A short movie made in collaboration with the European Space Agency called The Burn received the Best Space Exploration movie award at the Vienna Science Film Festival 2020.
The ten-minute docudrama, shot at the main control room of the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany, depicts the efforts of a team of spacecraft controllers to recover a mission orbiting around the Moon struck by a solar flare. Things are not the way they seem, and the story takes an unexpected turn.
“We were approached by the ESOC communications team with the idea to create a movie that would show the real operations environment and infrastructure,” says Johannes Walden, a film director and audio-visual media producer at D&D. “Together, we worked on a script that had to be accurate and true to reality, but also dramatic and exciting. It was really challenging to put the script together to satisfy both the creative and the technical team. Everything was nit-picked and scrutinised thoroughly.”
The filming took two days and relied on a cast of ESOC staff and contractors, most of them members of the ESOC theatre group. The D&D team collaborated closely with the ESOC communications team to squeeze the work into such a short period of time.
The main ESOC control room, from where ESA conducts critical mission operations including launch and early orbit operations, received a Hollywood-style makeover for the purpose of the filming. Johannes and his team worked with overlay graphics and lighting to give the control room a more dramatic sci-fi-like look and feel. D&D also composed music for the film, which was originally premiered in November 2019 via ESA’s YouTube channel.
“It’s great to be recognised by the Vienna Science Film Festival,” says Johannes. “The competition there is extremely tough but it’s great that they have these smaller genre categories so that more people get a chance to showcase their work.”
The Burn was the second project Johannes worked on in cooperation with ESA. In April 2019, ESA released the short docudrama Asteroid Impact 2028, exploring a realistic scenario of a possible devastating collision of our planet with a large space rock. Just like in The Burn, the goal was to illustrate just how real the space hazards are for the lives of people on Earth and why governments need to take action.
“The collaboration with ESA is fantastic,” says Johannes. “It’s really great to have the opportunity to explore these issues that many people consider science fiction with real experts in the real surroundings of their work based on pure facts.”