Tuesday, June 25, 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)"
16 July 2007

An Update on Our Production

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Well folks, we've got a landmark to report. We're proud to announce that as of late June, we've wrapped shooting of interviews for the Pancho documentary. True, we might try to shoot one more thing — to be announced down the line — but as of this week we've started post-production on the film. Joining Amanda Pope and I in this endeavour is editor Monique Zavitovsky, who is fresh off a wonderful film that won the audience award at the Sarasota Film Festival called Circus Rosaire.

More on Monique and our editing process later. Meantime, you'll continue to read reports in the Production Journal about our last batch of interviews.

I do want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported the project, and that includes a lot of people who just kept cheering us on. Some of you have also opened your checkbooks up for us, and that's something to be encouraged. Now that we're in the home stretch of post-production, the need for financial support is greater than ever. Please consider making a donation (visit our "donate" link in the menu bar above) and keep in mind that since we're affiliated with KOCE-TV (PBS of Orange County, CA) it's tax-deductible. And, if you are thinking of gifting, please ask at your workplace to see if they offer matching gifts to PBS. Thanks to everyone for your continued support and interest, and stay tuned as we continue our effort to put this extraordinary American woman named "Pancho" right where she deserves — back in the public eye.

Several nice people have contacted me recently, offering volunteer help with the production. We can use some help, but we have some specific needs. Down the line, we'd like to get someone involved in helping promote our project. We're also seeking people with a knowledge of Photoshop and AfterEffects who might volunteer to restore some of the damaged photos we have, and help animate "moves" on them. We're still working out exactly how we're going to go about this — keep in mind we just finished shooting — but if you'd like to get involved contact us using the link above.

One of the best things you can do is simply to help spread the word about our project. It seems incredible, but some of the most wonderful people that we interviewed, and some of the best photos and other materials we've found, have come to us from total strangers who heard about the film through a friend!

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