Atlantis Lifts Off

To anyone who recalls the final shuttle launch year was nostalgia and sadness, the short film Atlantis is sure to bring up memories. Half documentary, half narrative drama, the film watches a love story unfold just as the Space Coast’s affair with manned space flight closes a chapter.

Directed by Matt Ornstein and starring Jason Ritter, the film was shot in Titusville just as the community was flooded with tourists anxious to watch the final launch. He said the film was inspired by Medium Cool, a 1969 film which was being shot in Chicago just as riots were breaking out at the Democratic National Convention. In this case, the shuttle launch was a planned event, but it provides the same backdrop of genuine history as a personal story enhances the weight of the moment.

Director Matt Ornstein
Photo by Evan Sigmund

We watched the film today when it was included in a set of Florida-based films and it made us anxious to see what happens now.

Ornstein initially wanted to make a feature, but found himself up against the clock of real world events. He worked with Popular Science to ensure he could get a shoot done while the launch was happening. “Unfortunately, in terms of going to launches, this was the last one,” Ornstein told us.

While the storyline with Ritter and female lead Kate French was scripted, many of the moments caught on film are from on-the-ground shooting done in Titusville, including descriptions of the space program by engineers and tearjerking conversations with members of the community about what the loss of the shuttle program will mean to the region. “The reactions you are getting are totally real,” Ornstein said.

The short film is actually going from Sarasota to the Cannes film festival, perhaps the greatest festival venue in the world. And dreams of a full-length feature, perhaps using much of this footage, are still in the works. Until then, Sarasota audiences can enjoy it at the next showing of the shorts reel, this Sunday at 11:45am.

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