“If you have ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what is out there, this is the film for you.” Director Paul Hildebrandt puts into perspective the danger and detachment of America’s growing apathy for astronomy in his documentary Fight for Space. Though the Space Race inspired several generations to chase space and seek careers in science and technology, we’ve seen a steady decline in educational pursuit of space exploration in recent years. Fight for Space urges viewers to reawaken the sense of wonder and discovery and includes interviews with big names such as Bill Nye and Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell who share Hildebrandt’s vision for the future of the final frontier. We sat down with Paul, who’s love for astronomy, fascination with science fiction and concern for future generations galvanized this push to reinvest money and minds into space education.
What was your main motivation for making the documentary?
As an aspiring science fiction writer and soon-to-be father in 2012, I began to think of both how little the future seemed to be offering the next generation in terms of space flight. With the Space Shuttle just having been retired, and the Constellation program canceled, things were not looking up. I dropped the pen on trying to write a science fiction movie, believing that the Star Trek future would never exist until we figure out how to get out of low earth orbit. I had the idea to do a documentary on these issues as a way of bringing attention to them, and off we went.
Have you always been interested in Astronomy or is it something you came to later in life?
For as long as I can remember I’ve always been interested in space. Through both practical astronomy and science fiction. I’ve always wondered what could be out there.
Why do you think we lost interest in space education?
Interest in space education and space flight in general has had a bumpy road. In the 60s we were in a cold war with the Soviet Union and this spurred science education further than it had ever been before. Ever since then the focus has been mostly on earth bound problems which seem to resurface and repeat themselves constantly. Today space gets a few headlines and tv specials when NASA or SpaceX announces something, but we haven’t seen any of this come to be yet. To reignite interest in space we need to actually do something, not just talk about. Pulling back from the Moon and ending that program was I believe, a huge mistake and the ultimate answer to your question.
How long did it take to shoot? Did you run into any challenges while making it?
The film took about 4 years and change to make and it was incredibly challenging for me, both personally and professionally. NASA for example, did not want any part of the project because the question of “Why haven’t we gone back to the Moon?” Was too negative for their PR. I was given great help in finding footage and acquiring information but completely restricted from visiting any NASA facility or interviewing any NASA personnel officially. So a film that was originally going to be a film looking at how NASA was going to do all these great things in the future turned into more of a tragedy about why we stopped going and how messed up things are today. I learned a lot making this film and I’m excited to take these lessons into my next film, producing it quicker and more efficiently.
Can you tell our readers why they should see Fight for Space and what you want the audience to take away from the film?
Fight for Space is a film about the great things that we have done, and what we can do if we put our heads together and just do it. I’d like the audience to take away from this film all of the benefits that can be gained by doing space exploration and to see how badly it’s been messed up over the years. If you have ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what is out there, this is the film for you.
Can you give tips to any prospective Documentary film makers and what did you learn while making Fight for Space?
First, film making is collaborative, you can’t do everything yourself as much as you want to try. With that said it’s also important to follow your heart and make the film how you want to make it. Be expressive with your style of film making.
I learned more making Fight for Space than I ever did in any film class or formal training. Trial and error in both film making, dealing with people both close and far, public relations, technical requirements, archival research, the list is endless. I think the greatest way to learn how to make a movie is to make one. You can’t be told how to do it.
What’s next step for both you and the doc?
For the doc, I hope to continue showing it around the country and various festivals and then finally get it on some streaming services so everyone can see it as soon as possible.
As for me, after I wind down from this it’s off to make more documentaries, maybe about space, maybe not. Taking what I’ve learned and doing it better than I did last time, that’s what it’s about.