‘First Man’: Damien Chazelle, Josh Singer, and More on Crafting the Moon Landing

     September 17, 2018

One of the best films I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival and one of the best films of 2018 is First Man. Directed by Oscar-winning Whiplash and La La Land filmmaker Damien Chazelle, the film is based on a book by James R. Hansen and chronicles the amazing behind-the-scenes story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong between the years of 1961 and 1969. Ryan Gosling fills the role of Armstrong in the film, with Emmy-winning The Crown actress Claire Foy playing Armstrong’s wife Janet. The film also stars Jason ClarkeKyle Chandler,Patrick FugitCiaran HindsEthan Embry, Shea Whigham, Corey Stoll, and Pablo SchreiberFirst Man was written by Oscar-winning Spotlight and The Post co-writer Josh Singer and produced by Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen alongside Chazelle and Gosling.

first-man-posterWhile we’ve all seen a number of movie and TV projects about the early days of NASA and the space race, Chazelle opens the door to a new way of looking at the subject matter by the way he frames the events on screen. Trust me, even though I knew which missions were successful, I was on the edge of my seat as I watched the astronauts attempt to do the impossible. I cannot recommend this movie enough and I’m extremely confident it will be up for all the big awards at the upcoming Oscars.

Shortly after seeing the film, Damien Chazelle, screenwriter Josh Singer, Director of Photography Linus Sandgren and Sound Designer Ai-Ling Lee came into the Collider studio at TIFF to talk about the film. During the wide-ranging interview they talked about the decision to shoot in 16mm and IMAX, whether the studio had an opinion on the film’s unconventional methods of telling the story, what it was about the story and the characters that got them excited to tell this story, how they chose when to dramatize events when telling a true story, why SpaceX got a special “thank you” in the credits, how they brought in consultants and experts to watch the film before picture lock, and so much more.


Image via Universal Pictures

Check out what they had to say in the player above and below is exactly what we talked about. You can also read Matt Goldberg’s review of First Man here.

Damien Chazelle, Josh Singer, Linus Sandgren and Ai-Ling Lee:

  • The decision to shoot in 16mm and IMAX.
  • Making the film feel as immersive as possible.
  • Whether the studio had an opinion on the film’s unconventional methods, like its many close-ups.
  • What it was about the story and the characters that got them excited to tell this story.
  • Learning things about Neil Armstrong that most audiences might not know.
  • How you choose when to dramatize events when telling a true story.
  • The film’s stellar sound design, and the challenges behind recreating the noises of space flight.
  • Why SpaceX got a special “thank you” in the credits.
  • Bringing in consultants and experts to watch the film before picture lock.
  • How the process between Sandgren and Chazelle changed from La La Landto First Man.
  • How long the first cut was compared to the finished film.

Image via Universal Pictures

Finally, big thanks to the partners who made our TIFF interviews possible:

Aurora, Presenting Partner, one of Canada’s largest federally licensed cannabis companies and an official partner of the Toronto International Film Festival. Aurora’s involvement is anchored by its passion for the arts and commitment to providing financial support for the creative community.

Diageo Canada joins as the official spirit sponsor and will be showcasing cocktails featuring brands from their luxury portfolio including Ciroc Vodka,Tanqueray™ No. TEN Gin, Johnnie Walker Black Label and Bulleit Bourbon.

Toasting the evening’s festivities will be La Marca Prosecco, an elegant, luxurious sparkling wine. The premium wines of California’s Ghost Pines Winery will also be served!

Dutch beer brand Grolsch, the official beer sponsor of the Toronto Film Festival recognizable by its iconic swingtop bottle, will tap into the House of Aurora to extend its VIP footprint at the Festival. Grolsch has long been a champion of creativity and independent thinking.

Frank Rea Event Designs Toronto’s top event florist and ambient designer Frank Rea creatively lends his support with décor statements and floral designs through Forget Me Not Flowers & Frank Rea Event Designs.

The Collider Studio at the House of Aurora was produced by A-list Communications and The Substance Group.

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