Responses by Corydon Wagner, director, Ataboy Studios
Background: I believe that our generation’s great adventure and salvation lies in space. Thus, I wanted to make a one-minute forty-second film that celebrates the importance of space and moonshot thinking. When we look back on our lives, there are only a few things that we remember with visceral clarity: the moment we first fall in love, the moment in which we hold a child we cherish, and the moment in which we choose to take a risk of unknown proportions. I’m not an engineer or a rocket scientist, but I am a storyteller.
Reasoning: In setting sights on Virgin Galactic, a company dedicated to the pursuit of putting people in space, what better way to describe the feeling on offer than to ground it in its earthly counterparts: love, risk, liberation and reaching into the unknown. We’ve all been here, so perhaps we can imagine what it will feel like, one day, to be there.
Challenges: Making those actors float! Floating in zero gravity is a coveted experience for a reason; it’s nearly impossible to replicate easily, quickly or cheaply. Telling this story, however, couldn’t happen without seeing the sensation on screen, so we had to get creative. We combed through every video, movie, and doc available to us to ensure our shots were visually stunning and humanly accurate. In the end, no green screens were used. No wires painted out. No post budget blown.
Zero gravity is an enormous challenge for any filmmaker. So, we harnessed the power of gravity itself. We used it as a tool to create the illusion our actors, seatbelts, and ships were floating in deep space. By getting crafty with PVC pumps, rappelling rigs and a few other secret hacks, we could film zero gravity with ease.
Favorite details: We delivered the emotional journey of going into space in a way that felt both epic and real. It’s a humbling moment to look at our planet from space, and our edit delivered that experience in a way that felt natural.
Visual influences: We watched NASA videos that showed astronauts floating through the International Space Station to get a sense of how real zero gravity looks. Then, we poured over scenes from movies like 2001: Space Odyssey and Interstellar to see how to make that feel more cinematic. The balance between realism and art is tricky to get right and a lot of discussion was devoted to our talents movements to ensure we had something that felt but real and expressive.
Anything new: I learned when to use the right tools for each shot. Sometimes, the process of storyboarding, 3-D mockups, and planning through each shot before going ahead with complex stunts and practical effects is crucial. Other times, you just need to drop all the cool pre-viz tools and just go with your gut. Knowing when to employ planning versus keeping yourself open to whatever the world brings you is a vital skill in filmmaking.