‘Operation Avalanche’ SXSW 2016 - Review and Exclusive Interview

Operation Avalanche’ is a mockumentary that is independently produced and acquired by its distributor Lionsgate in the U.S. and Canada. The film had its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2016 and was also screened at SXSW 2016 in the Festival Favorites category.  The film is about the conspiracy theory that NASA faked the moon landing.   This conspiracy has managed to sustain public interest for more than 40 years, despite the rebuttals and third-party evidence.


The film is an artistic production created by ambitious filmmakers. The film is directed by Matt Johnson who wants to deliver something totally different to the audience who loves film and appreciates authenticity.  The film will transport you to a new dimension, it’s like being inside a time machine with a very original visual style look of vintage 16mm.  This is one of the films that will stick in your head that is very unforgettable.  The pace of the movie is slow, but perfect to develop your interest at the same time with the characters as the tension builds.  The fact that the huge distributor Lionsgate is behind this film also means that the film has great content, originality, and its own voice.

Matt Johnson is the director is also the co-writer, producer, and actor in the film of 'Operation Avalanche' with actor Owen Williams.  They played themselves in the film, and they have previously played themselves in a previous film called “The Dirties.”

In ’Operation Avalanche’ they portray two young CIA agents, Matt Johnson and Owen Williams, who pretend to be part of an undercover film crew to fake the Apollo 11 moon landing and investigate a possible Russian mole. In disguise as documentary filmmakers, they tap phones and break into offices while purporting to learn more about the Apollo project, but when they end up uncovering a shocking NASA secret, a major government cover-up.  They decide to embark on a new mission that may put their own lives at risk.

The film is highly amusing and reveals a new formula to make films just like the reality TV era that felt new, powerful, and revealing. The ‘Operation Avalanche’ mockumentary is graphic and made by filmmakers who have studied their craft of making a movie successful based in improvisation and with eloquent storytelling.

LA Splash Magazine interviews Matt Johnson and Matt Miller (Producer) by Yenis Monterrey. (Exclusive)

Yenis Monterrey.- I would love to learn a little bit about you both. Can you give me a brief introduction?

My name is Matt Johnson and I directed 'Operation Avalanche.'  I was born in Toronto and I went to film school at York University where I did my undergraduate and my masters, and then I started making movies.  I made a web series called “ Nirvana the Band the Show” (2009) and after graduating I made a web series.  I later made my first movie called “The Dirties” (2013).  I have made all my movies with my best friends.

My name is Matt Miller, I’m from Montreal and I went to school also at York University in Toronto. I’m the producer of 'Operation Avalanche' and we have a company called Zapruder Films. We are working there with about ten of our best friends. We are currently working on a top secret TV show.

Yenis Monterrey.- The conspiracy theory is that NASA faked the moon landing. What can you tell me about the research you did  in order to make a film based on a fake documentary about the NASA FAKE MOON LANDING?  Were you thinking about a remote possibility  that you were really tapping into real facts at some point?

Matt Johnson.- We made a movie about two CIA agents (Matt Johnson and Owen Williams) who made a fake documentary about the greatest conspiracy theory —“ The Nasa Faked Moon Landing.”  We wanted to make sure that we got everything as realistic as possible. It’s not that we believe that the moon landing is fake, but I think a lot of people and very smart people think the moon landing is fake.  We kind of took a lead on them.  When I was growing up I took a special interest in the Moon Landing Conspiracy.  It was such a catchy topic, and I knew a few things such as the photographic evidence that people were thinking was fake and I knew the few things such about about the flag waving and most of the biggest cliches, but I didn’t know a lot about the smaller details, but I learned about those mostly by reading a sort of paranoid website. Then Josh Boles (co-writer) and I discovered most of that by doing it, so by the time we got into production, it was mostly like the things that we remembered and more about what we had in our mind while shooting the film.

Matt Miller.- We made a conscious effort about it. We look through such data and websites and everything and thought — Oh we have to include all of this. We went straight to the source and it acted as a guide in a lot of ways. Like if they think they did this so let’s do that. They think they shot it in the studio and they used projection techniques so we are going to do it also.

Matt Johnson.- ...And it helped, and also help us to write the story. We  took narrative cues from the conspiracy and also we had our own so we got back and forth. I never thought about that before. Like people think that Stanley Kubrick helped to fake the moon landing and we thought — Oh we have to have  Stanley Kubrick in the movie and we had to find Stanley Kubrick and I think is a good point that the conspiracy it did wind up.

Matt Miller.- We base our film on the facts about the people who thought the moon landing was fake, but we don’t think the moon landing is fake. We made the movie base on the imaginary facts of the people who don’t believe and we used their research.

Matt Johnson.- The funny thing about that, it’s that they aren’t real facts, when it comes to the moon landing conspiracy, it’s all circumstantial. It’s what people think happens on a place that nobody could see, right?  They were not humans observers. We used the real moon landing footage, and everything you see in the movie is real. We are not faking anything with the film. We shoot our own  fake moon landing in a studio, but it isn’t like we discovered some kind of photographic evidence that we were like  — oh we need to  focus or  discovered this or we need to expose this...because that doesn’t exist, it’s all in the mind.

Yenis Monterrey.- Not surprisingly, NASA is opposed to the fake moon landing conspiracy.  Can you explain to me how you made it possible to sneak in into NASA LOCATION specifically, the Johnson Space Center in Galveston, Texas, the headquarters of the Apollo program in the 1960s and also at  Shepperton Studios in London? Did you revealed them the real purpose of the film?  When did you decide to reveal the truth? Did you get in any trouble?

Matt Johnson.- We honestly never revealed the real purpose of the film, and we haven’t gotten in trouble yet.  We never said anything to the people that we shot with ever, and if they haven’t found out yet, they will find out when the film is available.

Matt Miller.-  We had a location scout who was taking care of all the details, but we needed to be clever enough to get the access we required, so just as the characters in the film who sneaked in, our crew claimed to be a film for students shooting a fake documentary about the fake moon landing. As soon as we were there it wasn’t hard to sneak around and gain access and quite frankly they were excited to have people interested about their history.  The same situation happened in London at Shepperton. The cameras are so small nowadays so it wasn’t a big deal for them of having us shooting there.

Yenis Monterrey.- As far as I know you didn’t need extras to make the film, and you had actually NASA employees appear in the film instead?  The film is very realistic, it was like watching a real documentary.  Did you have any script?

Matt Johnson.- The  employees played themselves, and they didn’t think they were acting, we didn’t have a script and we were improvising with them.  It was really great for the people who made the film with us.

Yenis Monterrey.- How about the wardrobe and the suits? Were they also from NASA?

Matt Miller.- We didn’t use real space suits from NASA, but space suits from Hollywood that we ordered and we shot with them for about 5 or 6 days, and I remember they were expensive.

Yenis Monterrey.- What technology did you use in order to make the film? While I was watching the film I was transported in a time machine to the past. The colors and the experience was really incredible, and the old visuals? Did you use filters?

Matt Johnson.- We used new and old technology. It looks like from watching the film that it was made with a 16mm old camera. What we meant was that we had to transfer everything we had into 16mm and Pablo Perez who is a film technician did the whole process for us. We also used cameras that used lenses from the 1950’s that are uncoded and the visual approach was like shooting a documentary in that era and we missed the very retro analog technique with very modern special effects. We went from high definition image to low definition image, with a lot of grain, the image isn’t sharp enough, the image is quite dull, we created a very authentic 60’s look.

Yenis Monterrey.- What advice will you give to new generations of Filmmakers? A secret to success

Matt Johnson.- You should align your films as close to real life as possible, you will end up saving as much money and also time like  in our movie. Like in our movie, making a movie about CIA agents sneaking into NASA to fake the moon landing. We are ambitious young filmmakers in real life and we really sneaked into NASA and we try to fake the moon landing in real life.

Follow Yenis Monterrey (Writer) @Foxactress

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