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RE: Matt Wedel on the perils of doing documentaries
Ok, obviously, not all of us have the time and money to do this. Bob Bakker,
Jack Horner, etc. have institutions, positions, and enough notoreity that
engages them with producers, and allows them to be very much more hands on than
most "talking heads" are. Paul Sereno and now hopefully Scott Sampson are both
involved in the public outreach portion of this job, and both of them should
improve the situation by education grtadual as it is. People make comments
about how Paul (Sereno) is often too much "Mr. Publicity" when it comes to his
work, but this cannot be anything but good as it exposes several hundreds if
not thousands of interested students to explore more thouroughly. Of Paul's
latest work, look only to the recent plethora produced by former student
Brusatte to show how this outreach improves OUR work.
When it comes to the television programs, however, the recent statement by
Matt (Wedel) misses the point:
"(If they really wanted to impress the audience with the
implacability of Mesozoic death, they would have shown the three
raptors mowing down a field of newly-hatched babies like so much wheat…)"
The public does not like to see innocent suffering. There is a reason why
even the popular wildlife show _I_ grew up with, _Wild America_, never showed
this happening except once or twice in it's many seasons. Programs like the one
I mentioned in a previous post, _Blue Planet_, show it relatively infrequently;
this is because, despite being realistic, a descriptive scene of preying on
hatchlings (innocent suffering) is a psychological device to evoke a timbre in
the program, to be immediately relieved by _life_. Also consider that, despite
the audience being interested in science, they are also lay. They are not
academic, and it is unlikely that they possess the same capability of
separation that many wildlife filmmakers MUST have to show "nature." Distance
is hard to project on a child, one of the primary demographics the program is
aimed at, and such a scene would likely be upsetting to a large number -- maybe
not Matt's children, but large nonetheless. Even the film producers must know
this, and show what seems more fascinating: A pack taking down a sauropod!
Realism be damned, or in this case, better to evoke the improbable than grief
Incidentally, I've not seen the program, nor do I wish to, but for entirely
Jaime A. Headden
"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)
"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn
from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent
disinclination to do so." --- Douglas Adams (Last Chance to See)
"Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion
> Date: Wed, 16 Dec 2009 23:51:32 +0100
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: Matt Wedel on the perils of doing documentaries
>> [...] I suggest that if you want to
>> make it right, make it yourself. So far, no paleontologist that _I_
>> know of has started their own production of a documentary, paid for
>> the CG, interviewed the talking heads, etc. If one of you does this,
>> perhaps you can make the ideal film.
> One of us and what money?
>> The next step is of course not
>> making it dry, but engaging for the average, non-science-literate
>> viewer; my understanding is that this would be just as much of a
>> challenge as not taking the talking-heads representation personally.
> Speak for yourself. ;-) I'd say this is the easy part. When you're
> fascinated by a subject, it's easy to get that fascination across! Just
> explain everything with enough pictures (and then some).
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