Marketing teams can be hyperbolic. Whether a poster or a YouTube pre-roll ad, they will often exaggerate their message, claiming that you’ve “never seen this before” just to draw you in. But not all things require melodramatic marketing pitches, especially something as sensational as Apollo 11’s moon landing.
At the time, the cosmic watershed was only observable through limited means—you either tuned in via a crackly television broadcast in 1969, or attended the launch in person at Cape Canaveral. Beyond director Theo Kamecke’s doc Moonwalk One and monochrome clips at your local science museum, there isn’t much cinematic material on the storied launch that the public can access. Director Todd Douglas Miller sought to change that. He decided he would show the entire journey on a 72-foot IMAX screen in his new documentary film, Apollo 11.
Sifting through 11,000 hours of Mission Control audio, 16-millimeter and 35-millimeter films, and 177 previously undiscovered rolls of 65-millimeter Panavision film footage of the vessel’s launch (stored outside of D.C. at the National Archives Facility), Miller and his team have torn a wormhole in the space-time continuum for viewers to travel back to launch day in July 1969, transforming history into a 93-minute spectacle.
Years in the making, Miller started the project during the filming of his last feature, Dinosaur 13. He worked with archivist Stephen Slater—a space-history superfan—to sync the audio to the picture, an incredible feat. The hard-earned results will fascinate even the most uninterested viewer. Unmarred by talking heads or voiceovers, the minimal graphics and film’s score, created by a Moog 1968 reissued synthesizer, comes together to create a sonic and aesthetic experience that feels authentic to the core. Here, Miller explains how he rebuilt an iconic moment in American history.