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Meet Snag Filmmakers: Les Guthman Explores Saturn and Its Moon in 'Saturn's Embrace'

By Les Guthman | Indiewire January 7, 2013 at 10:12AM

Meet Snag Filmmakers is a feature that profiles filmmakers whose work is available to screen for free on SnagFilms.com, Indiewire's parent company, via First Person features penned by the filmmakers themselves. Below, get to know director Les Guthman and learn about his fascinating documentary "Saturn's Embrace." What It's About: The exploration of Saturn and its moons is one of the greatest feats of exploration in human history. What's It's REALLY About: The film is an homage, both to the scientific genius of our exploration of the solar system and beyond -- relatively unheralded as it might be -- and to our profound understanding of the evolution of the universe, sublimely confirmed by Cassini’s unprecedented digital images and measurements of Saturn’s rings. The title, “Saturn’s Embrace,” comes from an image at the end of the film, in which we see earth as a tiny dot, “nestled in the arms of Saturn’s rings,” as Carolyn Porco says. It is Saturn that tells us far more about ourselves, than we can bring to it far across the solar system. Sticking to the Truth: First of all by the mission's profound accomplishments and discoveries at Saturn -- the landing of a probe on the surface of Titan, 980 million miles from earth, and the discovery of lakes on Titan and salt water geysers shooting out from the surface of the moon Enceladus, mind-bending to say the least! But I was also inspired, or rather, motivated, to make this film by the predominance of junk science on cable. The unabashed distortions, the phony hype and false promotion, the breathless narrators, the casual or purposeful disregard for scientific knowledge, are all too often the norm on our best-known cable networks; in the apparent belief that good science means bad ratings, which is only a failure of imagination. Even NOVA is not immune to creeping junk science. I wanted to make a film in which the scientist told the tale entirely in her own words, using only the actual digital images taken by the mission. "Truth in Simplicity": My inspirations were those filmmakers, going back Roberto Rossellini with “Open City” in 1945, who sought truth in simplicity. In the Works: I’m very surprised and amazed by the 2D-to-3D conversion of my 2009 film, “Skiing Everest.” I’ve been working in native 3D 4K production for four years, along with making “Skiing Everest” and “Saturn’s Embrace” in HD. I never expected that “Skiing Everest” would be converted -- or that some of the older footage, shot in DVCam, would hold up in stereo. But the film looks great and will be released in theaters and on Blu-ray 3D this winter. Watch It Below:
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"Saturn's Embrace"
SnagFilms "Saturn's Embrace"

Meet Snag Filmmakers is a feature that profiles filmmakers whose work is available to screen for free on SnagFilms.com, Indiewire's parent company, via First Person features penned by the filmmakers themselves. Below, get to know director Les Guthman and learn about his fascinating documentary "Saturn's Embrace."

What It's About: The exploration of Saturn and its moons is one of the greatest feats of exploration in human history.

What's It's REALLY About: The film is an homage, both to the scientific genius of our exploration of the solar system and beyond -- relatively unheralded as it might be -- and to our profound understanding of the evolution of the universe, sublimely confirmed by Cassini’s unprecedented digital images and measurements of Saturn’s rings. The title, “Saturn’s Embrace,” comes from an image at the end of the film, in which we see earth as a tiny dot, “nestled in the arms of Saturn’s rings,” as Carolyn Porco says. It is Saturn that tells us far more about ourselves, than we can bring to it far across the solar system.

Sticking to the Truth: First of all by the mission's profound accomplishments and discoveries at Saturn -- the landing of a probe on the surface of Titan, 980 million miles from earth, and the discovery of lakes on Titan and salt water geysers shooting out from the surface of the moon Enceladus, mind-bending to say the least!

But I was also inspired, or rather, motivated, to make this film by the predominance of junk science on cable. The unabashed distortions, the phony hype and false promotion, the breathless narrators, the casual or purposeful disregard for scientific knowledge, are all too often the norm on our best-known cable networks; in the apparent belief that good science means bad ratings, which is only a failure of imagination. Even NOVA is not immune to creeping junk science. I wanted to make a film in which the scientist told the tale entirely in her own words, using only the actual digital images taken by the mission.

"Truth in Simplicity": My inspirations were those filmmakers, going back Roberto Rossellini with “Open City” in 1945, who sought truth in simplicity.

In the Works: I’m very surprised and amazed by the 2D-to-3D conversion of my 2009 film, “Skiing Everest.” I’ve been working in native 3D 4K production for four years, along with making “Skiing Everest” and “Saturn’s Embrace” in HD. I never expected that “Skiing Everest” would be converted -- or that some of the older footage, shot in DVCam, would hold up in stereo. But the film looks great and will be released in theaters and on Blu-ray 3D this winter.

Watch It Below:

About the Filmmaker: I have been fortunate to produce over 40 feature documentaries, direct 11, write 15 and edit 10 documentaries...after having worked for almost a decade at NBC News in New York. I made unique opportunities to finance these films, in creating the “Discover Magazine” science series at Disney; and leading Outside Television, the production division of Outside magazine, for ten years. But I am also fortunate to have been one of the original content partners of Snagfilms, founding the XPLR channel for adventure, science and environmental documentaries when Snagfilms launched in 2008. Snagfilms is the Discovery Channel of the 21st Century, as the world is beginning to recognize.

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