Two central Ohio natives are launching audiences into outer space through the recently released “Apollo 11,” a documentary focused on the flight that first put men on the moon 50 years ago this July.
Todd Miller directed and produced the film, which features music Matt Morton composed. Both men are 1995 Gahanna Lincoln High School graduates.
The men have been friends since they attended Lincoln Elementary School in Gahanna.
Sharon Tomko and Tricia Twigg, community-relations coordinators for Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, organized a special screening of the film May 19 at the Cinemark Stoneridge Plaza Movies 16, 323 Stoneridge Lane, that drew about 130 people.
The showing was the day before Miller and Morton were inducted into the Gahanna Lincoln Alumni Hall of Fame, along with Jennifer Turner, a 2009 graduate who works as a flight controller for the International Space Station in Houston, Texas.
Miller, who directed “Dinosaur 13” in 2014, said he started on “Apollo 11” about three years ago.
“We’ve been working with NASA and the National Archives for the better half of those three years on the project,” he said. “It has really been a labor of love. The stars really aligned, no pun intended. We were given access to a ton of archival material.”
In addition to a discovery of an unprocessed collection of 65mm large format footage, never before seen by the public, containing shots of the launch and inside mission control, Miller said, he also was given access to 11,000 hours of audio.
“I just had a great team on this thing,” he said. “We worked to put it into a 93-minute, feature-length film.”
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and has been in theaters with Imax and Miller’s distributor, Neon.
Miller said there’s also an “Apollo 11: First Steps Edition,” which is a cutdown of the feature film with exclusive footage for science centers and museum theaters.
“We’re working with COSI right now to have a special presentation (in June),” he said.
That special presentation has been scheduled from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at the COSI National Geographic Giant Screen Theater, according to Jaclyn Reynolds, director of communications for COSI. Tickets are $4 for COSI members, $5 with the purchase of COSI general admission or $8 for theater-only admission, she said. For details, go to cosi.org/apollo-11-special-event.
Miller said Morton did an amazing job on the film, and both are excited for people to see it.
Morton said he and Miller have been “talking space stuff” for a really long time.
“I had a blast going back and researching all of the weirdo music of the ’50s and ’60s,” he said. “Our initial goal was to have this be a lot less palatable than it is now. We were going to make it really weird. My idea was to make it sound like a bunch of people from 1969 actually recorded it. I wanted it to sound exactly like that.”
The more he delved into the music of that time, Morton said, the more he realized how much has changed in 50 years.
“I realized that really wouldn’t translate all that well to a modern audience,” he said. “I decided instead of that to use all instruments from 1969 or earlier but to just score it however I wanted to as a modern guy.”
Morton said he was born in 1977 and Miller in 1976.
“Neither of us were even around to witness this, so how could we even pretend to be like a musician from the ’60s?” he said.
Morton said the two had fun making this film.
“We watched about every space documentary ever, at least five times, especially ‘Moonwalk One,’ ” he said. “A lot of the ground-based shots in this film were actually shot by that crew. So If you want a companion-piece movie, that’s a good one to check out.”
Morton said he has been working with Miller since high school.
“We were in a band together called 651, which was my address on Dark Star Avenue,” he said.
Miller even managed to slip the numbers 651 into the film.
Turner, who previously viewed the film with colleagues from the Johnson Space Center, attended the screening.
“Even though you see the footage and you see all the things about Apollo during our training and talking about mission control and the Apollo days versus now, it was really inspiring and the footage is unbelievable,” she said. “(It’s) just (this) feat of humankind to be able to land on the moon and being able to relive that, especially when I found out it was partially made by a couple GLHS alumni, I was just blown away and just so proud of our community.”
Susan Loper said she attended the screening because she and Morton are friends.
“I feel I learned so much,” she said. “I learned how the mission happened. It brought tears to my eyes when they showed the astronauts’ families at the launch. They didn’t know if they would come back.”
Loper said she is proud of Morton and Miller.
“The inspiration they give is so powerful,” she said. “They want to give back.”
To that end, Miller said, a group of six members of the class of 1995 are working to honor their late classmate and friend, Dan Nelson.
“He was the best out of all of us,” Miller said. “He died in a car accident in 1993 on the way to chorale. We want to make a lasting legacy.”
Miller said “Apollo 11” will be back in Imax theaters later this year.
For more information about the film, visit apollo11movie.com.