• Follow us

Movies

Inside the Making of the Mind-Blowing ‘Apollo 11’ Doc

Todd Douglas Miller knew that, when it comes to making documentaries — like 2014’s T-Rex fossil hunt Dinosaur 13 — things can get a little stressful. Still, this new project he had been working on was something else entirely. Sitting in an office in New York City last year, the filmmaker would regularly await the arrival of one of many climate-controlled trucks being driven up from College Park, Maryland. The two drivers were instructed not to stop — and even then, only if they had to switch seats. Miller would regularly check traffic conditions, especially when some of the drives took longer than he hoped. “That was the most nerve-wracking part,” he says. “A lot of sleepless nights.”

Then again, it’s easy to understand why Miller was apprehensive. Inside those trucks were cartons crammed with unreleased, one-of-a-kind, five-decade-old film footage of Apollo 11, the 1969 mission that first saw man land — and stomp around on — the moon. That footage, along with similarly never-heard hours of audio, would eventually be pieced together to form the director’s exuberantly greeted new portrait of the event, Apollo 11.

The real-life equivalent to last year’s biopic First Man, the movie (which opened for a one-week-only IMAX run on Friday and goes wide on March 8th), tells the story of that historic first mission from preflight to victory lap. On paper, it sounds routine: footage of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins being prepped for launch, the sight of clean-cut-Woodstock crowds gathering in nearby parking lots to watch, shots from inside the capsule as the astronauts orbited, and landed on, the moon.

But thanks to the intimate, wide-screen format on which it was originally shot, Apollo 11 offers a new, large-format window into those nine historic days. You won’t find any talking heads weighing in on the mission, nor are there any new interviews with survivors Aldrin or Collins. It’s just 93 minutes of narrative with bits of newly added electronic music. “No big, bombastic scores, no narration — it’s all been done before,” Miller says. “It had become a parody of itself. I wanted to let the footage speak for itself.”

Apollo 11 originated with the filmmaker’s interest in a project about the last Apollo mission, 17. In search of better-quality footage than had been publicly seen, he reached out to NASA and the National Archives in spring 2017. Some 11 clips were used in a little-seen 1972 doc, Moonwalk One, but most of it — 279 reels, much of it large-format 65 mm — sat in their original metal canisters at a National Archives storage facility in College Park. Thanks to climate-controlled rooms, the footage appeared to be in good condition, but discerning what was on those government-shot reels was a challenge. “We were initially confused about some of the markings,” says Dan Rooney, head archivist at the National Archives. “Some would just say ‘Apollo 11.’ There were limited instances of another word on the can, like ‘Apollo 11 recovery.’ They were not well described.” At NASA offices in Houston, Miller also unearthed nearly 20,000 hours of audio from Mission Control and inside the capsule, capturing both the sounds of the technicians and the astronauts as they toiled away, gossiped and worked through problems. Now they just had to overcome the hurdle of actually digitizing footage that only existed on old reels.

Related apollo 11 ‘Apollo 11’ Review: Immersive Doc on Moon Landing Is a Masterpiece ‘Sunset’ Review: Light Fades on Empires and Evil in Scathing Historical Drama

Enter the trucks. The New York post-production facility Final Frame was hired to scan the footage and digitally convert it. Until then, no one had actually seen the footage — just the raw film. Finally, Miller, Rooney and their team gathered in a screening room to get a sense of what they had and saw, to their amazement, sharp footage of the Saturn V rocket (carrying the Apollo spacecraft) rolling down a highway toward the launch pad. “We were all kind of stunned,” says Rooney. “Usually when you’re looking at archival material, you’re seeing blemishes or imperfections in the images. I don’t think I saw any. We realized, ‘Okay, we need to fully pursue this.’ ”

The painstaking results are evident throughout the movie, from shockingly crisp footage of the crowds (try to spot LBJ, Isaac Asimov and Johnny Carson among them) to previously unseen alternate clips, shot by Aldrin, of the moment Armstrong set his feet down on the moon’s granular surface. The grainy quality of that footage can be attributed, Miller says, to “dust particles” still found in the camera. But the footage of Armstrong bobbing on the surface of the moon (some of it never seen before) is still haunting. “There’s a reason,” the directorsays, “that Aldrin and Armstrong are honorary members of the American Society of Cinematographers.”

What also impressed Miller were the more intimate, human-scale moments, like film of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins being suited up in their hazmat-like cocoons for the voyage. “Two days earlier, they did a dry run and you see them joking around and being jovial,” he says. “When you see them on the lift-off day, you can now clearly see their faces, how the weight of the world is on them about what they’re about to do. It was so striking. It’s chilling.”

Has viewing all the footage vanquished from Miller’s mind any of the conspiracy theories about faked landings and suspicious flags that lard YouTube? “We were hoping we would find something like that — a little stage somewhere,” he jokes. “But we didn’t. Having eyeballed the originals [footage], I don’t put a lot of weight into it. I actually love those stories about Aldrin punching people who bring it up.”

For Miller, Apollo 11 also has a higher purpose beyond blowing moviegoers’ minds. “It shows that people can accomplish something great together,” Miller says. “We got to spread our wings and go out there. That’s what I hope people will take away, that we can do something like this again if we have the will. Do we? That’s the question.”

In This Article: Apollo 11, Documentary, moon landing

Want more Rolling Stone? Sign up for our newsletter.

Read More



Leave A Comment

More News

Rolling Stone Latest Movies

‘Triple Frontier’: A Mindless Heist Flick That Delivers 2019-03-06 15:57:27Five ex-military pals — including Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac — reunite in J.C. Chandor's action thriller so they can rip off a drug lord

‘Black Panther’ Cinematographer Rachel Morrison’s Life Behind the 2019-03-06 12:27:50She's the first woman in her field ever nominated for an Oscar — and she's just getting started

Inside the Making of the Mind-Blowing ‘Apollo 11’ 2019-03-06 11:08:09Director Todd Douglas Miller and archivist Dan Rooney on unearthing rare footage of the historic space mission that sets a new course for doc filmmaki

Watch J.R.R. Tolkien Find Inspiration in Love, Friendship 2019-03-06 10:23:38Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins star in forthcoming biopic of 'Lord of the Rings' author

25 Movies We Can’t Wait to See at 2019-03-06 08:00:42From docs on Lil Peep, Johnny Cash and a Japanese Jimmy Page tribute artist to the world premiere of Jordan Peele's 'Us.'

Tribeca Film Fest: D’Angelo, Woodstock, Bill Wyman Docs 2019-03-05 15:00:14Films about Linda Ronstadt, Blind Melon's Shannon Hoon, Michael Hutchence, Sublime also set to debut

‘Captain Marvel’ Review: Brie Larson Takes on Cosmic 2019-03-05 14:36:56First female-led Marvel movie gives us a superheroine for the ages

‘Midsommar’: Watch Trailer for New Horror Movie About 2019-03-05 10:20:21Film helmed by 'Hereditary' writer-director Ari Aster is due this summer

Watch Teenager Use Superpowers to Fight Crime, Buy 2019-03-04 15:47:47Latest DC superhero flick set to open this April

Johnny Depp Files $50 Million Defamation Lawsuit Against 2019-03-02 14:06:33"This frivolous action is just the latest of Johnny Depp’s repeated efforts to silence Amber Heard. She will not be silenced," actre

Oscars 2019: Who Should Win, Who Will Win 2019-02-18 09:00:47Peter Travers predicts who's going home with the gold on Oscar night — and who really deserves the award

Robert Rodriguez: How We Made ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ 2019-02-17 10:00:35The director (and producer Jon Landau) break down the FX design and technical process of bringing this anime heroine to the big screen

FilmBook

News Brief: ARROW Ending After Season 8; THE 2019-03-07 07:29:38  News Brief about: Arrow Ending After Season 8, The River at Night Adapted, Maleficent 2’s New Release Date, and More In brief, new movie

THE FLASH: Season 5, Episode 16: Failure is 2019-03-06 18:27:36  The Flash Failure is an Orphan Trailer The CW‘s The Flash: Season 5, Episode 16: Failure is an Orphan TV show trailer has been released a

BRIGHTBURN (2019) Movie Trailer 2: A Dark, Disturbing 2019-03-06 16:35:11  BrightBurn Trailer 2 Sony Pictures has released the second movie trailer for BrightBurn (2019). The first movie trailer for Brightburn was cree

THE WALKING DEAD: Season 9, Episode 13: Chokepoint 2019-03-06 10:00:32  The Walking Dead Chokepoint Trailer and Ep. 14-16 Plot Synopses AMC‘s The Walking Dead: Season 9: Episode 13: Chokepoint TV show trailer

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 – Feature Film Lineup: 2019-03-06 09:00:22  Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Feature Film Lineup Dreamland, Georgetown, A Day in the Life of America, and other films in the Feature Film section

ARROW: Season 7, Episode 15: Training Day Trailer; 2019-03-06 08:00:34  Arrow Training Day Trailer and Star City 2040 Plot Synopsis The CW‘s Arrow: Season 7, Episode 15: Training Day TV show trailer and the of

THE ENEMY WITHIN: Season 1, Episode 3: The 2019-03-05 20:39:37  The Enemy Within The Ambassador’s Wife Trailer & Confessions Plot Synopsis NBC‘s The Enemy Within: Season 1, Episode 3: The Amb

Film Casting: GHOSTBUSTERS 3; MORBIUS; Will Smith in 2019-03-05 19:04:50  Ghostbusters 3, Morbius, King Richard, and more Film Casting News Ghostbusters, Morbius, King Richard, and more movies have made recent film ca

ROCKETMAN (2019) Movie Trailer 2: Taron Egerton becomes 2019-02-21 16:51:34  Rocketman Trailer 2 Paramount Pictures has released the second movie trailer for Rocketman (2019). The first movie trailer for Rocketman can be

CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019) TV Spots: Brie Larson & 2019-02-21 10:00:06  Captain Marvel TV Spots Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures has debuted four new movie TV commercials for Captain Marvel (20

THE DIRT (2019) Movie Trailer: Motley Crue’s Rags-to-riches 2019-02-21 09:00:05  The Dirt Trailer Jeff Tremaine‘s The Dirt (2019) movie trailer stars Douglas Booth, Iwan Rheon, Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly), Dan

FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY (2019) Movie Trailer 2: 2019-02-21 08:00:31  Fighting with My Family Trailer 2 The second and final U.S. movie trailer for Fighting with My Family (2019) has been released by Metro-Goldwyn

NYT > Movies

It Was the Hottest Oscar Night Party. What 2019-02-21 17:23:51Vanity Fair has ruled the roost, but its guest list is bloated by corporate sponsorships. And now there’s competition from Jay-Z.

5 Film Series to Catch in N.Y.C. This 2019-02-21 17:00:04Our guide to film series and special screenings.

Anatomy of a Scene: How ‘Cold War’ Makes 2019-02-21 16:52:20The director Pawel Pawlikowski discusses how he uses “Rock Around the Clock” in a moment from his drama about a turbulent relationship.

‘Cold War’ | Anatomy of a Scene 2019-02-21 15:57:18Pawel Pawlikowski narrates a sequence from his film.

The Carpetbagger: Oscars 2019 Predictions: Who Will Win 2019-02-21 14:30:54Our expert has been closely following the races and the voters, all season. Here’s what he thinks will happen at the ceremony on Sunday.

Woody Allen Is Shooting a New Movie in 2019-02-21 14:05:29The director may have a tarnished reputation in the United States, but he has been able to secure funding from a Barcelona-based company for a new pro

Anatomy of a Scene: Watch: An Inside Look 2019-02-21 14:00:03Hear from directors of this year’s Best Picture nominees.

The Baffling Road to the Oscars: An Academy 2019-02-21 13:58:23A look back at the announcements made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences about the 91st Academy Awards, and some of the backlash those

If You Think the Oscars Have Gotten More 2019-02-21 12:00:04Our expert analyzed all 554 best-picture nominees over the years, and found that political themes are becoming more common.

A Pocket Guide to the Oscars’ Beefiest Controversies 2019-02-21 10:11:58How to navigate a fractious, scandal-plagued year at the movies.

No Thanks. Really, Oscar Winners, Skip That Part. 2019-02-21 10:00:05If the Academy Awards can proceed without a host, it’s time to rethink those acceptance speeches. Please.

‘Prosecuting Evil’ Review: At 98, His Passion for 2019-02-21 07:00:04Benjamin B. Ferencz was the chief prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen case at the Nuremberg trials. This documentary tells his story.

L.A. Times - Movie News

Matt Smith leaves ‘The Crown’ behind for Charles 2019-03-07 08:00:00“I’m sorry in my gym clothes” is the first thing Matt Smith says when he arrives to an empty coffee shop in his neighborhood of Nort

Review: Documentary ‘Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People’ 2019-03-07 08:00:00Print pages are the star of the Oren Rudavsky’s documentary “Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People”: aesthetically striking illustrat

Review: Ethan Hawke and Dane DeHaan renew Old 2019-03-06 21:25:00Legendary Old West lawman Pat Garrett and his famed nemesis, outlaw-folk hero William H. Bonney, a.k.a. Billy the Kid, have been portrayed countless t

Review: A 'Police Story' restoration puts Jackie Chan 2019-03-06 19:15:00The only thing more perfunctory than the title of “Police Story” might be the story itself, and that’s precisely as it should be. A

Review: Christian Petzold’s thriller ‘Transit’ is hauntingly suspended 2019-03-06 16:35:00Early on in “Transit,” the quietly extraordinary new movie from German writer-director Christian Petzold, a man named Georg (Franz Rogowsk

Review: Ben Affleck-starring ‘Triple Frontier’ effectively explores familiar 2019-03-06 09:00:00“Triple Frontier” is a solid, engrossing genre item with designs on being something more. It doesn’t quite get there but it does wel

Corey Feldman defends Michael Jackson after watching ‘Leaving 2019-03-05 12:55:00Former child star Corey Feldman came to Michael Jackson’s defense on Monday after the polarizing HBO docuseries “Leaving Neverland”

Does Captain Marvel just need to smile more? 2019-03-05 12:30:00“Lighten up, honey, huh? You got a smile for me?” Even Captain Marvel, one of the strongest beings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is no

Review: ‘Captain Marvel’ and Brie Larson boost the 2019-03-05 09:00:00A very good year for Marvel Studios is about to get even better. “Captain Marvel” has arrived in town. Following up on the extraordinary s

As Steven Spielberg takes aim at Netflix’s Oscars 2019-03-04 14:40:00Well, that didn’t take long. No sooner did the motion picture academy make it through one of the most tumultuous awards seasons in memory than a

Netflix hits back at Steven Spielberg's reported rule 2019-03-04 12:15:00Netflix appears to have mounted a defense of its films following a report that famed director Steven Spielberg is aiming to foil Academy Awards eligib

Twitter reacts to HBO’s Michael Jackson documentary ‘Leaving 2019-03-04 01:45:00HBO aired the first half of its two-part, four-hour-long Michael Jackson documentary "Leaving Neverland" Sunday with viewer reaction divided among m

CinemaBlend Latest Content

7 Period Movies Marvel Should Make In The 2019-03-06 20:55:26As long as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to exist it will consistently produce contemporary stories – but it’s been shown that t

Apparently China Is Really, Really Into Green Book 2019-03-06 19:42:12China is warmly embracing the latest Best Picture winner... and there are a few interesting reasons why.

Idris Elba Will Replace Will Smith As Deadshot 2019-03-06 18:08:21Whoa.

American Gods’ Ricky Whittle Has Had Talks About 2019-03-06 17:34:23Could the man playing Shadow Moon put on the power ring next?

Fifty Shades Scenes That Weren't Sexy To Film 2019-03-06 17:14:29We’ve said our big screen goodbyes to Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele and author E.L. James has moved on to a different book series. However

Jean-Claude Van Damme Has His Own Version For 2019-03-06 17:14:01The Muscles from Brussels almost squared off with Arnie as the titular space hunter in Predator. So what happened?

What Surprised Jude Law and Gemma Chan The 2019-03-06 16:25:58Captain Marvel brings in some red-hot names – on the planet of Hala, we will meet a handful of Kree officers including Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg

ReelBlend #59: The Netflix Vs Spielberg Debate And 2019-03-06 15:50:33Are you free in April?

Aquaman Producer Explains Time Gap Between Films 2019-03-06 15:45:19Aquaman 2 won't arrive in theaters until four years after the first film. Here's why.

New Brightburn Trailer Shows Off Terrifying Superpowers 2019-03-06 15:33:00Basically, this is what would happen if Superman went rogue as a kid.

Triple Frontier Reviews Are In, Here’s What Critics 2019-03-06 15:08:32Netflix's newest feature has a big name cast, but is the film itself that big?

Samuel L. Jackson Admits He Made Up Captain 2019-03-06 14:48:31Looks like Nick Fury was just pulling our leg.


Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.