New movie finds ‘the Wonderful’ aboard the space station: director Q&A

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September 17, 2021

– Clare Lewins didn’t think she was the right director for a movie on the International Space Station.

Approached with the idea by producer George Chignell, with whom she worked on the 2014 boxing legend documentary “I Am Ali,” Lewins’ first reaction was that she was “not a person based. on science, ”but then began to research who had lived in the space station.

“That’s what made the difference, actually,” she told collectSPACE in an interview.

That, and a book she was reading at the time. Joseph Conrad’s novel at the turn of the 20th century, “Lord Jim”, described former sailors traveling into the unknown, with an impulse in their blood to dream of the future.

“And he wrote, ‘They were wonderful … And you have to admit they were ready for the wonderful,” Lewins said, quoting Conrad. “And I thought, ‘That’s it. This is the story.’ Really, this is the movie. “

“The Wonderful: Stories From the Space Station” focuses on the lives of a dozen international astronauts and cosmonauts who, for some time, made their home on the International Space Station. From Bill Shepherd and Sergei Krikalev, who were members of the station’s first expedition team over 20 years ago, to Scott Kelly and Peggy Whitson, who set length records during their time aboard the Outpost, the two-hour film reveals the humanity behind it all – the engineering and technology that made such a facility possible.

“Right from the start, I actually thought I wanted to talk about the people, not the 450 ton spaceship, which by the way is amazing, but other movies have done it,” Lewins said.


collectSPACE spoke to Lewins and former NASA astronaut Cady Coleman about “The Wonderful”, which is now open in select US theaters and available on digital platforms around the world. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

collectSPACE (cS): Cady, as one of the “wonderful” ones, what was your reaction to the film? Was it wonderful for you?

Cady coleman: I liked it. We [astronauts] don’t hear a lot of other people’s stories and hear them and see them told in so much detail, and from those really interesting perspectives it was just fascinating to me.

I’ve been in the space program for so long because it’s something I really believe in, even after I retire. To have someone to make this exquisite film that celebrates so many different aspects of the people who make it meant the world to me.

CS: Clare, with almost 250 people to choose from (244 astronauts and cosmonauts have visited the space station since 1998), how did you select the 12 for the film?

Claire Lewin: Telling the story of the space station is quite difficult. You know if you did [a documentary about] Apollo 11, there is a clear narrative there. This [spans] over 20 years.

So I said I’m going to choose different stories that don’t seem to be related, but actually are. What I’m trying to show with all of this is that everyone is connected. There is a human connection.

CS: You worked exclusively with archival footage in terms of scenes shot in space. Did you find that you were limited to what the astronauts had filmed?

Lewin: We were very lucky. There are so many of them in fact that you could spend your life going through it all. We have been very lucky with some of the people at NASA who have really helped us. I said I wanted the best archive available, really the stuff that was shot on a Red [Digital Cinema HD] camera. Like the Peggy Whitson scenes, it’s just beautiful.

But most of the images are exactly representative of the cameras they had [at the time]. The first images we were trying to get, like the images of [Russia’s federal space corporation] Roscosmos was slightly more difficult to obtain. But I love this. I like when you see [cosmonaut] Sergei [Volkov] with her daddy [also a cosmonaut], it looks soviet. He looks iconic. You can see exactly that it is nowhere other than Russia.

CS: In addition to the archive images, you have created scenes of a more artistic nature. How did these come about?

Lewin: For me, it was important that it was not just about interviews and archives. As with the [scene with] Young kids dreaming of being cosmonauts in Russia, we went to a 1970s boxing gym that had the right color green. Or the boy lying in the snow, dreaming of being a cosmonaut.

Scott Kelly told me he had this dream he used to have, this sort of recurring daydream that he was going to be in a very small space, and I thought we would film it in as a young boy. He also talks a lot about lack of water when he’s in space. So I thought we would put rain on the window with a young boy dreaming.

With Cady she talks about her dad as a diver and I thought it would be great to have an underwater scene where we filmed a snorkel diver underwater and then the scene goes straight into the [space station’s] cupola.

It all sounds a bit unusual. But in my head, everything makes sense.

CS: Cady, your part of the film focuses on your family, your husband Josh and his son Jamey. How was the shoot together?

Coleman: In general, Clare asked us all separately questions that had never been asked of me before. It was a very different kind of interview. And I didn’t hear Jamey and Josh’s interviews on purpose because I wanted them to be able to just be with Clare and tell their stories.

But it was really wonderful for me to hear their stories and what it was to them when I was getting ready to leave, when I got started and what it was like having me up there. In fact, very moving, really, for me. I cried the first time I watched the movie.

Just thinking about it, it was really hard to leave them. And at the same time, it was what we had decided as a family; that’s what Jamey’s mom does, that’s what Josh’s wife does, but that doesn’t mean just to hear the little details – you know, I’m gonna cry just thinking about it. When Jamey says “my mom was really gone,” I mean, that’s a big deal.

CS: Clare, going back to what Joseph Conrad wrote, now that you’ve made the movie, has your outlook on “marvelous” astronauts changed?

Lewin: I have more respect for them, because – of course everyone is human with all their weaknesses and things – but I think they all take space exploration and their work very seriously.

They know they have a whole team of people at NASA and Roscosmos and their family members helping them get up there. And they are aware that this is a privileged position, but they take it very seriously. I mean, people like Cady, super bright in science, tech, engineering, you know, everything. But that’s not the subject of my film, really. My movie was more about, I don’t know, just the kind of humanity inspiration and connections.

So to answer your question more succinctly, I think they are wonderful.


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