Saving Hubble | The Hubble Space Telescope

If part of the process of self-distributing an independent documentary film (and hopefully building community, and possibly modeling best practices for launching a non-violent revolution against the status quo) is surviving the pitfalls that come when planning screenings in the partitioned ballrooms of hotels like the Hilton Doubletree Resort, 440 South Alvernon Way in Tucson, Arizona, then I’m proud to report that I’m getting by. 

I should be clear that the hotel itself exceeded my expectations: a warm chocolate-chip cookie on arrival, a comfortable bed, appropriate landscaping.  The challenge was assembling an audience for an event planned in conjunction with a professional conference that ended a full 35 minutes before the event was set to begin and watching the conference attendees vanish like spit from a corners of a thirsty cowboy’s mouth in the desert heat. 

Saving Hubble | The Hubble Space Telescope

Other hardships to that point included the staggering temperatures of the American Southwest in August, milquetoast AV techs and passive-aggressive event-coordinators, guilt over not spending more time in New York this summer with my girlfriend in favor of constantly being on the road to place myself in situations like this, and monsoons.

Well, we did it.  By we, I am referring to all my dissociative identities, over 150 audience members, and an exceptionally well-qualified panel of scientists including University of Arizona Dean Joaquin Ruiz, world-class astronomers Chris Impey and Tod Lauer and Astronomer-Journalist-HubbleRoadshowGodfather Rick Fienberg, moderated by astronomy educator Stephen Pompea. 

In truth, I should also give credit to Lisa, the bartender at the Old Pueblo Grill, who revived me earlier in the day with a cold beer following a half mile crawl across the barren sidewalks of Tucson, past the prickly pear and saguaro, in a desperate attempt to eat something other than rice and beans from the fajita bar at the hotel.  Mom, you were right, an oven is a dry heat too.

A word about the audience: it was awesome.  Loud belly laughs throughout, whether they were professional educators with the conference or astronomy fans from the University or the city.  If you were with the conference and you flew out early (or if you blew off the movie to eat shit fajitas at the hotel restaurant), well pilgrim, you missed. 

You are hereby obliged to sponsor a Saving Hubble screening at your research institute, high school or observatory, and you won’t regret it.  Do you hear the buzz?  It’s because we’re cooking up something special and we want you on board.

A quick shootout to two big supporters: SkyBar in Tucson and Oceanside Photo and Telescope.  SkyBar is a groovy solar-powered astronomy bar that sports its own telescope and hosts a riotous open mic night.  They also made us some free pizzas from Brooklyn Tony’s next door.  I’m wary of any pizzeria that lays claim to New York-style from the safety of the high desert, but Tony Vaccaro tosses some serious pie. 

Oceanside has offered a whole other level of kindness to the Roadshow over the past year.  Supporters of two screenings to date, we are truly in debt to this early, enthusiastic supporter.  Craig & company: know that what we are achieving is your success too.  Thank you, deeply.

So what is this all this crazy Roadshow business? Can’t I just see Saving Hubble on Netflix?

Well maybe someday on the whole Netflix thing but not yet. Here’s the shortest possible answer to your first question: I’m self distributing Saving Hubble through a series of events I call “Hubble Roadshow” because a) I believe in alter and c) I haven’t worked out the requisite distribution partnerships necessary to get the film on Netflix, on television, and goodness gracious, in real old-fashioned movie theaters. These things are coming. Negotiations are ongoing for the best possible ways to make the film accessible in these other venues. But for now, it’s gonna be a Roadshow Event and believe me when I tell you, it’s gonna be fantastic.

OK, ok, a Roadshow event. I get it. So what the hell is a Roadshow event!?

Easy Friend. You may have high blood pressure. A Roadshow event is a screening of Saving Hubble, crossed with socializing and stargazing. Each Roadshow event is unique, but the general principle is that it creates an opportunity for scientific engagement and community building by crossing a local sneak preview of Saving Hubble with illuminating presentations and panel discussions, informal stargazing and at times, socializing with food and drink. I have been invited to develop and present Hubble Roadshow events with the sponsorship of professional science organizations, astronomy and “maker” clubs, community organizations, churches and synagogues.

Right… uh, wow, cool. OK, so where are these Roadshow events? How do I attend?

A few things: Roadshow events don’t magically appear. They are created. You have to invite me to screen the movie. Unlike the latest Rolling Stones tour, I’m not in the practice of booking out the local sports arena for the night. Because I am completely un-financed in this venture, I rely on both invitations to plan and execute Hubble Roadshow events and I collaborate with organizers in finding the funds necessary to fully realize Hubble Roadshow events. Here it is: you or your group wants to plan a Roadshow event. You contact me. We figure out the following: Venue (where’s it going to be), Audience (who’s going to come), Programming (before and after screening the movie: what kinds of awesome things are we going to do?), Budget (what’s it all going to cost and how to make it work: AV, travel fees, etc.). So that’s what you need to know if you want to be of assistance in bringing an event to life. If getting involved to that degree seems crazy to you– and it probably does to most, but blessedly not all– then you should {get on our email list}{link to contact in new window} WITH your zip code, and I’ll let you know when Hubble is coming to town. In the event that the Roadshow doesn’t make it to your town, you should still give me your email address. I’ll let you know when it’s available for viewing on the web or on DVD.

Can you just send me a copy of Saving Hubble? I just want to see your darn movie!

Friend, I’m worried about your stress level. And, yes, I appreciate that you’re eagerly anticipating seeing the film. I can’t just send you a copy. I haven’t even made DVDs yet! That’s coming, but I want you to really dig what I’m trying to do with the whole Roadshow thing and listen closely to this next part, it’s the pearl: I’ve made the conscious choice to take the whole distribution mechanism of how movies reach audiences and strip it, so that it’s simple and transparent and most importantly, functional. The way you see Saving Hubble is you ask. That’s it! But I can’t do it for free because I have to sustain myself. Believe me when I tell you I’m not getting rich this way. But I’m having fun. We’re all having fun. We’re all having a ton of fun.

What do you mean when you say Hubble Roadshow events are a ton of fun and I should really do what I can to be a part of the Roadshow experience while it lasts?

The Roadshow’s we’ve done (and we = me and all the local partners with whom I’ve developed Roadshow events) have been memorable events for everyone involved. A Roadshow event in suburban Chicago featured an outdoor screening of the film at a minor league baseball stadium featuring 10 telescopes of varying sizes and styles; A Roadshow panel at a Colorado Springs astronautics convention (NSS) featured a post-film conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson; An event in Tucson featured a panel discussion with two professional Hubble Astronomers, the former editor of Sky and Telescope and the Dean of the University of Arizona college of science. Roadshow events have now taken place in both Beijing and Baton Rouge. I’m on hand at every event to talk about my experiences connecting with Hubble and the Hubble family. Audience sizes range from 50 to 500 and each event has its own character. I’m exceptionally proud to have been a part of creating these experiences along with my partners and I truly hope to do of these events. They are transformative for everyone involved.

You know what you should do? You should really take a bus and make a traveling Hubble exhibit out of it, traveling from town to town showing the movie and educating the public about the things we now know about the universe thanks to Hubble and the other great advances in modern astronomy and space technology!

That is a fantastic idea. Can you help me do that? I’ve wanted to for some time and have even collaborated with museum educators, exhibit designers and even mechanics on how to make something like this a reality. It turns out, it can be done relatively cheaply and would be an amazing focal point for the Roadshow. In fact, this Hubble Roadshow “community,” if I may be so bold, inspires me all the time with wonderful ideas for unconventional ways to share the beauty and wonder of astronomy and the amazing story of Hubble. Please, as a reader who has made it to the end of this silly FAQ treatise-in-disguise, consider joining this community by either signing up for the email list, emailing me directly through the contact form, or writing a big fat check in the interest of advancing the cause of science a few yards down the field?