Jimmy Chin had given up hope of securing real footage of the 2018 Thailand cave rescue when Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi traveled to the country in the middle of the pandemic to convince the Thai Navy SEALs to share video of the 2018 mission. After two years of negotiations, she was finally able to secure 87 hours of never-before-seen footage, which proved pivotal to their film “The Rescue.”

“I needed to know that I had done absolutely everything in my power,” Vasarhelyi, who directed the film with Chin, said about working tirelessly to get footage of the divers who risked their lives during the treacherous rescue. “I had to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I had tried everything.”

After receiving the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Vasarhelyi flew to Thailand in May 2021 to take matters into her own hands.

“There’s just some things that you can’t do over Zoom,” Vasarhelyi said on Variety Doc Dreams presented by National Geographic. “And that is to ask a national special forces to trust you with their material.”

“The fact that I showed up in Thailand in the middle of the pandemic was very significant for them because they felt like we really had good intentions and were willing to go the extra mile,” she said. “Also understanding how we felt like we were in a unique position to listen to the Asian voices that were a part of this story, and that they were very important to us and that’s why we were going.”

Shooting from four countries — U.S., U.K., Thailand and Australia — the Oscar-winning-husband-and-wife filmmaking team was interested in documenting the lives of the divers who put everything on hold to save 12 Thai boys and their 25-year-old assistant coach, who became trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave after soccer practice.

“We were just interested in how these divers’ individual journeys prepared them for this moment, because really what’s astonishing about it is the moral courage that they show, and they have everything to lose,” Vasarhelyi said.

Chin said there’s a common thread between the characters in “The Rescue” and those in his last two films, including the Academy Award-winning “Free Solo” about rock climber Alex Honnold.

“There’s a certain type of character and character traits that you see in people who are drawn to these fringe lifestyles,” he said. “They were kindred spirits in some way.”

Chin also reflected on the importance of believing in the documentary you are creating.

“I think it is a reminder to us how important it is when you find meaning in the story, because making documentaries is hard, and it takes up years of your life,” he said. “So in terms of the projects that you take on in the future, they really have to have meaning for you and you really have to want to tell that story.”

Watch the full video above.