The director of the moon-themed doc Lunarcy! on growing up in Toronto’s movie scene, far-out obsessions, and how an astronaut left him starstruck.
He’d have been a great gumshoe if he didn’t love movies so much.
It’s not hyperbole to suggest Simon Ennis was born to make movies—after all, his parents were running the Revue Cinema on Roncesvalles when he came along. “There are baby pictures of me sitting on the counter there,” says the 32-year-old director, who made his mark on the city’s movie scene with some hilarious shorts and the 2009 cult comedy You Might As Well Live. In addition to working at the dearly departed Revue Video on the Danforth, Ennis had a high-school job at the Bloor, which is also where you can see his new, space-themed doc, Lunarcy! The guy’s clearly got cinema in his blood. That’s not to say, however, that he didn’t have other aspirations. “By the time I was six or seven, I wanted to make movies,” says Ennis. “But I feel a little bit like a sellout, because my first dream job was to be a detective. I still think about going to detective school—I literally have a card for the Canadian Institute of Private Investigation in my wallet.”
The moon hit his eye like a big pizza pie.
Ennis admits that he was more interested in dinosaurs than interplanetary matters in his younger days. But making Lunarcy! transformed him into a full-fledged “space nut.” His film introduces viewers to people who share an ardent obsession with a certain chunk of rock in the sky. Through interviews with colourful subjects who eagerly discuss establishing lunar bases and exploiting the moon’s surplus of helium-3 as an energy source, the movie evokes nostalgia for an era when space exploration shifted from science fiction to science fact. Indeed, Ennis believes that the Apollo moon landings were “probably the greatest endeavour that humankind has ever undertaken.” And yet these celestial preoccupations and ambitions—really, the whole dream fostered by NASA in millions of impressionable young minds—have somehow become figments of our past.
He’s saving up for his ticket into space.
One quality that also shines through Lunarcy! is Ennis’s affection for his interviewees. They range from a young man who dreams of being the moon’s first full-time resident to an entrepreneur who’s literally selling plots of lunar land. “I got sucked into their world,” says the director, whose research sparked his own eagerness to head into the great beyond. “When I went to the Mojave Air & Space Port, I saw the prototype of the Lynx, which is a space plane that should be ready in less than a year,” he says. “It’s a two-seater plane that’ll go to the edge of space and come back. At first the ticket will cost a few hundred thousand dollars, but in 20 years, it’ll probably be more like a few hundred. Conceivably, you or I might decide to spend a few hundred dollars and go into the blackness of space!” (And if you’d prefer to fly Virgin, you’re in luck—the airline’s new Galactic division will soon be catering to space tourists, too.)
The A in his A-list stands for “astronaut.”
Such is the intensity of Ennis’s own space-nuttery that he was especially nervous to meet one of Lunarcy!’s most memorable characters, Alan Bean. A member of the Apollo 12 mission and the fourth man to set foot on the lunar surface, Bean has devoted his post-NASA career to painting artistic renderings of his experiences (some of his paintings even contain real moon dust!). “I’d emailed his art agent to say what I wanted to do,” says Ennis. “The next day, I got an email straight back from Alan with his phone number. I had total butterflies in my stomach before calling him. I’ve met some famous people in my life and thought, ‘Whatever, it’s cool.’ But here I was thinking, ‘This guy has been on the moon! He’s walked on the moon!’ It was the only time I ever felt star-struck.”
Lunarcy! opens on Feb. 8 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W., 416-637-3123, bloorcinema.com.