May 24, 2021—We celebrate the life and legacy of Graeme Ferguson,
IMAX co-founder, iconic filmmaker, and visionary behind the film format
that has thrilled and inspired millions of people around the world, including all of us in the giant screen industry. Not
only an innovator, but generous, humble, and kind, the industry has lost
a legend and a friend. Here, some of his friends and colleagues share
their memories and express their gratitude.
Toronto native Graeme Ferguson, who died on May 8 at the age of 91, was the driving artistic force behind IMAX. For Expo ’67 in Montreal, Ferguson directed the multi-screen, multi-projector film Polar Life, which viewers watched while seated on a central rotating turntable in the middle of 11 screens. The film was so successful that Ferguson, along with fellow filmmaker Roman Kroitor, had the idea of creating a movie theater with a similar immersive experience but with a single giant screen using only one projector. To achieve that, Ferguson and Kroitor recruited high school friend and businessman Robert Kerr, and engineer William Shaw, also a high school friend, to develop the camera, projection system, and theater configuration. Their IMAX (Maximum Image) system debuted at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan, with the first-ever IMAX film, Tiger Child. With a 15 perf/70mm film frame that was nearly 10 times larger than conventional 35mm film, the bright, clear, steady, and giant images resulted in a revolutionary immersive theater experience.
Ferguson continued to make giant screen films throughout his career as director, producer, writer, and cinematographer, and his films have been seen by millions of people around the world. He was instrumental in getting IMAX cameras into space and fueling the dreams of would-be astronauts. Susan Helms credits the film The Dream Is Alive for inspiring her to become an astronaut, and she appears in the IMAX documentary Space Station 3D.
Ferguson’s IMAX filmography includes Tiger Child (1970), North of Superior (1971), Circus World (1974), Man Belongs to Earth (1974), Snow Job (1974), Ocean (1977), Hail Columbia! (1982), The Dream Is Alive (1985), Blue Planet (1990), Journey to the Planets (1993), Into the Deep (1994), Destiny in Space (1994), L5: First City in Space (1996), Mission to Mir (1997), Space Station 3D (2002), Deep Sea 3D (2006), Under the Sea 3D (2009), Hubble 3D (2010), and A Beautiful Planet (2016).
Pioneering filmmaker Phyllis Ferguson, Graeme's beloved wife and creative partner of 39 years, died on March 12, just 8 weeks before Graeme.
Click to read more about Graeme Ferguson's life in this article from the Toronto Globe and Mail.
Photo courtesy Powys Dewhurst
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James Neihouse, ASC, Director of Photography
How do you sum up a 45-year friendship in a few words? I first met and worked with Graeme in 1976 on the first IMAX underwater film, Ocean. Graeme was directing the film for the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater (now the Fleet Science Center) in San Diego, and I was fresh out of film school and totally enthralled with this new movie format. Getting to meet, let alone work with one of the inventors was beyond my wildest dreams.
The same year we were working on Ocean the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum opened, with its IMAX screen being one of the big attractions. Graeme was encouraged by the museum’s first director, Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, to fly the IMAX camera in space. Collins believed that IMAX was the best way to share with the public the beauty of the Earth from space. He said that the space shuttle would be the perfect way to get the big camera into orbit. Graeme’s response: “That’s a great idea, but what’s a space shuttle?”
After Ocean I had the privilege, no, honor of working on most of Graeme’s IMAX films. He brought me in to help shoot shuttle launches and ground footage for The Dream Is Alive, and it was through that project that I met my wife, Leslie, who worked for NASA Public Affairs at the Kennedy Space Center. She would guide us around during our shoots. All those early mornings in the marshes around the launch pads led to true romance, and Graeme and his wife Phyllis always took credit, and rightly so, for making that match!
The Dream Is Alive was the first commercially successful motion picture to be filmed in space and became an IMAX classic. The Dream Is Alive was instrumental in the success of the IMAX format, as well as being a tribute to the courage of the astronauts following the Challenger accident. The film also inspired several people to pursue becoming an astronaut. One of them, Susan Helms, would later be featured in the IMAX film Space Station 3D.
When it was time to return to flight after Challenger, what came to be known as the IMAX Space Team, under Graeme’s leadership, was already gearing up for two more films with NASA. He asked me to come help with crew training at the Johnson Space Center, and I officially became a part of the Space Team. I would go on to make a total of 7 IMAX space films with Graeme.
Graeme had a rich and amazing life that was well lived. As a young assistant cameraman working on a film in India, he was forced to shoot a man-eating tiger that was charging at him. He told me this story as I was prepping for a film about wild tigers in India. While filming in the Arctic he and his crew had to throw all of the camera gear out of a failing aircraft in an unsuccessful attempt to stay airborne. They eventually made an emergency landing and endured the cold for several days before being rescued. He flew on the NASA KC-135 “Vomit Comet” zero-G simulation aircraft during testing of the IMAX camera for space flight. I gave him a crash course in SCUBA diving so he could see what was being shot underwater for Ocean. We watched “rushes” in the Casino Theater on Catalina Island laying on the stage in front of the screen so we could get a pseudo “IMAX” view.
In 1993, as Leslie and I were expecting our first child, Graeme quite seriously offered to film the birth in IMAX 3D. Leslie respectfully declined his generous offer. We did, however, name our new baby boy Joseph Graeme, after my father and Graeme Ferguson.
We weathered Hurricane Hugo in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1989 after chasing it up the coast from Jacksonville, Florida. We spent the next few days documenting the destruction for Blue Planet.
Graeme received a Silver Snoopy Award from the astronauts. This award is given exclusively by astronauts to less than 1% of eligible support personnel in recognition of outstanding contributions to mission safety and success. The letter that accompanies the award is usually signed by only one astronaut, Graeme’s was signed by more than 25.
We spent many long hours of flight support together “on console” at the various NASA space centers during the times we had a camera on orbit. We were always the daylight/awake shift—that’s the time when the astronauts in orbit were awake and working—so we had to be constantly aware of what was being said on several communication “loops.” The last thing we wanted to hear was, “Houston for IMAX, we have a problem…” Fortunately we didn’t hear that very often because of the meticulous thought and preparation Graeme and the team did before flight.
Graeme Ferguson, Phyllis Ferguson, and James Neihouse at the flight support console
He was a diligent note taker and always carried a small, leather-bound notebook and mechanical pencil in the pocket of his signature seersucker jacket. He considered himself a luddite and preferred the analogue world. His pocket journals were crammed full of minuscule handwriting, notes on his films, on IMAX, on everything. He called these little treasures, ironically, his Random Access Memory. It fit. He taught me the importance of testing new ideas and techniques, fixing it in “pre” not in “post”.
Passionate about storytelling, a perfectionist, an explorer, Graeme always wanted to share his discoveries with the world in a manner never before seen. He wanted the audience to experience his stories in a personal way, and the giant IMAX screen was his canvas.
Graeme was a true visionary, a remarkable filmmaker, a “foodie” before there was such a thing (we shared many wonderful meals and lots of great wine) and a wonderful human being. He loved cruising Lake of Bays in his classic antique wooden boats. He was constantly inquiring about what fun cars I had driven recently, or what new camera technology might be useful for IMAX. He was always available when you needed advice and was very supportive of the giant screen cinema world.
He believed in me and helped me grow as a filmmaker. He made me feel that my input was important and listened to my crazy ideas. He was always ready with praise when deserved, but more importantly with constructive critique when needed. He was a supportive mentor, and a wonderful friend. I shall miss him immensely.
Patricia & David Keighley, IMAX Corporation
Just over 40 years ago on April 14, 1981, Graeme Ferguson flicked the
switch on the three-minute film load in the IMAX camera to shoot the
first Shuttle landing. He timed it just right and tracked it just right
to come up with a continuous two-minute shot that started our
decades-long outer space adventure with Hail Columbia!
Graeme led the team, with limited resources, and, for me, I think
this film was the milestone that, had it not been made, I’m pretty sure
IMAX would not be here today.
That’s why we need to remember and celebrate a remarkable man who
helped invent what is truly, still, 50 years later, the gold standard of
motion picture capture and display.
From that first shot in North of Superior, seen at Ontario Place,
beginning on May 22, 1971, skimming over the lake, Patricia and I were
truly hooked. Audiences had never seen anything like this before.
Graeme and Phyllis found pilot Fritz Meir, put the IMAX camera in the
nose baggage compartment of his Twin Aztec CF-RXT, and gave us a ride
we will never forget.
Thank you, Graeme and Phyllis. You changed our lives and gave audiences around the world many memorable adventures.
The journey continues from those humble beginnings. You will be missed!
In this short video from the IMAX-produced web series Adventures in IMAX Filmmaking, Graeme talks about the thrilling aerial photography that opens the film North of Superior and Fritz Meier, the talented pilot who captured it
Marsha Ivins, NASA Astronaut, ret.
Graeme Ferguson was already a legend in the giant screen industry when he came to NASA in the early ‘80s with the idea to make a giant screen documentary about the Space Shuttle. NASA, in a more bureaucratic than forward thinking moment, was skeptical. So, Graeme and his team shot Hail Columbia, the story of the first Space Shuttle flight on spec as a proof of concept. NASA was sold! Over the next 30 years, Graeme and his team would make 7 space documentaries, all filmed by astronauts during their missions in space, and in the process solidifying IMAX as the go-to medium for showcasing human spaceflight and endearing his team to the hearts of all the crews he trained.
Graeme saw the daily business of human spaceflight not as an opportunity but as a glorious landscape to be captured by his critical eye and showcased for the world to experience. He and his wife Phyllis, the incomparable Toni Myers and James Neihouse were only given a couple dozen hours with each Shuttle crew carrying an IMAX camera on their flight, to train them to be both cast and crew for the 9 or 10 minutes of film they would shoot on their flight. Unlike other payloads flown on the Shuttle, most of which entailed essentially turning something on and off, observing and taking data, IMAX required moving around large bulky hardware, changing lenses, manually loading film in a dark bag, setting up lighting and sound recording, “dressing” the set and arranging the scene, then rehearsing and capturing the action in a single 30 second shoot, all done in the absence of gravity. Whereas other payloads were given officially scheduled crew time for operations, IMAX was done basically in the crews’ free time during a mission. And Shuttle crews rarely had free time! But every crew Graeme and his team trained not only willingly but enthusiastically found the time to deliver the shots that they thought would make him happy.
Graeme Ferguson, James Neihouse, Marsha Ivins, and David Douglas preparing for Blue Planet
Graeme and team would sit in the payload support room of Mission Control day and night during a mission waiting for that spike in vehicle power signature that signaled the IMAX camera had been turned on. And then have to wait the long days and weeks until the Shuttle returned, and the film had been collected and processed before those precious minutes of film could be viewed. From these scraps of film, mere minutes of single take shots from each mission, the great IMAX space documentaries were made. The images and stories that transformed the way the people of the world were able to view their home planet, that took the people of the world to space with each crew and let them share in the experience, were all born of Graeme’s vision, his inspiration, and his heart.
The Silver Snoopy is an award given by the astronaut office to less than 1% of the NASA and contractor work force for professional excellence, and was usually only given to non-management, full time NASA or contractor personnel. Usually, these awards were submitted by the recipient’s manager and then awarded by an astronaut who did not necessarily know the recipient. The recipient received a little silver “Snoopy” pin that had flown on a Shuttle flight, and a certificate signed by the astronaut doing the presentation. 1996 I personally wrote a Snoopy award for Graeme and then convinced the NASA managers that he, even as an occasional payload investigator, was just as deserving of this award as anyone wearing a NASA badge. Besides, I figured, I was the one writing the award and I was in fact, an astronaut. The words in this award I think are a fitting tribute still to the memory of the visionary, the inquisitive mind and the loving man who was Graeme. The pin we awarded to him was flown on STS-79, one of the Shuttle MIR missions that was carrying the IMAX camera. Although Bill Readdy, the commander of that flight did the official presentation of the award, 25 astronauts signed the paperwork. In all my years in the Astronaut office, I have never seen so many people wanting to sign a single award. The words follow:
This letter is to express my personal thanks and the sincere appreciation of the Astronaut Office for the continuing and superlative support you have given to the Space Shuttle Program. Your involvement in all stages of the development of the giant screen, large format IMAX system has created for you a place in the history of film production. Your role as a film maker has allowed you to immortalize the wonder of space flight for millions of people worldwide. You and your IMAX team have trained us to film for you with unwavering patience and dedication and a completeness unequaled by most payload training. You have encouraged us to share your vision and demonstrated with your enthusiasm, creativity and sincerity that you most definitely share ours.
We in the Astronaut Office appreciate not only your dedication to excellence but respect and applaud your role as a film maker and educator. Through your work you have provided the world a better understanding of NASA and the space program and an appreciation of the very spirit of exploration. It continues to be not only a delight to work with you and for you, but an honor and a privilege.
In recognition of your continuing contributions and dedication to the Space Shuttle Program please accept the astronauts’ Silver Snoopy award for professional excellence Wear it with deserved pride, knowing that it is given only to those few we recognize as the very best in their profession.
Howard and Michele Hall, Howard Hall Productions
Into the Deep, Island of the Sharks, Coral Reef Adventure, Deep Sea 3D, Under the Sea 3D
Michele and I were so sorry to hear of Graeme’s passing. To say that he played an important role in our lives is an understatement. I can’t guess at how different our lives would have been had Graeme not taken a chance on me, an unproven underwater filmmaker, so many years ago. His gentle leadership and filmmaking style was an inspiration that has guided me throughout my career. We will certainly miss him greatly.
Brian Hall, IMAX Corporation
I first met Graeme Ferguson when I was a young boy growing up in Ontario (Bramalea/Brampton) back in the 1960's. I lived across the street from Graeme's brother Bill Ferguson. Bill's son Mark was my boyhood pal. Occasionally Graeme's son Munro would come around to visit and we three boys would have a magnificent time playing together.
Back then Graeme Ferguson was, to me, more legend than mortal. I had been told he was a filmmaker and inventor, and quite a genius at that undertaking. It was around the time that Graeme was filming and completing the wildly successful Polar Life for Expo '67 in Montreal.
A few years later I remember going with my family and my friend Mark Ferguson to Ontario Place to see North of Superior, Uncle Graeme's hugely popular new work of "film magic" at the recently opened IMAX theatre there, the first permanent IMAX theatre on the planet. I was a completely mesmerized 9-year-old boy at this experience. When I saw Graeme after the screening, he smiled his iconic gentle smile as I gushed about his movie. To this day I believe that Graeme lived mostly to have been able to proffer that contented smile to all (hundreds of millions collectively) that he moved with the IMAX experiences he brought to them.
Seventeen years later, long after having moved away from the house across the street from Mark Ferguson, I found myself in the office of IMAX Corporation Executive VP Bruce Peer, interviewing for a spot on the IMAX team. I had known Bruce from Procter & Gamble, and he had called me to ask if I might be interested in working with him at IMAX. While in his office Bruce asked me if I had a moment to meet Graeme Ferguson, one of the founders of IMAX. I replied that I did, not having revealed my prior relationship to Graeme and his family.
We walked into Graeme's office. He looked up, and that very same smile immediately flashed across his face. "Hello, Brian," he said cheerfully, standing and extending his hand to me. I was mildly surprised that a man of Graeme's stature and global travels would remember me from my long-passed boyhood. Bruce Peer almost collapsed from the surprise. I joined the IMAX team.
Graeme had a unique way of connecting with people. As an artist he could occasionally seem aloof, wrapped up in his own never-ending thoughts. He was both a gentleman and a gentle man. He possessed a brilliant, expansive, and creative mind. He could often break down complex issues to simple components and was happy to do so generously with whomever asked for his help. Most of all, he could warm up a room with that gentle smile he was always sharing.
Have a peaceful rest, Uncle Graeme. Your passion and work have left us an outstanding legacy.
Greg MacGillivray, Filmmaker, MacGillivray Freeman Films
When I first met Graeme, it was in 1974 and Jim Freeman and I had just been selected to produce and direct the first film for the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, which was then being constructed on the mall in Washington. Jim and I travel to Toronto and met Graeme, Bill Shaw, and Robert Kerr in a garage where they showed us the first camera that they had built to shoot for 70mm 15-perforation film. We all talked about what we could see for the future of IMAX, and what would be needed to get there at the time, but IMAX could not afford to make any additional cameras. So, we made a deal with them. We would supply them in advance with the funds to build three new cameras, each with improvements that Jim and I suggested from the experience that we had had with Hollywood-style movie cameras, and they would attempt to build those cameras in four months so that the three cameras could be used, two on To Fly!, starting in four months, and the third camera to be used on a film that Francis Thompson was directing for the theater being built in Philadelphia for the bicentennial.
As we sat on boxes and discussed our dreams, in this dark and cold garage in Toronto, an element of trust grew. Jim and I liked these three creative Canadians immediately. I think it took time for these skeptical Northerners to trust anyone from the Hollywood area. At the finish of the meeting, we shook hands and gave them a check to begin working. At that time, the three had taken out loans on their homes, borrowed money from friends, and were taking a huge gamble in trying to get this new way of seeing movies, one which had shown itself in Spokane at the 1974 World’s Fair to be exceptional, off the ground. They all risked it all to make movie-going a better experience for us all. I will never forget that moment, and their dedication, each one of them, but most intensely Graeme’s dedication to the future of better cinema.
Mary Jane Dodge, MacGillivray Freeman Films
I’ll never forget the first time I met Graeme Ferguson. It changed my life. I was at a Planetarium conference in Vancouver in 1977 and I was walking through the trade show, and I came across a nice man at a table passing out brochures about something called “IMAX.” I said, “IMAX, what’s that?” It was Graeme Ferguson and he told me all about IMAX. That started a conversation that lasted a lifetime.
I was working at the Hutchinson Planetarium at the time, and we were building a new planetarium and space center. I came back after that conference and proclaimed: we have to get an IMAX! Then I saw my first IMAX film To Fly! at the National Air and Space Museum and it was a truly life changing experience. I was so blown away that I knew instantly that I wanted to work in the IMAX giant screen industry for the rest of my life. It all started when I met Graeme at a planetarium conference!
Back in those days, Graeme used to visit the theaters two or three times a year. We’d talk all about the operation and marketing of the theater, and then I would pepper him with questions about IMAX filmmaking. He always had great stories. When Graeme was working on Hail Columbia!, which opened in 1982, he said he was doing it so he could get the IMAX camera on the space shuttle. Well, he sure did it! Once NASA saw Hail Columbia!, they were hooked! The IMAX cameras flew aboard the space shuttle and who can ever forget the first images of earth in The Dream is Alive. It was so thrilling I remember everything about it. I got to see what the astronauts saw! It was just astounding. A dream come true for all of us who wanted to be an astronaut.
Graeme was a true leader, just what we needed in those early days. Everything was so dynamic back then. There was so much growth every year, with new films, theaters, technology. It was always changing and evolving. There were all kinds of ups and downs all the time. Filmmakers like Greg MacGillivray always talk about Graeme’s leadership and great collaboration. We all needed each other to build this new industry. I remember always looking forward to hearing Graeme speak at the annual conferences. It was kind of like a State of the Industry speech, even though we didn’t call it that. He would give us an update on IMAX, what was next on the horizon and his perspective on the industry. I would always leave the conference excited and confident about what was coming next.
Most of the IMAX theaters in the beginning were in museums and science centers, and Graeme played a key role in that development too. The museum world is a very different culture from commercial filmmaking, but Graeme just fit in perfectly! Museum directors could really talk to Graeme, and the more you got to know Graeme, the more you liked and trusted him. He could speak their language. As I look back at it now, I think Graeme’s character, steady hand at the helm and creativity as a film director really played a key role in the huge expansion of the giant screen industry.
Looking back over 40 years of conversations with Graeme Ferguson, I remember the fun stuff too. Every time we had a big premiere at the Lincoln Square Theater in New York, Graeme always stayed in the booth, checking everything. So, I stayed in the booth too! Every detail mattered. He was a great mentor that way. Every year at the conferences, we would always talk about the new films, picking our favorite “IMAX moment” in each film, and I especially loved hearing the behind-the-scenes stories about NASA and the astronauts. But it seemed like every conversation always involved the future. He was always talking about what was coming next. What new thing was right on the horizon? That’s what makes an industry thrive and grow and be successful. It’s also what builds a legacy. Graeme Ferguson has a huge legacy, one that extends to the stars and back. We all got to take that great ride with him. And we all know we couldn’t have done it without him.
That’s what always made me look up to Graeme. He had that rare quality of knowing how to dream big and make it happen. The films and amazing images he created are still crystal clear in my memory. He took us to places that only a few can see first-hand, like looking back at our beautiful planet from space. But he was equally as profound on earth, reaching new heights as an artist. Who can ever forget that opening scene in North of Superior. The camera hovering fast and low over that great lake, with that mesmerizing drumbeat. It was so new, so interesting, so compelling, such a great use of the medium and the message. It was quintessential Graeme Ferguson. Heroic. Inventive. Unforgettable. Legendary. Just like the man himself.
Mary Jane Dodge, Graeme Ferguson, Diane Carlson
Diane Carlson, Giant Screen Cinema Consulting
Much has been written about Graeme’s work in creating the giant screen universe. He helped build an industry that has directly or indirectly touched the lives of most of us in the field, from filmmakers to theater staff. On a personal level, one thing that I will always remember is his thoughtfulness. He was always most gracious and considerate.
This vignette will be with me always: I was fortunate to have been included in a small dinner party at Toni Myers’s home. Toni planned a lovely evening and had prepared a wonderful meal. Phyllis and Graeme were there, and I was the only guest from the U.S. It was a wonderfully Canadian evening.
I had badly broken my ankle and was wheelchair-bound. At the conclusion of the very special evening, Graeme insisted on wheeling me out to the sidewalk to my cab. It was not necessary for him to do this, but he did. It was a moment of kind thoughtfulness that will be with me forever, as will his distinct voice and intonation. Three words to describe Graeme: Canadian, creative, and considerate.
Graeme, thank you for so many wonderful memories both on and off of the screen.
Stephen Low, Filmmaker, The Stephen Low Company
My favourite Graeme Ferguson story goes back to the dawn of IMAX. As a teenager in an National Film Board (NFB) family, I was getting most information second-hand at the dinner table, but here goes.
As I recall the story, two 30-something filmmakers were preparing to host a Japanese delegation in Montreal. The Japanese were looking for new exhibition ideas for their 1970 World's Fair project, and the young Canadians had a big idea to sell. They rented an office space for a day or two, filling it with rented furniture and busy-looking family members and friends. But when the delegation arrived, they began the tour with a trip to the NFB studios where one of the filmmakers had a small office. Going in the front entrance they made a detour up the main stairs past dozens, or perhaps hundreds of awards, including a row of Academy awards. The NFB was in those days a very impressive place with giant sound stages, mixing boards, cafeterias, and they showed it off in some detail.
Fuji Bank representatives with Roman Kroitor, Colin Low, and Graeme Ferguson. Courtesy Stephen Low
After lunch they went to their "actual" office downtown with the busy actors making important calls and rushing around. Somehow the Japanese were mightily impressed with the whole experience. It must have seemed to them a large and very successful endeavour, and the question of who owned what was successfully fuzzy. The young filmmakers, Graeme Ferguson and Roman Kroitor, closed the deal to create the first IMAX film for the fair, and with Graeme’s high school friends, engineer Bill Shaw and businessman Bob Kerr, proceeded to create an entire new industry inspired by and sustained by ingenuity, creativity, and the highest possible standards.
It’s quite possible my memory of this story is not completely reliable but, anyway, it sums up what I loved about Graeme and the other founders and working in the medium they invented and the industry they created. You have a great idea that you believe in, even if no one else does, and you just throw yourself at it with everything you have. I was fortunate enough to progress from IMAX-adjacent teenager to actual IMAX filmmaker, and although as a Montrealer I had a closer relationship with Roman, I still count myself lucky to have had a half-century relationship with Graeme, beginning with working for him as an aspiring young filmmaker and ending as two oldies, with dozens of films between us, grateful to be sharing stories and memories, encouragement and advice. He will be dearly missed.
Mike Lutz, Evans & Sutherland
(formerly at MacGillivray Freeman Films and IMAX Corporation)
It takes a universe to build a realm like IMAX. Graeme is the center
of that universe. The very idea of Graeme’s vision and success has been
an inspiration to me for decades, even before I had the good fortune to
know him, and to so many people around the world.
Derek Threinen, Giant Screen Films/D3D Cinema
saddened to hear of the passing of visionary filmmaker and IMAX
co-founder Graeme Ferguson. I recall reading an interview with him in Time magazine
in 1976 when I was eight years old, and subsequently haranguing my
parents ceaselessly about stopping in Washington, DC, during a family
road trip between Ottawa and Florida so we could experience IMAX—an
image so large and so clear, I’d read, that it felt like you were in the
film. While the entire day’s tickets were sold out by the time we
arrived at the box office on the day we visited—even though it was only
around 11:00 in the morning—and I’d have to wait until 1989 to have my
first IMAX experience, I was thoroughly enchanted. It was through a
fortunate series of events that I found myself telling Graeme the story
eight years later at my first giant screen industry conference in
1997. Over the subsequent years, it was always a treat to hear his
stories of the early days and to catch a rare retrospective screening of
the (literally) amazing films he produced, directed, and/or shot. Rest
easy, sir. Your legacy will continue to live on in the incomparable
experiences offered by the giant screen cinema network, and in the work
of all the filmmakers you inspired.
Todd Douglas Miller, Filmmaker
Apollo 11: First Steps Edition, Apollo 11: Quarantine
The opening aerial shots set to drums in North of Superior, the landscape of fire in Man Belongs to Earth, the majestic shots of space shuttles in Hail Columbia! and The Dream is Alive . . . these
films changed cinema and were the work of a true visionary—Graeme
Ferguson. Along with his co-conspirators, he founded an entire industry
based on technical innovation, creativity, and, most importantly, always
giving the audience an experience they couldn’t find anywhere else. His
legacy will live on and continue to inspire for generations to come.
Godspeed, Graeme Ferguson!
The Dream Is Alive GSCA Special Recognition Award
In 2012 GSCA presented the Special Recognition Award to members of the team responsible for inspiring millions of people around the world and bringing outer space a little closer to home with the IMAX space films, The Dream Is Alive, Blue Planet, Destiny in Space, Mission to Mir, Space Station, Hubble, and A Beautiful Planet. Pictured here are David Keighley, Post Production Consulting and Print Quality Control; Ben Burtt, Director and Sound Designer; George Mulhern, Director of Communications for Lockheed Missiles and Space; Graeme Ferguson, Producer/Director; Toni Myers, Producer/Director, Writer, and Editor; and James Neihouse, Director of Photography.
In 2016, GSCA presented Graeme Ferguson with its inaugural Special Achievement Award.
Also in 2016, the IMAX theater network voted to induct North of Superior into the IMAX Hall of Fame. Toni Myers edited the film, and Graeme Ferguson was producer, director, and cinematographer.