'First to the Moon' Film Seeks Crowd Funds for Apollo 8 50th Anniversary Release

apollo 8 first moon film
Director Paul Hildebrandt's film, "First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8," marks the mission's 50th anniversary in December 2018. (Image credit: First to the Moon via collectSPACE.com)

A feature-length documentary about the first humans to fly to the moon needs the public's help 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 Moon Landings: How They Worked (Infographic)]

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 spanning 240 thousand miles (390 thousand kilometers). The three crew members took the first photos of "Earthrise" over the moon, changing forever how we viewed our planet.

"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." Post-production work still remains 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 websiteto 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.

Backers on Kickstarter can receive "First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8” t-shirts and posters, among other swag and perks. (Image credit: First to the Moon/Kickstarter)


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.

For more details or to pledge, see Paul Hildebrandt's "First to the Moon" campaign on Kickstarter at: kck.st/2DCS1T1

Watch the trailer for "First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8" at collectSPACE.

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Robert Z. Pearlman
collectSPACE.com Editor, Space.com Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.