Natalie Panek has spent her life focused on her biggest dream – to be the first to set foot on another planet. Natalie is an aerospace engineer, a pilot, an influencer, an avid explorer, and has made it to the top 100 of astronaut candidates. On an outdoor adventure to the Mars-like terrain of Moab, Utah she searches with her friend to reconcile life’s stumbles, redirections, and challenges in the pursuit of space travel.
Interview with Director/Producer Katherine DuBois
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I made the film because I was acting in Hollywood, getting nowhere fast, and feeling stuck. We are always asked, “who do you want to be when you grow up?” and we are expected to define ourselves by whatever one word we choose: actor, teacher, architect, lawyer. I was an actor and I was struggling to get access to anything that would make my time in LA valuable.
I was on a flight back to LA when I read a short article on Natalie Panek. A woman, my age, who defined herself by ALL the things she was: a robotics engineer, a public speaker, an influencer, an explorer, an astronaut hopeful. It made me realize that I could abandon the “don't spread yourself thin” mentality and embrace 'divide and conquer'. I didn't have to be afraid to branch out. So I started traveling more, investing in hobbies, and quickly realized I loved directing and producing. I had found Natalie Panek's phone number online and called her up, saying, “I'm going to do a film on you but I don't know how I'm going to do it yet.” A few years later I called her up again and said that I was ready and found the funding. What better way to push forward than to share and highlight the person who inspired me.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
People should watch this film because we all hit roadblocks with our biggest, wildest, and most heartfelt dreams. This isn't just a story of inspiration where everyone wins big in the end. Everyone can relate to moments where they've had to redefine themselves and find a new way to make life exceptional and exciting.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Representation matters. I used to not understand why. I'd watch films or documentaries about men and derive insight from their stories. It wasn't until more content came out showing dynamic and interesting women did I realize that representation is a feeling. When I see two women race back to an off-road vehicle and go careening through red rock hills I FEEL like that could be me, I don't have to derive context. I want all young women explorers and scientists to feel this way. It's important everywhere but it is especially important in areas of the world where this representation is rare.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
I can't tell you. It would ruin the surprise.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
I like hearing the audience’s reactions – it means they are engaged.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Well, when you're in the post production process you totally lose perspective. It's like trying to determine if a recipe is going to be delicious by doing a bio analysis of the ingredients. By the end you don't even know what you've made or if it will taste good. In that way it has been a relief to have the film well received and gaining momentum in festivals.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I told myself that I'd make a name for myself. This is part of that.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Everything helps. Even an audience member who wants to show the film to their classroom is awesome. I'd like to get the film to be picked up by REI, Yeti, Patagonia… they have a great reputation and large audiences. I just want to share the film.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
Ideally? If people walked away from the film with a small sense that something for them has changed; that they have edged closer to giving themselves permission to dream big, or try again, or redefine their lives; that a young woman sees herself on screen.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
I talked with some high school robotics teams and one message was loud and clear: young women (in the US at least) don't want to be viewed as being stamped as 'women'; they just want to be seen as a member of the team. It's weird to them it be singled out based on gender. Of course this is an awesome step in the right direction and a bit different from what I experienced in my generation. However, representation is still so important and impactful. So how do we provide much needed representation without singling out women? That's the question I'm working on in my career.
Would you like to add anything else?
Whatever it is that you want, go after it.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I'm working with my Executive Producer to identify our next project. He loves tech and science, and I love story and people. We have a few ideas knocking around but if you have an idea (no director/producer attached) let me know.
Interview: January 2019
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Space to Explore
To be the first to set foot on another planet.
Length: 14 mins
Director: Katherine DuBois
Producer: Katherine DuBois
About the writer, director and producer:
KATHERINE DUBOIS is a director and producer of film and theater. As a producer Katherine has been involved in several award winning films such as 'Of Fortune and Gold' which won Best Film at the Boston International Film Festival, 'Pinch' which received winning laurels at festivals across the country, and her short narrative 'Back Home' played at the Cannes Film Festival's Court Metrage.
Key cast: Natalie Panek - Aerospace Engineer, Elizabeth Jens - Propulsion Engineer.
Looking for: distributors, journalists, active audience members.
Funders: Executive Producer Jeffrey Halis