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The first giant screen film to span seven continents encapsulates the incredible power of flight

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Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
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Brian Terwilliger, director and producer, "Living in the Age of Airplanes."

Talk to the director and producer of the giant screen film “Living in the Age of Airplanes,” for more than 20 seconds and you’ll realize: this guy digs airplanes. Brian Terwilliger, whose cinematic resume has been built on documenting the power of flight, said that he wanted to make audiences feel the same awe with his most recent feature, now playing at the Saint Louis Science Center.

“We’ve never known an age where we can fly so fast, so far, so easily or have so much of the world come to us on airplanes every day,” said Terwilliger. “It is difficult to have the perspective of a world so long ago, and it wasn’t so long ago, when this wasn’t possible. It used to be migrations, now it is vacations.”

Terwilliger says the film can be split into two parts—an age where humans had to use nature as a means to move around and an age where humans realized they could create their own power.

“As I’ve looked at aviation films, what I found to be the ultimate core of this film is that we live in this time of this incredibly fascinating ability of aviation but there is more in association with complaining about it… [this film] is juxtaposing those two and having people walk out of the theatre and say ‘we’re living in a science fiction film.’ I want people to be amazed with what they already have.”

The film is narrated by Harrison Ford to bind the ideas, concepts and philosophy of flying into a film that spans about 200,000 years in the history of flight. Filming spanned 95 different locations across seven continents, becoming the first giant screen film to do so.

“I needed to get out there and show the connectivity,” Terwilliger said. Connectivity, that is, that wouldn’t be possible without airplanes.

Related: New Science Center exhibit comes with Boeing test pilots and engineers to spark STEM career interest

At any given moment, there are a quarter of a million people flying in airplanes, he said. Communicating how mind-blowing a number like that is, was one of the purposes of the film.

Even explaining how he got from Los Angeles to St. Louis for the local premiere of the movie is awe-inspiring to Terwilliger. He explained that even though he had to deal with traffic and long lines at the airport, he was still able to get to the Science Center from Los Angeles (and eat a pretty decent dinner too), in the time it would have taken him to drive from Los Angeles to the border of Arizona and New Mexico.

“To get from one coast to another and you can be back before the sun even sets? That’s crazy talk,” he said. “It is like saying you can be from St. Louis to New York in 45 minutes, it is impossible, but it is just like a few years ago where it would take a week or two weeks. It is incredible how something that’s impossible can not only become possible but nearly perfected.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.

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