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'First to the Moon' film seeks crowd funds for Apollo 8 50th release

January 17, 2018

— A feature-length documentary about the first humans to fly to the moon needs the public's help if it is to be ready in time for the mission's 50th anniversary in December.

"First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8," from director Paul Hildebrandt, focuses on the historic 1968 mission and how it unfolded, from its unprecedented launch to entering orbit around the moon to the astronauts' triumphant return to Earth. It will feature newly-conducted interviews with the three crew members, rarely-seen footage from NASA and the astronauts' archives and photo-realistic animations to help illustrate the flight of Apollo 8.

"This film tells the story of the three astronauts who were the first people to truly leave the Earth," said Hildebrandt in a statement. "We present a biography of Apollo astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, a full account of the mission, and a look at the year 1968."

The Apollo 8 mission lifted off aboard NASA's first crewed Saturn V rocket on Dec. 21, 1968, and entered lunar orbit three days later after a journey across 240 thousand miles (390 thousand kilometers). The three crew members took the first photos of "Earthrise" over the moon, changing how we viewed our planet.

"First to the Moon" film trailer. Click to enlarge video in new pop-up window. (Kickstarter)

"When you stop to think about the mission we were given, that was a remarkable challenge," says Borman, Apollo 8 commander, in a clip from "First to the Moon."

"At the time that we did it, I don't think we fully understood the significance," Lovell says in the film.

"First flight on the Saturn V, first to leave the Earth, and so there really wasn't much to wring your hands about," says Anders in the documentary's first trailer. "I thought we had about one chance in three of having a successful mission."

Hildebrandt, who directed the 2016 documentary "Fight for Space" about space advocacy, has completed the principal photography for "First to the Moon." What remains is post-production work before it can be released.

"Things like music, archival film and animation, all so we can get this film done and out by December, in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 flight," Hildebrandt said.

To that end, Hildebrandt needs to raise at least $100,000. On Tuesday (Jan. 16), he began a crowdfunding campaign on the Kickstarter website to underwrite the digital transfer of more than 50 film reels from the National Archives, the licensing of Apollo 8 news footage from the U.S. television networks and hiring an animator and composer to provide the visuals and orchestral score for the film.

Hildebrandt aims to screen "First to the Moon" in theaters around the United States, in addition to making it available through digital distribution. Some of the money raised will provide for the technical mixing needed to prepare the film for its theatrical and broadcast release.

In return for pledges on Kickstarter, Hildebrandt is offering backers inclusion in the documentary's credits and copies of the finished film on DVD and Blu-ray. He is also offering signed "First to the Moon" posters and t-shirts, as well as reproductions of the Apollo 8 mission patch.

"Please help us by donating to the campaign, sharing on social media, and let's get this story told," said Hildebrandt.

The "First to the Moon" Kickstarter campaign will run for 30 days, closing to pledges on Feb. 15.

Update: After failing to raise the $100,000 goal by the Feb. 15 deadline, a second campaign successfully raised more than $50,000. For more details, see the "First to the Moon" campaign on Kickstarter.


Director Paul Hildebrandt's film, "First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8," marks the mission's 50th anniversary. (First to the Moon)

Backers on Kickstarter can receive "First to the Moon" t-shirts and posters, among other swag and perks. (First to the Moon)

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