At the heart of the Apollo missions was the team who worked in Mission Control right here in Texas. The documentary Mission Control The Unsung Heroes of Apollo, which made its world premiere at SXSW, takes us on an extraordinary journey.
Throughout the course of the film, we travel along with a group of people from ordinary backgrounds as they recount the story of how they worked together to achieve one of mankind’s greatest achievements: putting a man on the moon.
While the team had little experience with computers (a term that was previously applied to people, as we learned from Hidden Figures), they were tasked with basically inventing NASA and space travel in the US, on a measly salary of about $7K a year.
We asked David Fairhead what attracted him to direct the project.
For the previous 30 years I have worked as a film editor. In recent years, I have cut a number of feature documentaries about the Apollo Space Program. When I was offered the opportunity to direct this film, I leapt at the chance!
Though Fairhead worked as an editor on a film that screened at SXSW two years ago, he was thrilled to attend the fest for the first time and see how audiences reacted to his film. A number of the flight controllers featured in the doc were also in attendance.
We tested his Texas knowledge in advance of the world premiere.
What is your favorite movie and/or TV show shot in Texas?
“I just enjoyed Hell and High Water, which was set in Texas (although it was shot in New Mexico).”
Who is your favorite Texas musician?
“Nanci Griffith. It doesn’t all have to be about big hats and steaks!”
What actor would you call “totally Texan?”
“Tommy Lee Jones has the grizzled looks of ‘a Texan’. But there are a lot of people in Texas and I don’t think they all look like him!”
What Texas food are you most looking forward to eating in Austin?
“Ignoring what I said above, occasionally nothing is ever quite as good as a proper Texas steak!”
What advice do you have for Austinites looking to get into the biz?
“Be persistent, enthusiastic and helpful. Try hard, work hard and be good at what you do. And don’t give up!”
Mission Control The Unsung Heroes of Apollo hits theaters on April 14 to coincide with the anniversary of the notorious Apollo 13 space flight.
You can also pre-order the doc on iTunes and Vimeo.