Awarded IMAX Filmmaker Toni Myers Dies at 75

3D Photo: The late Ray Zone with IMAX co-founder Graeme Ferguson and Toni Myers in 2006.

Former NASA astronaut Tom Jones on his Twitter account paid tribute to Toni Myers as an “Imax genius.” “The first film on shuttle I recall seeing Toni’s “The Dream is Alive,” blew me away. I wanted to be a part of that adventure. We’ll miss Toni, but her films will never be eclipsed,” Fellow NASA astronaut Mark Polansky also recalled Myers with his own tweet: “Toni was an artist who brought human space exploration alive to everyone. Toni’s work on Imax films such as “The Dream is Alive,” ISS, and more will live forever, as will her legacy. Godspeed, Toni.” And yet another NASA astronaut who learned the filmmaking ropes from Myers, Terry Virts, recalled his collaboration on the 2016 documentary “A Beautiful Planet” as the highlight of his career in space. “Toni’s legacy will live on forever,” Virts tweeted. Myers was predeceased by her husband, painter and filmmaker Michael Myers, in 2010. She leaves behind son Jackson Myers and step-daughter Micki Myers.

I was so happy to hear that after filmmaker Toni Myers had received the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) 2018 Outstanding Achievement award for her lifetime achievements and contributions to giant screen industry; that Toni had been awarded the Order of Canada, one of Canada’s highest honors, and the NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Award, given for contributions to further the mission of the U.S. space program. Unfortunately, I hadn’t heard that last October Toni Myers had been diagnosed with cancer. Hollywood’s ultimate space heroine had turned 120 astronauts and cosmonauts into moviemakers for Disney’s “A Beautiful Planet” and Warner Bros. “Hubble 3D” and “Space Station 3D.” Myers, a Canadian filmmaker with nearly a 50-year career at Imax, had sent astronauts into space, after she taught them how to use Imax cameras and the basics of lighting, framing and recording sound and directed them as they sent back images for giant-screen documentaries she either wrote, directed, produced or edited. Starting with The Dream Is Alive” (1985) and then “Blue Planet” (1990), these films pointed cameras from space back to Earth to reveal the planet as never before. Myers for decades has made films for Imax that use high-resolution photography and video to project a bird’s eye view of a fast-changing Earth from space onto giant screens.

The Order of Canada was awarded to Myers in Toronto during a private ceremony led by Julie Payette, the governor general of Canada and fittingly herself a former Canadian astronaut who has logged two space flights. Myers’ most recent film was the 2016 Imax space documentary “A Beautiful Planet,” narrated by Jennifer Lawrence. She had also produced and directed “Hubble 3D,” narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, and produced, edited and co-wrote director Howard Hall’s 2009 underwater Imax 3D adventure “Under the Sea 3D,” narrated by Jim Carrey. Imax co-founder Graeme Ferguson, who first met Myers in 1965 in New York City, said she had created landmark space films seen by over 100 million viewers. “The astronauts who filmed Toni Myers’ space films have learned that they can trust her to tell their stories accurately and with sensitivity,” he added. Myers earlier received a contingent of American astronauts in Toronto, where she received the NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Award, given for contributions to further the mission of the U.S. space program. Others to have received the NASA tribute include Ridley Scott and Stephen Colbert.

There have been numerous IMAX 3D cameras and other 3D cameras taken up to the International Space Station and on other NASA voyages. There unfortunately was even an IMAX camera that was lost in a shuttle explosion. During the 2010 SXSW festival, NASA astronaut Michael J. Massimino, with Myers at his side, talked at the premiere of “Hubble 3D” about the value of an Imax documentary to help describe to his own family and a global audience the wonders of what he and fellow astronauts had seen in space. “When you see the stars and everything beautiful that I’ve seen…the frustrating thing is I don’t have my wife and my children and my friends and all of you with me watching, and how do I describe this, and nothing describes it like this movie does, and we knew that was a possibility [with Imax],” Massimino said.

Myers has also inspired Hollywood filmmakers, most notably Christopher Nolan, who in a 2014 short film for Imax pointed to her film documentation of space exploration as having helped him with “Interstellar” to give his own audience a sense of physically being in orbit. Recalled Nolan, “One of the first things I wanted to do for research was to view some original prints [of Imax documentaries], and we did a whole day’s viewing, hours and hours of incredible images, and the name on the films, it was Toni Myers.”

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