David Sington has landed, so to speak. The 20-year veteran of the TV documentary world has generated great interest (not to mention high-profile deals) with his first theatrical documentary, In The Shadow Of The Moon.
The film, about the Apollo space programme, won the World Cinema audience award at Sundance in January, is on release via ThinkFilm in North America, and opens in the UK via Vertigo Films on November 2. US-based Discovery Film and the UK's Film4 are also on board.
DOX Productions, the company Sington founded in 1999, aims to do more theatrical work, in addition to TV projects. Based on the success of Moon, that film's executive producer, John Battsek from Oscar-winning Passion Pictures, has signed a three-film co-production deal with DOX (which also includes Sington's producer Duncan Copp).
So far, Sington is enjoying his move into the theatrical world. "TV can be very anonymous," he says. "Millions more people see a TV project than will ever see any theatrical film, but you never meet any of them. But in a cinema, moment by moment you can feel the audience being right in it. It's a thrilling experience for a film-maker."
This film in particular is a rather thrilling cinematic experience, with awe-inspiring space footage as well as contemplative interviews with original astronauts including Jim Lovell, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins. "We all felt when we were making it, we were trying to make a film that would last, that people would want to see in 20 years," Sington says. "It's about a time when America was being a vanguard for humanity. And that's such a pointed contrast to the situation today. So in an unpredictable way the film feels very timely."
Next, Sington has started shooting a documentary about Nick Yarris, an innocent man who spent 22 years on Death Row. Passion and DOX hope to have the project completed in time for Sundance 2008.
Also, DOX and Passion are working on Sington's forthcoming climate change project, which he will be shooting in Antarctica this month. "It's taking the story forward in a way from An Inconvenient Truth," he says. "It's about people who are on the front line both scientifically and politically."
The third project with Passion could be DOX's planned film about UK Second World War veterans (although that could be developed for TV).
Sington says he was lucky to get theatrical experts such as Battsek, Julie Goldman of Cactus Three, and Micah Green at CAA, to help with Moon ahead of Sundance. "It was terribly important to get people involved who knew about the film world," he says. "Television is very different both artistically and business-wise."
Also, he knew that In The Shadow Of The Moon was becoming a large financial gamble with a budget over $2m (half was from DOX). The film had remastering costs for footage from the Nasa archive (researchers screened 600 to 700 hours of Nasa footage), and an extended editing and post-production process. In all, Sington spent 18 months actively working on the film (and a prior 18 months convincing the astronauts to be interviewed).
But Sington is also interested in the lower budget end of the spectrum. "You can easily shoot on DV, and DVD and web-based distribution is increasing, so I think it will be interesting to see what happens to non-fiction film-making," he says. "There is a real appetite, partly because television has become less interesting."