I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing David Ruck, filmmaker and creator of the upcoming documentary film “I Want to Be an Astronaut.” The film serves as Ruck’s graduate thesis project at American University in Washington D.C.
Here’s what David has to say about his journey during this project.
1. Why did you decide to do a movie about one kid’s dream of being an astronaut?
I have to tell you that I really didn’t plan to do a movie about a kid who dreamed of being an astronaut. I hate to admit it, but I was pretty much a space skeptic until one day when I was watching Bill Maher’s show. He had astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on and he said we had spent more money on bailing out the banks than we had spent on NASA’s budget for it’s entire 50 year history. And that kind of stopped me in my tracks. I thought, really? That doesn’t seem right. But it was true. And that made me angry. To think we could spend more on bailing out our banks than the entire budget for NASA. And I wondered, “do kids even dream about being astronauts anymore?”
At the time, I lived near Chantilly, Virginia which is by the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum, and I thought, “well, if there are kids that want to be astronauts, this would be a good place to find them.” Low and behold, there in Chantilly High School I found the Robotics Team and the captain of the team was this amazing kid, Blair Mason, who had wanted to be an astronaut from the time he was 3. He had lived his whole life doing what he needed to do to make it happen. It was kind of surreal. He was the nicest kid ever, and super smart, and he just loved space. Literally lit up a room talking about it, and I thought, “wow, this is a story that needs to be told because we need to inspire kids to follow their dreams,” and that’s how this all started.
2. I know that you’re the filmmaker here, but would YOU be an astronaut if given the chance?
Absolutely! To be able to go to space, to see earth even from low-earth orbit, would be a life’s dream. I think it goes along with being an explorer and having a sense of adventure. I’m a filmmaker, so I always am exploring through my camera, and I love an adventure. I recently got certified in skydiving, which is the closest I’ll probably come to being an astronaut, and it was the best feeling in the world. It would be a tremendous honor to represent our country in that way.
3. People have been very open with their negative criticism of government spending on your facebook page. What do you make of that?
I’m not really surprised. I think people who follow the Facebook page are really frustrated with government and with the lack of investment in NASA. NASA is an example of government funding that actually works. It’s a very high ROI (return of investment) and the benefits we’ve gotten from the technology developed from the space program are incredible. GPS, iPhones, MRIs – all developed because of NASA. So I’m not surprised that people criticize some of the funding decisions. And, of course, people want to dream and be inspired. And NASA does that. It inspires people, and many people don’t want to lose that source of inspiration.
4. What do you hope this movie will do for the young generations out there?
I hope this movie does many things. First and foremost, I hope it inspires young people to have the courage to dream and fortitude to stick with their dream, even when times get tough. It wasn’t always easy for Blair – and he’s still a long way from becoming an astronaut – but the experiences he’s had because he had a dream and has pursued it over a number of years has made him into a young man that, I believe, can do just about anything in life that he wants to do. So that’s my first hope.
My second is a bit more complicated. I really hope that people watch this movie and realize how important careers in the STEM fields are and how much impact these jobs can have. So many of the technologies that have been discovered are because of the work of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, and I want kids to understand that STEM jobs are cool and really make a difference. I really believe that if we want to stay in a leadership position as a country, we MUST keep advancing with technology, and the space program does that. So I hope adults will watch the movie and be reminded of the importance of space exploration, and that young people will be inspired to pursue their dreams, here, or in space.
5. The movie/project is almost finished. What has this journey been like?
Three words: Emotional. Exhausting. Inspiring. It’s been an emotional journey for me because I’ve come to believe really strongly in the value of human space exploration and NASA. And that’s been a 360 for me. Before meeting Blair, I didn’t think about space, and I bought in to the rhetoric that we hear so often about NASA being a waste of government spending. Now I couldn’t be a bigger space fan and NASA advocate, so that’s been a huge transformation. It’s also been inspiring to meet so many awesome people around the country who care about space. Meeting all the great people at @KSC and @MSFC who work hard every day to make a difference was especially an honor. It’s also been an exhausting process of traveling the country, filming, getting the story line down just right, and then meeting another person who adds a unique perspective, and then I’m back at the editing bay again. That’s really extended my timeline much more than I ever thought, and I’ve actually had to start a campaign on IndieGogo
so I can raise the funds to finish the film because the funds I planned to use for post-production were used on additional travel, and now teachers are asking for DVDs to show in their classroom, so I want to be able to provide that. But it’s definitely been worth it. It’s made me a better person, and it’s made me even more focused on pursuing my dreams. Anytime I think I can’t do something, I just think about Blair and all he’s done, and that inspires me every time. It really does.
There are less than three weeks to go to for this film to get its finishing touches. In addition to potentially helping inspire millions of people, there are perks to be a contributor to this project.
Join the campaign now!
IndieGogo Campaign: www.indiegogo.com/projects/i-want-to-be-an-astronaut–2