A while ago, [stderr] I mentioned a movie that a I shot with an unindicted co-conspirator back in 2012. I’m thrilled to say that it’s finished!
[Spoiler Warning: they did actually go to the moon]
I had a conversation with an actual moon landing “skeptic” and pretty quickly realized that I was talking to a fairly intelligent person who had simply become a “skeptic” about one thing too many. He had destroyed his ability to believe in something that had actually happened. I also noticed that very smart people, when they bullshit, come up with some really interesting things – they’re just wrong in interesting ways. That night I couldn’t sleep and started thinking “what if you had some really smart, well-educated people start throwing bullshit around a field they know something about?” I’m pretty sure a good physicist could bamboozle me about physics; at what point would that physicist be able to convince me that my belief in the moon landing was simply a result of my not understanding something a bit more advanced than the basics I’ve managed to get a grasp on.
We decided to make it hard on our audience, by telling the most plausible lies that we could. Best of all, there were grains of truth in all or most of them – most people don’t realize, for example, that NASA and National Geographic made a fair number of plaster models of the moon – they had to because that’s how maps were made in those days. There are loads of models of spaceships and mock-ups of components because they didn’t have 3D computer simulation and they didn’t know what they were doing. So there are many suspicious artifacts out there – enough that someone might come to think that it’s maybe all artifacts.
Dan K., my co-conspirator, put out a casting call and found an interesting mix of smart, creative people who were willing to sling some bullshit, and we spent 3 days in the Pittsburgh area driving around with some studio lights and a pair of cameras and an audio recorder. As each of our actors told their story, we refined the imaginary org-chart of our conspiracy, and asked each of our characters to inhabit that role – then, we interviewed them about what it was like. Our narrative got more elaborate over time, and began to make more sense as we refined it. There were huge pieces of the puzzle that the moon landing conspiracy theorists haven’t thought of – but we did. For example, we created one fellow who was a mechanical engineer (played by a professor of engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University) who was responsible for spacial continuity in the LEM and command module. We were stunned and asked him what he was talking about, and he patiently explained that there was a limited amount of “space” in the fake spacecraft and there were all kinds of things that had to fit into it. It would be glaringly obviously fake if the thing got to the moon and looked like a clown car, with people pulling more and more stuff out of it. So his job was to assign space to all the virtual objects that supposedly were going in the LEM, to make sure that nobody would store a 6-foot pole in a 3-foot space. He said the sectional flagpole was one of his great successes because he had to fight tooth and nail to force the prop designers to not include the huge flag pole they had originally specified. One of the things he said (which I believe made it into the final cut) was that “faking it was probably harder than actually doing it.”
We got home and unloaded the raw bits onto our hard drives and were horrified to realize we had about 8 hours of 4k video and separate audio. It was all nice and clean, but editing it into a coherent narrative was a skill that I definitely lack. Dan thought he did, too. It galled both of us to have this stuff sitting there untouched, to the point where it probably damaged our friendship some; if we got together we’d have to talk about it. Then, Dan got his hands on a copy of Final Cut Pro and started learning it, and got some advice about how to assemble a documentary into a narrative – the 50th anniversary of the mission was coming up and it was time. I believe he said he spent something like 70 hours, all told, editing.
And now it’s ready!
The video’s hosted on youtube, so if you’re a Russian click-bot herder, I’d be thrilled if you “like” it a bunch. Or not. I think activity is what the algorithm is looking for, more than favorable activity. If you know Alex Jones or Joe Rogan, make sure you ask them if “Coming Clean” is a bunch of hooey or not.
Dan, who works at Google, did a premiere presentation of the film, and many of our stars were in attendance. The reaction was favorable and we had some lively Q&A and giggles during the show, so we counted it a success. One of my favorite questions was “Do you plan to do any more documentaries like this?” My response was: “Do any of you know an actor who looks like John F Kennedy might have looked when he was old?” Interviewing the people who faked that whole thing would be tremendous fun. I know a guy who used to golf with JFK long after he was “dead” and surprisingly, he struck up a friendship with the guy who shot him. No, not Oswald. See, the whole thing is that JFK was a “manchurian candidate” and when that was discovered they gave him a choice between a heart attack or a public relations epic.
The idea of interviewing JFK’s assassin has been in my mind for a long time, ever since I was talking to a guy I used to sometimes hang out with (politics ruined our friendship after 9/11, I refused to have anything to do with him) he was a special forces guy in the Phoenix Program in Vietnam and went on to be an intelligence officer in the CIA. I used to tell him that if he had a chance to utter any dying words he should confess that he fired the shot. He perfectly fit the profile.
One of the amazing things Dan was able to pull off was a tremendous amount of absolutely real photos of NASA test gear that looks like it was designed to fake a moon shot. It’s really remarkable. One of the most remarkable things, in fact, is that real conspiracy theorists haven’t found it and used it as evidence for NASA’s fakery. NASA has placed it all in the public domain, too – Dan says he spent a lot of time drinking good burgundy and browsing NASA image archives. And, it shows.