Official trailer for “Approaching the Unknown”
On June 3, Mark Elijah Rosenberg’s Creative Capital-supported film, Approaching the Unknown, will be released theatrically in ten cities, and available on-demand. The story follows Captain William D. Stanaforth (played by Mark Strong), an astronaut on a one-way solo mission: taking humanity’s first steps toward colonizing Mars. Although the entire world is watching him, he is completely alone in a dark and distant sea of stars. Stanaforth rockets bravely through space facing insurmountable odds, but as the journey takes a toll on his life-sustaining systems, he is forced to make impossible choices that threaten his sanity, mission and very existence.
Approaching the Unknown received the Creative Capital award in 2012. I connected with Mark to learn more about the evolution of this ambitious project and struggles encountered along the way.
Jenny Gill: Approaching the Unknown is (obviously) a work of fiction, but you mentioned in your presentation at the 2013 Creative Capital Artist Retreat that there are elements of your personal life experience and desires in the story. Can you talk about the balance between the personal and the imagined in your writing?
Mark Elijah Rosenberg: No, it’s not fiction—we really sent a man alone on a one-way mission in space! Or at least, that would’ve been easier and quicker.
Approaching the Unknown is about an astronaut on a journey to set up a colony on Mars. He knows he’s never coming back to Earth, and he’ll be alone for a while, but within a few years he’ll be joined by dozens then hundreds of other people. There are some lines of voice over that never made it into the film where Stanaforth, the astronaut, relates his experience to that of his grandfather, immigrating to America, and his ship being just like a boat sailing across the Atlantic. But is that the comforting story we tell ourselves so we can do something adventurous, or is it naive and hubristic to think any worthwhile adventure in life can ever be a cakewalk? That’s the line Stanaforth is walking, and it’s a line anyone with ambition has to balance upon. What’s brave and what’s stupid? To do anything amazing, you do need experience and knowledge and confidence. But at a certain point, you also need to push yourself into the new, the unknown, the frightening. Continue reading