13 February 2009

A Title and a Poster ... for a Legend

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Those of you who have been tracking our production through the course of the many months it has taken, know that our film never really had a title. We originally referred to it as the “Pancho Barnes Documentary Project” or the “Pancho Barnes Film”. In fact, our original web address, www.PanchoBarnesFilm.com, reflected the fact that we really didn’t know what we wanted to call our film! Suggested titles ranged from “A Woman Called Pancho” (too blah) to “The Happy Bottom Riding Club” (already the name of a book – and besides, our story is about Pancho’s whole life, not just her time as a hotelier) to “Pancho Barnes!” (nice, but not that intriguing).

In the end, after a long debate, Amanda Pope and I agreed that there could be no better title than one our friend, musician Russ McDaniel suggested: “The Legend of Pancho Barnes." We've expanded it slightly for effect, to "The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club”. It’s a title that, as we’ve lived with it for a little while, seems more and more appropriate. Because not only is Pancho a legendary figure, but she did everything she could during her lifetime to position herself that way.

We've learned that, if Pancho saw a way to garner publicity, or help spread a shocking rumor about herself, she generally took it! We’ve grown accustomed to hearing some crazy stories as we meet people at presentations, about how Pancho did this, did that, said this, and said that. Some of these stories are true, but many of them are – how shall we put it? -- a little hard to believe. One aspect of our film, is that early on we realized it was going to be hard to distinguish fact from fiction when it came to Pancho. So, we embraced that aspect of her character. As Jimmy Stewart’s character says in that wonderful John Ford movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, sometimes you have to “print the legend”. (Of course, it is our responsibility as documentarians not to mislead anyone ... so we tried to make it fairly obvious where we scratched the historical record.)

For a film about a legend, we sought out the artistic talents of Joe Jones. Joe, who is well known in the aviation community for his stellar renderings of classic airplanes, seemed to be the perfect choice as art director for our film. Little did we realize how much enthusiasm Joe had for Pancho! Within just a few weeks of contacting him, Joe had a rough sketch of a poster ready for review. When Amanda and I opened the PDF file on our computers, we were blown away. Clearly, Joe understood the heart of our film and the spirit of Pancho. The poster, which had an appropriate vintage look, clearly exuded Pancho’s toughness and swagger. Front and center in the image is Pancho and her famous Mystery Ship, in which she set a women’s air speed record. Above the title graphic, zooms Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1. The poster thus neatly evokes Pancho’s role in two important eras of aviation: the Golden Age of Flight in the 20’s and 30’s, and the early jet and rocket plane era of the 40’s and 50’s.

The finished piece, which took Joe several weeks of painstaking work, has finally been delivered. It is something to behold, an eye-catching reverie that has been getting rave reviews. Joe’s design for our main titles and text graphics have also been warmly received. Well done Joe, and don’t let Hollywood go to your head! Joe’s poster art and our new title inspired us to make a big change, on that you’ll be seeing very soon as our newly redesigned website debuts. Look for it, along with a new promotional trailer, soon! For more information about Joe and see some of his amazing creations, visit his website, click here