Interview with the director
Why did you choose to make a film about Space Junk?
Space Junk is a really cutting-?edge science story, in the sense that is the kind of science that we’re deeply connected to. I’m not sure everyone is aware of that, but we are definitely connected to space—through satellite communications that provide us cell phone and smartphone service, television signals, weather forecasts, and military communications.
I was attracted to this story because the space environment is now threatened. When we make people aware of that they seem to “get it” and understand that 50 years of exploration have had an impact on space and there are consequences for our actions.
Is the timing, as a number of orbital debris stories have made media headlines, a coincidence?
It isn’t a coincidence that media headlines of falling debris are growing just as we launch this film. As we started researching this story we found that most scientists agree we’ve reached this tipping point where orbital debris will continue to grow exponentially if we don’t address the problem. There were two recent events, which we explore in the film that have proved to be real game changers and spiked concern. For example, it’s not uncommon that the International Space Station has to dodge a piece of debris from one of those two events.
As a director what were the biggest challenges you faced in making the film?
Of course anytime you are lugging a 300 lb. camera over a crater and up a mountain there will be inherent challenges!
One event that was absolutely nauseating was at a spring shoot in Arizona. We had 2 helicopters, 3D camera, cranes, crews, a location in a crater that was 500 feet deep—and in came a blizzard that dumped 30” of snow. It’s not supposed to snow in April in Arizona! We awoke to find it had all melted the next morning and definitely breathed a huge sigh of relief.
But there were several other challenges we faced in producing this film. A big one was that when we started to visualize what the film would look like we realized that this has never been visualized before. While that presented a challenge, it was also an opportunity to be creative. We actually ended up working with data collected by a number of leading universities, and the National Center for Supercomputing, to generate scientific visualizations of naturally occurring collisions in space that are pivotal scenes in the film.
Space Junk follows your “3D Sun” release. Where does your intrigue in space themes come from?
Why do I make space science films? Well, I never really did well in science in high school. I was an average student. What I really enjoy now that I am creating these stories are the people behind the science. It’s bringing the science to that human-?interest level that really propels and motivates me. How can I tell the story in such a way that people like me are going to be interested in it?
What do you hope the take away will be from this film?
I hope that people take away from this film that there are consequences to our actions. What do you expect when we launch thousands to things into low earth orbit and we we aren’t doing anything about it.
On the flip side of that were there is a will, there is a way. We haven’t quite figured out how we’re going to clean it up yet, but I believe—and the film says this pretty clearly—there is a will to make it better.
I expect that young people watching this film in various parts of the world will be integral in finding a long-? term solution.