Inspired by Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and NASA's Project Apollo missions (1967-1972), I spent most of my childhood years thinking about space exploration. Later, in our middle teens, my friends and I were interested in films of many genres, but mainly science fiction. The greatest science fiction film of all time was, of course, 2001: A Space Odyssey. After its release, nothing else of value came along until Douglas Trumbull's Silent Running, in 1972. Both of these films influenced my amateur filmmaking, but this short film indicates that 2001 had the greatest impact.
I made the moon landscapes of papier-mâché and plaster on large plywood sheets. I constructed a large and a small model of the spaceship for close-ups and wide-angle shots. Both models were formed of wood and plaster. The cockpit and control panels are made of plywood. My parents gave me the largest bedroom in our little house so that I had enough space to build this set.
Building the sets and models after school hours took almost three years. A few of the switches on the control panels are real, and control various lights and LEDs. I made computer displays by rear projection on paper, a technique used in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Unfortunately, I should have projected the displays off a front-surfaced mirror to prevent an inverted image.
Double exposing the small spaceship model on top of the black sky creates the illusion that the spacecraft is hovering overhead. Double exposing super-8 film is difficult. The film roll is sealed in a cartridge, and the roll rotates on a ratcheted axle which prevents backlash. In order to spool the film backwards after the first exposure, I disengaged the ratchet by sticking a thin wire into a locking mechanism in the middle of the cartridge, and then pushed the film backwards a few frames at a time. It was necessary to do this in total darkness to avoid exposing the film to light.
This short film was to be the introduction to a one-hour long movie. However, after shooting five minutes of usable footage (out of at least 60 minutes total), I had exceeded my film and developing budget of 500 US dollars.
Certainly the most serious mistake I made in the film's direction was the starboard astronaut's gum chewing. Why couldn't I see that would not work?