×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Listen: ‘Apollo: Missions to the Moon’ Director on Creating a Story from Archival Footage

National Geographic’s “Apollo: Missions to the Moon” stands out of the crowd of 50th anniversary Apollo 11 documentaries, in that it crafts a narrative using only archival footage about multiple Apollo missions.

Director and executive producer Tom Jennings spoke with Variety‘s “TV Take” podcast with executive editor of television Daniel Holloway about the documentary.

Jennings recalled a conversation he had with the studio about releasing the documentary ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. “‘You know there are going to be like twenty of these?,'” he pointed out. The response: “‘Yes, it’s up to you to figure out how to make it different.'”

What’s different about the doc? “We have no narrator or no interviews. We didn’t want to lock ourselves into just [Apollo] 11. We have to show the context in which it existed,” said Jennings. 

The documentary begins with the first Apollo mission and details the lives of the mission’s three astronauts with archival footage. “We literally created character lines from archival footage like a feature film director would,” said Jennings. All three astronauts died in a fire during a launch rehearsal.  “To experience the tragedy of losing [the astronauts] early on in the film they became characters in the film to us.”

Over the last decade, Jennings has produced many documentaries with National Geographic without narrators or talking heads. “There were entire worlds out there that exist in archives that people have not tapped yet. If you assemble it in a way that feels like the footage was shot for you for a film and you have enough audio to tell the story you can make a time machine in a sense,” said Jennings. 

Jennings shared stories of tracking down obscure archival footage, such as an NBC puppet recreation of the moon landing and a Pink Floyd recording at the BBC to provide the soundtrack to the Apollo 11 landing live.

“Apollo: Missions to the Moon” will premiere on National Geographic on July 7.

More TV

  • advertising placeholder NEW

    Procter & Gamble Gets Ready to Enter TV's Streaming Wars

    AT&T, Comcast and Walt Disney aren’t the only big companies eager to get into streaming-video. Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s most influential advertisers, is looking to do the same. P&G. the maker of Pampers, Crest and Bounty, among other popular supermarket staples, has struck a partnership with Stone Village Television, the production company [...]

  • The Luminaries

    Berlinale Series Market Unveils 2020 Selection

    The BBC and TVNZ’s adaptation of Man Booker Prize winning novel “The Luminaries,” starring Eva Green, is among the scripted TV projects that will feature in this year’s Berlinale Series Market and Conference program at the Berlin International Film Festival. Set during the 1860s gold rush in New Zealand, the Working Title and Southern Light [...]

  • The Photograph Issa Rae Stella Meghie

    How ‘Love & Basketball’ Allowed Issa Rae to Dream

    Issa Rae says she had every reason to think she could be a filmmaker when she was growing up. “The ’90s had lots of black television and film … a lot of the shows were helmed by black people,” she recalls. “That’s what inspired me to at least try it.” She may have only been [...]

  • A security guard wears a mask

    China’s Media Regulator Cuts 'Entertaining' TV Content During Coronavirus Crisis

    China’s media regulator has responded to the deadly coronavirus epidemic sweeping the country by cutting “entertaining” TV shows and boosting news programs, it said Tuesday, at a time when millions are stuck at home under quarantine. The announcement comes just days after it declared it was also doing the opposite: actively working to bring in [...]

  • 'Miracle Workers' Creator Talks Taking the

    'Miracle Workers: Dark Ages' Creator Talks Pivoting the Series Towards Medieval Times

    “Miracle Workers: Dark Ages” sees Steve Buscemi shift from playing God to a local excrement remover, and Daniel Radcliffe ditch his awkward angel for a soft-brained prince. Given the malleable nature of the TBS anthology series, creator Simon Rich was presented with a blank canvas for Season 2. Rich made the decision to leave behind [...]

  • Nic Pizzolatto, Matthew McConaughey28th Annual American

    Matthew McConaughey, 'True Detective' Creator Re-Team for FX Drama Series

    Matthew McConaughey and Nic Pizzolatto are coming together for a potential new TV series at FX. The “True Detective” collaborators have landed a script-to-series order for a drama series titled “Redeemer,” which Pizzolatto will write and in which McConaughey will star. Both will also executive produce the project. In addition, Pizzolatto has signed an overall [...]

  • THE BIGGEST LOSER -- "Time for

    From Trainer to Armchair Therapist: Bob Harper's 'The Biggest Loser' Journey

    Fitness expert Bob Harper spent a dozen years training contestants to lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time on the original, NBC incarnation of “The Biggest Loser,” a show he calls “the O.G. fitness reality series.” But in 2017 he suffered a major heart attack that had him rethinking his approach [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content