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New Name for Film - "In Saturn's Rings"


8 years ago…on July 1st, 2004….after an epic 7 year journey of over 3.5 billion kilometers (2.2 billion miles), the Cassini-Huygensspacecraft arrived at Saturn. I watched it live, in the wee hours of the morning as it completed its amazing braking maneuver right through Saturn’s Rings.

Outside In is now “In Saturn’s Rings”

That’s the moment my journey begin. I had been very discouraged by the lack of media coverage of Cassini’s mission but the perfection of its arrival followed the spectacular closeup images of Saturn’s Rings filled me with awe and excitement. My first thought was “wouldn’t it be amazing to have a film or video camera right there, taking footage of Saturn and the rings”.

The very next day, I wrote a 5 page dialog between two characters debating “why should we explore space?” using Cassini’s photographs as the point of discussion. It was too long for a local film competition, so I started it as a one act play. I called it “Outside In“.

Why “Outside In“? Here’s what my very first draft said:

“Do you what “Outside In” means?” “No.” “It’s an actor’s term. Some actors work from the “inside out”.  In other words, they discover the character from their mental, emotional and psychological inner life. It’s a more modern way of working, more American.” “And outside in.” “Outside In is an older, you could say an ancient, technique. It mean an actor using a costume, a prop, an external clue to discover what the character is really about – like putting on a costume, or the beginnings of theater and just using mask. I think it’s about learning about ourselves, outside in.”

So the dialog was really about the “Overview Effect”, a termed coined by author Frank White to describe the powerful shift in awareness that humans experience journeying to space and seeing Earth – from the Outside In.

But so much has happened since then. The one-act play turned into a 10 minute experimental film. Then the experimental film turned into a 15 minute planetarium film. The big turn was during a chance meeting with James Hyder, Editor and Publisher of LF Examiner, he said “You have to make this as a movie for IMAX theaters”. The original dialogue began to go away, replaced by narration. A brief discussion of “Outside In” and the Overview Effect remained in the film, but even that was fading. I spent years figuring how to animate photographs into motion – the biggest challenge of course was Saturn’s Rings.

Finally, in 2009, after re-watching my favorite film “2001: A Space Odyssey“, I realized the best approach for the film was without dialog, without narration, to allow audience around the world to experience the film as a pure journey, an astronaut’s journey which ends, returning home to gaze on our lovely, fragile blue planet from space.

So while “Outside In” and the Overview Effect are still very much a part of the foundation of the film, it’s no longer the best title for the film. This has become clear as a number of people still have trouble remembering the title as it has no connection to the visuals they see. More critically, each time I screen work-in-progress footage for the giant screen and IMAX theater industry, they fill out surveys that rate the films’ titles. Every year “Outside In” scored “poor” or “very poor”. So this will hurt the film’s chances of being seen as widely as possible.

I’ve wanted to change the title for a couple of years, but change is easy, improvement is hard. A great title just can’t be a cool title – it needs to be self-evident as you watch the film unfold. It needs to be connected to the deepest core meaning of the film.


This is actually pretty easy although it took a lot of brainstorming and thinking before one of those forehead slapping “duh” moments. The climax of the film occurs after the dramatic fly-through of the Saturnian system, including highlights at Enceladus and Titan. The climatic shot is the famous photograph by Cassini – and my personal favorite – of Saturn backlit by the Sun.

There is a small blue dot in the backlit rings – what is the dot? It’s us, it’s our home, it’s Earth..”In Saturn’s Rings“. That’s the emotion climax of the film and the perfect title.

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