August 11, 2011

The Legend of Pancho Barnes Flying High

Eight SCA Faculty and Alumni win Emmy

Awards season is underway in Los Angeles and the documentary The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club is an early bright spot for SCA. On August sixth, the film which includes nine SCA alumni and faculty in key positions won the Los Angeles Area Emmy for Arts & Culture / History.

“Winning the Emmy affirms what I knew all along about the topic of the film and its potential — but it also is a wonderful affirmation of all that effort, both by myself and by my team,” said Pancho Barnes writer/producer and SCA alumnus Nicholas Spark ‘96. “It is also a wonderful reward for all those people who supported us, spiritually and financially. I can't thank them all individually but I think they all recognize their contributions made this award possible.”

The hour-long documentary, which continues to air nationally on public television stations, chronicles the life and times of aviation pioneer Florence Lowe "Pancho" Barnes (1901-1975), one of the most colorful and accomplished women pilots of the earliest 20th Century.

“Pancho was ahead of her time in insisting on inventing a life for herself that demanded courage and delivered excitement and joy in every way thinkable – and she was irreverent to the max,” said SCA professor and director of The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club Amanda Pope. “Hers is a life I wanted to honor and explore.”

The film features interviews with Pancho's biographers and some of her good friends including famed test pilots R.A. "Bob" Hoover, Chuck Yeager and astronaut Buzz Aldrin. A slightly longer, uncensored version of the film previously garnered two audience awards and was voted Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Women's Film Festival in 2010.

“Making a documentary film like this one is a long, difficult journey. I raised money on a non-profit basis for this film, and Amanda Pope and I struggled mightily to put the project together,” continued Spark. “It took five years to fund raise, shoot, write, edit and then finish Pancho but Her story was absolutely irresistible to me. It's hard not to want to know more about a woman who was a rival of Amelia Earhart, worked as Hollywood's first female stunt pilot, and who said things like, ‘We had more fun in a week than most weenies have in a lifetime.’”

For more information, please visit -

SCA Alumni/Facutly on The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club
Nick T. Spark ’96 - Writer/Producer
Amanda Pope - Director
Clay Westervelt ’99 - D.P.
Harris Done ’87 - Additional Photography
Chad Wilson ’96 - Additional Photography
Stuart Sperling ’99 - Location Sound
Monique Zavistovski ’03 - Editing,
Adam King ’06 - Post Production Sound
Jin Wha Lee ’06 - Special Effects