.  The culprit?  Us, of course!  It turns out that in our desire to make sure the picture looked and sounded great, we inadvertently went a bit too far . . .   Not to bore you with technical details, but the projection system at the Aero is analog, and our master tape is digital.  24 hours before our screening, we found out that in order to make our surround sound work, we'd need a special device to convert our digital audio signal to analog.  Help!  But amazingly, Dolby Laboratories came to our rescue.  Thanks to the assistance of VP David Gray, we had Dolby's Gary Meissner and all the equipment we'd need on site the day of the screening for free.  Turns out we really, really needed him, more on this in a second.  Anyway, shortly after Gary arrived we found out that not only do you need a special box to convert digital sound to analog, you also need one to convert digital picture to analog.  And we didn't have one of those!  Thankfully, our projectionist managed to locate the special computer board in a projector at UCLA, and with the clock now ticking on our screening, some kind soul drove it cross town for us.  But, when the board was plugged in, shazam!, no picture.  The speculation was that in plugging in the board, we'd fried it.  Yikes! and I mean a $10,000 yikes!  Panic was about to set in but thankfully, a cool head prevailed — Gary Meissner's.  He suggested everything be turned off, and then the board  re-seated and everything turned back on again.  It worked, and as a result we had amazing picture and sound for the screening.  Thank gosh.  (Thanks also to Robbie Adler, who made our initial contact with Dolby and oversaw the technical details with the screening).Aero2

And what a premiere it was! Sold out, and our theater filled to the brim with really special people including participants Bondi Abraham, Bob Cardenas, Lou D'Elia, Barbara Little, Patrice Demory, and Barbara Rowland, Don Kuhns, associate producers Dydia DeLyser and Nathan May, and crew members Monique Zavistovski (editor, shown at right with Amanda Pope), Clay Westervelt (director of photography), Chad Wilson (additional photography), Pam Dotson (production assistance), and others.  We also had many "relatives" of Pancho's, or those of her friends, in the audience including Pamela Shoop Sweeney (daughter of Pancho's friend Gen. Clarence Shoop), James Lowe (great, great grandson of Thaddeus Lowe) and more.  Special guests included KOCE-TV's station manager Ed Miskevich and CEO Mel Rogers, "One Six Right " director Brian Terwilliger, "Sky Chick" Ramona Cox, historic photo diva Carolyn Cole, motion picture pilots Clay Lacy and Stan McClain, a bunch of 99's, and a couple ladies who happen to fly 777's for United Airlines.  Everyone had a great time sitting in Motoart's custom chairs, and asking Donovan Fell and Dave Hall "how do you make this stuff?!"  The real action of the evening however, really took place in the silent auction, where dozens of bids were placed on a Happy Bottom-inspired Nat Nast shirt, and where the original membership card donated by the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate took home the grand prize — a bid of over $1000.  Proceeds benefitted the KOCE-TV Foundation and our production, which came much closer to being in the black thanks to all these wonderful, generous people.

Aero4After the show, our DVD was made available for sale for the first time EVER!  Suddenly there was a long line forming at the Aero...and out onto the street.  Bob Cardenas, Amanda and I signed posters, and the entire cast and crew signed DVDs and celebrated the end of a long journey.  I also want to mention, this entire event was engineered with great precision by Amy Montgomery, with some help by my beautiful wife Stephanie Ripps and a few other folks — Steve and Patrice would you take a bow for that magnificent silent auction?  How about Mike Salazar for the beautiful photo boxes in front of the Aero?  And thanks to Gwen Deglise and Grant and Nick and Griffin at the Aero and the American Cinematheque for everything.

Now, I gotta admit, I'm pretty much exhausted.  I've got to catch up on my sleep.  But what's that you say ... yes you're right.  Let's do it again sometime — soon!

See more photos from the event by clicking here.

(Photo at left: Nick Spark and Bob Cardenas sign a poster for Barbara Rowland).

Pancho Barnes Loved her Travel Airs

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The Legend of Pancho Barnes will be screening at the West Coast Travel Air Reunion at Flabob Airport in Riverside on Friday, October 2.  This unique fly in event is made possible by the Travel Air Restorers Association and our friends at Flabob, notably John Lyon and Tom Wathen.  The seventh oldest surviving airport in California, Flabob was founded in 1925 as Riverside's municipal airport. Pancho probably flew in to Flabob on occasion, and if she did she most likely did so in one of her Travel Air biplanes.  Want to join in the fun?  RSVP by calling Kathy at (951) 683-2309 x 104, or email her: kathy(at sign) 


Legend of Pancho Barnes DVD Released!

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On October 1, 2009 The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club will be released on DVD.  This deluxe DVD features both the broadcast (57 minute) and extended version (64 minute) of the documentary, along with nearly 18 minutes of additional video including deleted scenes. It also features an audio commentary from writer/producer Nick Spark and director Amanda Pope, a study guide for secondary school students, and more.  To pre-order, click HERE.


A DVD Takes Wing

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What is the top #1 question we get asked about the film?  Well, I don't have to think twice about it — it's "When are you putting Pancho out on DVD?"  That's a great question and we are glad everyone's been asking it! 

Before I answer though, let me back up for a moment.  Long before The Legend of Pancho Barnes was finished, in fact before it was even "picture locked", Amanda Pope, Monique Zavistovski and I began talking about the DVD.  Thinking about the content of a DVD when you've got an rough cut film with a beginning, but no middle or end (which is how it was way back when) may seem a bit foolish.  Yet at the same time it can serve a useful function.  When it comes to paring down a film, and removing fascinating-but-all-too-
extraneous sections that you or someone else loves, a great psychological crutch is to say: "We've got to cut it out for now, but if it has to make a comeback it well.  Otherwise don't despair, we'll put it on the DVD as an 'additional scene'."  Wow did we end up with a lot of candidates for 'additional scenes'!  The first (terribly boring) cut of the movie was over two hours; the end product (quite a bit better thank you) is just a little over sixty-four minutes.  

DVD0We really started work on the DVD roughly eight months ago.  That's when Amanda, Monique, our post-production supervisor Robbie Adler and I embarked on a digital rescue mission.  The goal was to locate and retrieve precious "lost" scenes we all remembered but had gradually trimmed out of the movie.  Some we'd kept in special folders in the computer so we knew we they'd be, but others were hiding in obscure parts of obsolete cuts like outlaws on the run. Once they were located, and it took quite a bit of doing, they often seemed different than we'd remembered.  But I think in every case it was obvious why we'd cut them out.  (Case in point: a long segment we'd made about how Pancho's grandfather Thaddeus Lowe lost his fortune building a railway up the San Gabriel mountains.  Lowe's tragic story had many fascinating parallels to Pancho's, yet in the end we could not justify including such an elaborate tangent.  But what a wonderful additional scene it made, once Monique got her hands on it.)

While Monique and Robbie re-worked and revised segments in the editing room, I contacted the International Women's Air and Space Museum to get work started on another piece of our planned DVD.  Amanda and I have always viewed Pancho's story as one we'd like to share with students, and young women in particular.  To enable access to the program, and assist with students' comprehension of Pancho's life and times, we determined that a study guide was a necessity.  On that basis, and with the permission of the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate and financial support from the Edward and Marie Matthews Foundation, the IWASM worked with us to create a study guide for the film.  Eventually it would be turned into the Portable Document Format -- PDF -- that could be included on every copy of the DVD, or even posted on the Internet.

Normally, planning and authoring a DVD is a long, hard process that is made more difficult by the fact that outside talent has to be brought in to make it all happen.  But lucky for us, in an earlier part of his career Robbie had spent a couple of years authoring DVDs for major Hollywood studios, and I'd already had a great experience working with him on the DVD for my film Regulus: The First Nuclear Missile Submarines.  So in addition to re-working some of our "lost" scenes and keeping a watch over post production issues, the task fell to Robbie to design a menu system for our DVD.  In a couple of cases where we wanted to have animated menus, Robbie also designed rough sketches in Final Cut and then revised them based on Amanda's and my notes.  When we were happy with what we saw, Robbie would hand off the material to digital artist Jeff Dietrich, who finessed and finished them, and sent them back for final placement.

The DVD was taking shape in terms of content, but the look was also a concern.  By now, we'd worked with aviation artist Joe Jones to create an overall set of graphic principles for the film, and we had a magnificent Joe Jones-designed poster and main title sequence that set a tone for the project.  It was up to a wonderful artist named Diana Kado, to assess Jones' work and expand upon it in an appropriate way for our DVD menusPanchoBox3D.  Using historic photographs and documents, blueprints of Pancho's Mystery Ship, and a photo of clouds taken from her backyard to fill in some gaps, Kado patiently designed our menus (above), and revised them as the DVD grew in scope.  The end result is something to behold.  

Now, some of the big pieces began falling into place.  Monique and Robbie delivered their additional scenes, the IWASM came through with a beautiful study guide, and Amanda and I sat down and recorded a commentary track.  Then Robbie took Diana's menus and Jeff's animations, and all of our media, and literally disappeared into his office.  When he emerged from his lair a few days later, he had a test DVD ready to play.  As fate would have it, we had to revise it.  Then we revised it again — just to get the bugs out.  But on the third pass, it did pass — and with flying colors.     

Now there was only one step remaining.  Before our DVD could go out in the world and get as they say, "replicated", it needed to be packaged.  Graphic designer and artist Michael Carter went to work to design a disc label and box insert.  I'd say more about that process, but I think the results speak for themselves (left)!

So now you may ask again, that number one question, just when is the DVD going to be available for sale?  And now since you've been patient I'll give you an answer.  The answer is soon — very soon.  In fact, if you visit by clicking on this link, you just might be able to pre-order it right now.

Premiere Gets into High Gear !

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TicketNow that September is almost here, it's time to make some announcements concerning the premiere event at the Aero Theater on the 10th.  If you are among the "lucky few" who had "the right stuff" and managed to reserve tickets, read on!


Metered and free street parking is available on Montana Avenue and the cross streets surrounding the Aero. Please check posted signs. North of Montana parking is generally limited to two hours until  6 and sometimes 7 PM.  After that you can park for free North of Montana for the duration of the movie. There is plentiful street parking.

If you are handicapped or need assistance, there is a loading area immediately in front of the Aero Theater.  The theater has a number of areas reserved for wheelchairs, and our reception area is wheelchair accessible.


Several people have asked "Where are my tickets?"  so we want to remind everyone, tickets will not be sent to you by mail. If you purchased tickets through our website, you will need to check in prior to the screening at our Will Call area (see below).  You may be asked to present an I.D.


Now then, our event at the Aero officially begins at 7:30 p.m., but we're encouraging everyone to come early.  Montana Blvd. is a wonderful shopping and restaurant district and you can spend a lovely afternoon walking the street, browsing shops and having dinner.  Beginning at 6 p.m., we'll open the doors on a temporary "Happy Bottom Riding Club" of sorts.  Thanks to the Aero's landlords J.S. Rosenfield & Co., we've managed to secure the storefront next to the Aero for this reception.  Join us for drinks and h'or d'oeuvres, and talk to cast and crew.  You can also pick up your Will Call tickets, see our silent auction items, get a signed poster, and admire aviation-inspired artwork provided by our friends at Motoart.


There's still time to donate items for our silent auction.  We're seeking aviation memorabilia, books, gift certificates and apparel -- you name it!  Some of the neat things that have trickled in so far include a poster signed by Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, DVDs signed by One Six Right director Brian Terwilliger, a vintage photo of Pancho signed by famed photographer Al Bresnik (courtesy Gabrielle Bresnik), and limited edition versions of our movie poster signed by aviation artist Joe Jones.


This event will present a wonderful and unique opportunity to interface with a lot of dynamic people in aviation and Hollywood.  If you have an interest in helping sponsor our screening, contact us using the form on this website.


Contact us using the form at the top of the page or click here.

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