Wednesday, June 19, 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)"
08 January 2010

Catching Up with Our Talented Crew!

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CircusRosaireOne of the wonderful things about making a film is that you get to work with wonderful and talented people.  In the case of "Pancho" we were truly blessed with an amazing crew.  Most of them are friends of ours from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, where I graduated from, and where Amanda Pope is a professor.  U.S.C. graduates or not, our crew's been extra busy with their own projects this past year.  A great example is our director of photography Clay Westervelt.  He just directed and produced a documentary film about legendary B-picture director Jim Wynorski entitled Popatopolis.  (The title, in case you were wondering, derives from the fact that Wynorski's pictures often involve gratuitous toplessness on the part of shapely actresses!)  Wynorski, who has literally directed hundreds of campy films that appear on a regular basis on cable television and in the video store, is the type of incredible character that only a business like Hollywood could produce.  In an era of shrinking budgets, Wynorski is forced to shoot a full-length feature film ... not in three months ... not in three weeks... but in three days' time.  The chronicle of how this film is made is alternatively hilarious, ridiculous and poignant, showing how one person's passion for bad filmmaking can endure against all odds.  An altogether different type of story is related in Circus Rosaire, a film produced by our cameraman Chad Wilson and his wife PopatopolisRobyn Bliley and cut by "Pancho" editor Monique Zavistovski. This documentary follows several generations of the Rosaire family as they struggle to keep their traditional "small top" circus in business.  A truly memorable tale full of trained chimps, horses and tigers and the people who love working with them, this is one doc you won't want to miss.  Another poignant film that involves animals is War Dogs of the Pacific, directed by our other cameraman Harris Done.  I haven't seen this one yet, but I understand that this chronicle of Marine Corps. dog platoons and the bonds made between young WarDogsinfantrymen and their canine servants is absolutely compelling.  Some of the other members of our crew have also been working hard at creative pursuits.  Sound man Stu Sperling recently had a series of photographs chronicling the decay of man-made objects on exhibit at the Santa Fe Center for Photography.  Our composers Nathan Wang and Knox Summerour have both been busy with new projects, and Monique Z. has been cutting a documentary about Japanese-American child custody battles.   Last but certainly not least, Amanda Pope has been finishing up a new documentary film that she co-directed with Tchavdar Georgiev.  Entitled The Desert of Forbidden Art, it documents a fabulous collection of modern Soviet art that was assembled in secret by a dissident museum director.  The film was just recently completed and will make its film festival debut in the near future.  Stay tuned!

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