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Above and Beyond: A Trip to Space, This Week on “Frame of Mind” 12

20 years ago, director Mike Woolf moved to Austin to work in advertising. For six to seven years, Woolf wrote many TV commercials, including one for Southwest Airlines in the ’90s. After realizing that he wanted to direct commercials and documentaries, Woolf left the advertising industry and found a path to directing and filmmaking. Today, he lives in Austin with his family and is the director of Beef & Pie Productions.

Watch “Frame of Mind” Thursday at 11 p.m. on KERA TV

“Man on a Mission: Richard Garriott’s Road to the Stars” documents entrepreneurRichard Garriott’s journey to space exploration. Starting as a game developer, Garriott delves into the idea of spaceflight and works towards his goal of being a second generational astronaut in his family. The film teaches viewers about Garriott’s love of space, and also about the space we inhabit here on Earth and learning to make the best of it.

Richard Garriott in "Man on a MIssion."

Richard Garriott in “Man on a Mission: Richard Garriott’s Road to the Stars.”

On how he began filming…
I met Andrew Yates, the photographer, and Karen Yates, his producer, and we started Beef & Pie Productions. It was pretty different at the time because most production companies are from L.A. and New York, so if you wanted someone to direct a commercial, you left town, there were very few options in Austin. We never wanted to pursue leaving Austin, we decided to stay here and produce — I’d like to think — very high quality, low budget productions for people.

On watching Garriott’s footage from outer space…
Watching the footage was amazing! We went through it and logged it all, it was all awesome and it was so cool to have him give different shoutouts to everyone that helped him get up there. It was amazing. The funniest thing was that months later after we’d gone through this footage and he came over and said, “This is some footage I shot on my little Canon ELPH during the re-entry [into the atmosphere].” We were kind of like, “Wait, you shot the re-entry? Like, the thing we’ve never seen? We actually get to be inside a capsule that’s going through re-entry?” He hands us the little card, we put it in the computer and we watch what’s basically the ending of the film. That was the most exciting piece of footage he showed us.

On the highlights of making the film…
Filming a rocket launch — that was incredible. There’s the behind the scenes stuff, like getting to Kazakhstan. We were there for four days

Director Mike Woolf, Director of Photography Andrew Yates and Producer Brady Dial

Director Mike Woolf, Director of Photography Andrew Yates and Producer Brady Dial

before the launch. You really get immersed in the culture of this little teeny space town. Then there’s the logistics of physically getting to Kazakhstan and then of course, you don’t want to miss [the launch]. There are no second takes on something like that. Finally, when the launch took place, it was incredible. You can get really close — we were a kilometer away — so when that thing starts taking off, your chest is rattling and everyone around you goes silent. It’s intense. You can feel how powerful this rocket must be. The other thing you start realizing is that once it starts taking off, you’re overwhelmed with all of these feelings; you don’t want anything to go wrong. You hope everything goes right. This is the moment where if everything’s going to go south then it goes south. Once you’re caught up in that, then there’s this really strange feeling of loss. We were as close to Richard as anyone during those 8 months. We went to NASA with him, we went to Moscow with him, we hung out with him — and all of a sudden, the separation has happened. He’s going to continue on and go to space and we’re sort of like, “All right, let’s get a sandwich and head back to Austin” [laughs]. It was a definitely a powerful and emotional moment.

On if he would personally go into space himself…
Maybe! It’s a lot of work. Let’s wait five or 10 years. I’d like to go to space with my family, that’d be really fun. It’s a very lonely, self-centered enterprise. It’s basically a year where you’re removed from your family, your life and your job — and that isn’t very pleasant. I think that as all of these space enterprises are emerging, I can see it being much more affordable. I do think it would be much more fun to go with my family, though.