Category: Documentary film
Reviewed by: Casey Suire
Title: Beyond Tomorrow
Written and Directed by: Brett Ryan Bonowicz
Produced by: Brett Ryan Bonowicz, Gunny Scarfo, Reid Nicewonder
Music by: Martin Kennedy
Released: October 2022
Running Time: 75 minutes
Who was Roy Scarfo? Ask any space aficionado this question, and you will probably get a blank stare. What a shame.
Luckily, a recently released documentary titled Beyond Tomorrow explores the life and work of Scarfo, who in 1957 began a 16-year career as the creative art director for General Electric’s Space Technology Center. Initially tasked with illustrating early American ballistic missiles, Scarfo’s artwork eventually depicted humans living and working in space.
One highlight of Scarfo’s career was his collaboration with engineer Dandridge Cole. This resulted in the 1965 book Beyond Tomorrow: The Next 50 Years in Space. In the book, the two men lay out a grand vision of a spacefaring civilization that, unfortunately, has never happened yet. Many futuristic ideas, such as a space settlement inside a hollowed-out asteroid, are illustrated by Scarfo. Despite the book being rare and long out of print, many NSS members will probably want to obtain a copy for their collection.
The documentary, named after the book, notes that Cole and Scarfo’s relationship wasn’t the first or last partnership between a space visionary and a space artist. It is pointed out that Wernher von Braun worked with artists such as Fred Freeman and Chesley Bonestell in the 1950s. Later on, Gerard O’Neill worked with artists like Don Davis and Rick Guidice. The Cole/Scarfo pairing is interesting in that it is the least well-known. Cole would die of a heart attack when he was only 44. Who knows what could have been? Roy Scarfo himself died in 2014 at 88 years old.
Beyond Tomorrow features several interviews with other space artists and Scarfo’s own family. During one interview, Don Davis talks about how he was inspired by seeing Scarfo’s work in Space World magazine. Hearing from his family is really special, as there is no shortage of interesting stories about his life. At one point, his widow is filmed at their home in July 2021. While standing near a Scarfo illustration of a space hotel, she mentions Sir Richard Branson’s then recent suborbital flight on July 11, 2021. Interestingly, she notes that Scarfo’s birthday was July 11. According to her, Roy Scarfo always said that no one was going to live in space until it went commercial.
The best part of watching Beyond Tomorrow is learning about a mostly forgotten space pioneer. It is always fascinating to hear about an individual’s contributions to space. This is especially true when such an individual, such as Scarfo, is not that well known, even to space buffs. Viewers will learn a lot in the 75-minute documentary. It would have been nice, however, if Beyond Tomorrow were perhaps a half-hour or so longer. Learning about Scarfo was so interesting that it would have been great to go into more detail. In any case, it was a nice documentary.
Another attraction of the film is that it’s a great introduction to space art. Viewers will want to learn more about this field. Even a half-century after the days of Cole and Scarfo, artists are still doing interesting things in the space industry. They do things such as illustrate future space transportation concepts, speculate what distant exoplanets look like, and design the colorful mission patches for new spaceflights. There is even an organization called the International Association of Astronomical Artists. A few astronauts, most notably Apollo 12’s Alan Bean, were artists. Furthermore, there is dearMoon, an upcoming mission that will send several artists on a flyby of the Moon. The human expansion into space will, like planet Earth, require talented individuals with a variety of occupations. Space will need artists.
Overall, watching this documentary was a fun experience, especially since Roy Scarfo’s art has many similarities to the NSS vision.
Do yourself a favor and go see Beyond Tomorrow (available on YouTube).