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Looking Up, Way Up! | The Burt Rutan Story

The Film

Maverick designer Burt Rutan re-invents the airplane, shoots a man into space and lands in the history books. Now he takes on the challenge of building his ultimate aircraft.

Hanging over the main entrance of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum — the most visited museum in America — is a strange looking aircraft designed by the visionary aviation engineer Burt Rutan. Looking Up, Way Up! is a documentary film that tells the story of this legendary maverick who makes his career by doing the impossible.

Burt’s creating yet another groundbreaking aircraft — in his garage.

From his groundbreaking innovations in homebuilt aircraft designs, to the first plane to circumnavigate the earth without refueling, to the first privately developed spacecraft to put a man in space, Rutan’s 48 unconventional aircraft revolutionize the aviation and aerospace industries. Now Burt is creating his 49th manned aircraft, which he says is his most ambitious project yet.

We’ve spent over 15 years chronicling Rutan’s unique and fascinating story. With extraordinary exclusive access to his creative process, breathtaking aerial & archival footage, and candid interviews with Rutan, his family, colleagues, competitors, and those he’s inspired — Looking Up, Way Up! is a candid and unforgettable journey into the genius and passion behind a true pioneer.

Burt Rutan

“The man responsible for more innovations in modern aviation than any living engineer.”
— Newsweek

"Research should be defined as doing something where half of the people think it's impossible. A true creative researcher has to have confidence in nonsense."

Burt Rutan rocketed onto the world stage in 2004 when his SpaceShipOne became the world’s first privately-built spacecraft to successfully put a man in space. The legendary Rutan Voyager is the first aircraft to circle the world non-stop without refueling. Rutan has designed and flown more than 48 pioneering aircraft, including early configurations built from easy-to-follow plans that allowed an individual to construct a sexy, hi-performance airplane in their garage. Rutan’s impact was revolutionary. His innovations changed the way that aircraft are made today and opened the new era of private space exploration.

Winner of the Presidential Citizen’s Medal, the Charles A. Lindbergh Award, two Collier Trophies and included among Time Magazine’s “100 most influential people in the world,” Rutan has designed and flown more aircraft types than any designer in history.

We are Peabody & Emmy Award-winning filmmakers who strive to tell stories that celebrate obsession and passion. Our work has been honored at major film festivals worldwide, featured on National Geographic, Discovery, Sundance TV, A&E, Lifetime and EPIX and is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. We first began filming Rutan in 2004 for what became the Peabody Award-winning documentaries: Black Sky: The Race for Space and Winning the X-Prize.

Captivated by Rutan’s independent spirit, achievements, contradictions, and his unique flair for storytelling, we started to interview him for a film about his life in 2013. This expanded into Looking Up, Way Up! when he began dreaming and building another aircraft in his garage. Captivated by Rutan’s independent spirit, achievements, contradictions, and his unique flair for storytelling, we started to interview him for a film about his life in 2013. This expanded into Looking Up, Way Up! when he began dreaming and building another aircraft in his garage.   View the Team »

The Team

Patricia Bischetti (Producer) has produced and supervised documentary projects and series including Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow, Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton the Emmy Award-winning American Masters Mel Brooks: Make a Noise; the Sundance Film Festival selection and Academy Award-nominated The Last Days in Vietnam; Peabody Award-winning series Craft in America; the Peabody Award-winning Black Sky: the Race for Space.

Mark Greenberg (Co-Producer) photojournalist, editor and best-selling author nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for his coverage of the Voyager aircraft. Author of “Obama: The Historic Presidency of Barack Obama.” Mark co-produced the award-winning BBC documentary, Voyager: the World's Longest Flight, worked for years with the Virgin Group and their founder, Sir Richard Branson, and been project photographer for Virgin Galactic.

Aaron Howell (Associate Producer/Post Production Supervisor) worked on documentary projects Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, The Biggest Little Farm, Without a Net: The Digital Divide in America, Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow, and Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton, among others. He has worked with antennaFILMS on Virgin Galactic and other projects.