I Am So Sad To Report that Toni Myers, the veteran filmmaker credited in more than 18 IMAX® films and a myriad of other film and television projects spanning a multi-faceted career of over 40 years, has died at age 75. She passed away on Monday, February 18th, mere months after her unforgettable presentation at the Inaugural Ebert Symposium on Empathy for the Universe last October 1. She was as much a star as the over 150 astronauts she taught to film in space, and was known as the Spielberg of space films. In fact, the day before her presentation at the University of Illinois, she received a call from the International Space Station which she at first thought was a hoax, but quickly learned was a call to wish her a Happy Birthday. She was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks after that visit.
A recipient of many awards, one of the last and most precious was presented to her a few days prior to her passing. Ms. Myers received the national Companion of the Order of Canada from G.G. Julie Payette, the Governor General of Canada and former astronaut. The ceremony on February 15th, including a NASA tribute, occurred at her home. Canadian astronauts Dave Williams and Roberta Bondar were in attendance as well. Ms. Myers died peacefully at her home in Toronto with her family by her side. We send deepest condolences to her family. She was predeceased by her husband, painter and filmmaker Michael Myers, in 2010. She is survived by her son, step-daughter, and three grandchildren.
Born on September 29th, 1943, to Douglas and Norah Trow, Myers attended Branksome Hall and the Ontario College of Art in Toronto before becoming an assistant editor on commercials, episodes of the CBC series "Telescope" and director Don Owen's groundbreaking 1964 film "Nobody Waved Goodbye." She also worked on the CBC public affairs program "This Hour Has Seven Days" and the drama "Forest Rangers", Canada's first TV show shot in color. A pivotal meeting with future IMAX co-founder Graeme Ferguson in 1965 led to a 50-year partnership between the pair that included some of the finest documentaries ever made for IMAX.
The Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) awarded Myers with outstanding, lifetime achievement award in 2018 for her pioneering vision. She was editor and writer of IMAX’s groundbreaking space trilogy: "The Dream Is Alive," "Blue Planet" and "Destiny in Space." With the advent of IMAX®3D, Myers wrote, edited, and co-produced the award-winning "Deep Sea 3D," and "Under the Sea 3D" with Howard and Michele Hall. She was Producer/Director/Writer/Editor of "Space Station 3D" and "Hubble 3D," each awarded Best Film by the Giant Screen Cinema Association, and among the most successful IMAX documentaries ever made. Myers enjoyed a long and productive association with NASA as a key member of the IMAX team that has trained 155 astronauts and cosmonauts in IMAX film making for 24 missions flown over 25 years.
She worked closely with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, marrying data from space-based observatories with pioneering computer techniques to allow audiences of all ages to explore the wonders of the cosmos in IMAX. To date, over 100 million people have seen the IMAX space films worldwide. In addition to her IMAX work, Myers has many television drama and feature films to her credit, including pioneering music films with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and Santana. Her music skills were later utilized as Associate Producer and Supervising Editor on the IMAX film "Rolling Stones at the Max."
Myers produced and directed the 3D IMAX film "A Beautiful Planet" for which Myers and team trained four International Space Station crews who captured material for the film over a year aboard the Station. The film documents life aboard the completed Station, and examines the changes to our Earth as seen from the crews’ unique perspective in orbit. It was narrated by Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence and was released in Spring 2016. "A Beautiful Planet" received a special presentation at last fall's inaugural Ebert Symposium in Champaign, Illinois.
Donna Cox of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications considered Ms. Myers a friend and said: "Toni was a great human being, writer, director, photographer and friend. She valued all who worked with her, including our AVL team and the 155 astronauts that she trained. She is honored and remembered in countless ways with her pioneering contributions to IMAX space movies, science outreach and raising the awareness of our beautiful planet and universe. We will all greatly miss her."
Various former NASA astronauts paid tribute to Myers via Twitter, including Tom Jones, who hailed her as an "IMAX genius." "The first film on shuttle I recall seeing – 'Toni's The Dream is Alive' – blew me away," he wrote. "I wanted to be a part of that adventure. We’ll miss Toni, but her films will never be eclipsed." Mark Polansky shared Jones' sentiments, noting, "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." Another guest of the Ebert Symposium, Astronaut Terry Virts, recalled collaborating with Myers on "A Beautiful Planet," calling it the highlight of his career in space. "Toni's legacy will live on forever," he tweeted.
In a 2014 short film for IMAX, filmmaker Christopher Nolan credited Myers' astonishing footage of space exploration with inspiring his approach to "Interstellar." "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," said Nolan.
Header photo courtesy of IMAX Corp.