The Voyagers (2010)


In the summer of 1977, NASA sent Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 on an epic journey into interstellar space. Each spacecraft carries a golden record album, a massive compilation of images and sounds embodying the best of Planet Earth. According to Carl Sagan, “[t]he spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”

While working on the Voyager project, Sagan met and fell madly in love with his future wife Annie Druyan. The record became their love letter to humankind and to each other.

In the summer of 2010, I began my own hopeful voyage into the unknown, and this film is about that time. I had heard the incredible love story of Carl and Annie on Radiolab, and decided to use it as the inspiration for this essay about my feelings as I prepared for marriage. This film became a love letter and a wedding gift to my fiancé – it was created for an audience of just one person, with whom I was very much in love. I truly didn’t think anyone else would ever see it. But after some time, he and I decided it was worth sharing with other people, too.

Sound mix: Jesse Stiles • Cinematography: Ashley Connor

I want to say a couple things about Jesse and Ashley, because they both did so much to make this film what it is.

Jesse mixed this in a hurry for me, and we both thought parts of it were mixed way too low and that it was too “empty” in places. Again, since it was intended as a wedding gift, we were not concerned with meeting some particular professional standard (which he is very capable of meeting!). Later when I decided to release it, Jesse asked if we wanted to open the sound mix back up. But by then I’d become very attached to it the way it was. It’s really, really, really quiet – too quiet, particularly in the Challenger scene – but I think it works. It makes you sort of lean in to hear it. And there are sections where the only sound is my voice, in a near-whisper. Those scenes feels really spare, and far too vulnerable. But, what is more romantic than that, though?  So we decided to leave it the way it was, even where it was “wrong.”

Ashley Connor at that time had just graduated from Ithaca College, where I’d met her at a student-run film festival. By now, she’s extremely well-known as a DP – you’ve seen her work in everything from Zia Anger’s raw and wild music videos for artists like Mitski, Angel Olsen, and  Julianna Barwick – to Josephine Decker’s stunning and inventive films (Madeline’s Madeline, Butter on the Latch)  – to Knives Out and Broad City and a lot more. Back then, in 2009, I’d seen something Ashley had made as an undergrad and loved her style. I asked her to film all the Coney Island footage, which is the only original footage in the film. I gave her almost no direction, because I didn’t really know what I wanted. I just knew I wanted it to feel sort of like home movies? What Ashley did – bringing her incredible talents to this humble assignment, giving it the feeling of rawness, but with great intentionality and sensitivity – was so far beyond what I could have possibly asked for. Looking back now I can see that Ashley just knew a lot more, even at that age, than I ever will about images. I think I used every frame she shot.

“With this wedding present of a film, Lane takes a risky concept and turns it into something deeply personal and cosmically transfixing.” – Mike Tully, Hammer to Nail (full review)

“On Space, Love, and Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Mix Tape” – Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg, The Atlantic (includes an interview with Penny Lane)

“In the end, the film is much more than a documentary about the Voyager probes. At its core, it’s a profound story about love and the fearless ability of the human spirit to stand in awe of its vastness, to dream of its mysteries, and to catch a glimpse of its incomprehensible complexity, and, knowing what triumphs and heartache lie ahead, still boldly jump in head first.” – Andrew S. Allen, Short of the Week (full review)

“A beautiful short film [and] a living testament to the creative capacity of remix culture.” – Maria Popova, BrainPickings (full review)

A lovely documentary about the love affair between astronomer Carl Sagan and his third wife Ann Druyan while they worked on the Voyager space probe mission in the ’70s.” – Mike Everleth, Bad Lit

A winsome space love story, Penny Lane’s The Voyagers is a valentine to the cosmos and the skeptic in all of us: reminding us that only by risking everything — and journeying into the unknown — can we ever hope to encounter something (or someone) wondrous.” – DOXA Documentary Film Festival


Winner, Hammer to Nail Short Film Contest (July 2012)
Honorable Mention, Disposable Film Festival (March 2012)
Best Essay Film, Short of the Week 2011 Awards (December 2011)
Impakt Festival, Utrecht (November 2011)
Honorable Mention, AFI FEST, Los Angeles (November 2011)
Best Experimental Film, New Orleans Film Festival, NOLA (October 2011)
Citizen Jane, Columbia MO (October 2011)
Hot Springs Documentary Festival, Hot Springs AR (October 2011)
Festival Signes de Nuit, Paris (October 2011)
Festival of (in)Appropriation, Los Angeles (September 2011)
The Norwegian Short Film Festival, Grimstad (June 2011)
Rooftop Films, NYC (June 2011)
International Short Film Festival Oberhousen, Germany (May 2011)
DOXA Documentary Film Festival, Vancouver (May 2011)
European Media Art Festival, Osnabruck (April 2011)
Iowa City International Documentary Festival, Iowa City IA (April 2011)
Directors Lounge, Berlin (February 2011)
Microscope Gallery, NYC (February 2011)
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Missoula MT (February 2011)
First Place (video), FLEX Festival, Gainesville FL (February 2011)
International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Netherlands (January 2011)
The Nightingale Gallery, Chicago IL (November 2010)
Dallas Video Festival, Dallas TX (September 2010)
video_dumbo, NYC (September 2010)