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Another immodest proposal - the NASA option
I'm a documentary maker - although I'm perhaps unusual in that I've got
no TV company behind me telling me what to make or how to make it - so I
get to be as fussy as I like about the facts and their presentation, but
I have to hope my work gets taken on by channels after it's finished.
The result of this is that I can avoid producing the kind of crap most
people on this list criticise (I hope), but it's not sustainable as
anything other than a fun side business to my main work as an animator
(www.anachronistic.co.uk - if you want to see some of my animation
Some on the list may have seen (some have taken part in) my documentary
on the evolution of sharks - currently I'm struggling with another one
following a bunch of trilobite hunters on a dig...
Anyway - I've got plenty to say on this subject (see my "tips for
scientists being interviewed on telly:
However, I'm going to limit myself to an idea to counter the "Taking
control" suggestion - which although I understand the sentiment fully,
would I believe lead to my kind of documentaries becoming impossible to
make, but have no impact whatsoever on the problems so eloquently
described in previous posts.
I've just finished a documentary with a space theme and what really
struck me is that although there are still a fair number of crap space
documentaries about, there are also some good ones and the general level
of public understanding of the astronomer's work is far higher than the
general level of understanding of the palaeontologists'.
I believe this is largely down to NASA's brilliantly open and engaging
attitude to the press.
As a documentary maker (or anyone else) I can go to the NASA website and
not only read informed and plain language explanations of the latest
discoveries, but crucially, I can download AND FREELY USE huge amounts
of photos and full quality video. I can do this without getting
licences or crossing difficult hurdles, and I can use the media in my
own programs without restriction, complication or cost.
This not only means I can create high quality, visually impactful work
without spending any of my budget, it also means that my work is much
more likely to be informed and thoughtful.
NASA'S online library includes film of space-shuttles, etc. but also
interviews with scientists (pre-cleared and using simple language to
explain complex issues), and well researched animations.
This is a fantastic resource and I know there have been several
documentaries made using only footage obtained in this way (not that I'm
advocating this, but you get my point).
So the question I'd put is how can the paleo community emulate this
effect on public awareness without the huge budget NASA plainly devotes
to the task?
I've got a few ideas, but I want to see if there's an appetite here
before boring you with them....
From: owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu [mailto:owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu] On Behalf
Of david maas
Sent: 17 December 2009 10:54
Subject: Re: Taking control of the documentary situation, an immodest
I agree - and I'm not a scientist, but an animator.
as I mentioned at svpow, these might be some valid ways to concretely
design leverage within such an effort:
1) Inform yourself. Note the companies that work in dodgy ways. And more
importantly, note the companies that work conscientiously (I can
recommend mdtv). Refuse to work with the former, do work with the
2) Demand conditional release contracts. A publisher must have your
written consent before using interview material. These are always
written up and signed in advance of the interview. If the company you
are working with isn't on one of the lists above, demand a clause that
gives you release rights - ie. at least one edit review session. After
which you can refuse specific segments if you feel they misrepresent
you. Be prepared and willing to be turned down.
4) Make your own films.This is not as crazy as it sounds. If papers
supply there own visuals in the form of illustrations and animations -
as did the one on /Quetzalcoatlus -/ the media will incorporate those
and the public will be innundated. There are artistic ample resources
out there - artists such as those at ArtEvolved, universities, cg
institutes and animators such as myself. Financial structures can be
developed.... and there is an expenditure in educating that artist to
the point where the artwork is meaningful. But the expenditure is in
your hands, and as such is subject to your design.
(sorry - missed the format button)