We’ve finally posted to Youtube a video I made nearly 20 years ago that features three women scientists who are still amazingly contemporary in what they have to say (which is maybe not entirely a great thing for women in science).
PART I: Ignore the parts with me (I was just learning how to make videos) — just get to where they are talking — the three of them are really great. The video is a discussion with the late Ruth Turner, Cindy Van Dover, and Colleen Cavanaugh — all women scientists who work in the deep sea submersible R.V. Alvin.
Okay, this is not an easy video for me to post. Lots of my first films (like the barnacle video) I have no problem watching, even 20 years later. And last September we did an evening tribute to my film, “Salt of the Earth: A Journey to the Heart of Maine Lobster Fishermen,” at the University of Maine for it’s nearly 20 year anniversary. There were a few moments in that film that made me twinge a bit, but overall I’m comfortable with it.
But this video is much more awkward. It was the last video I made before departing for film school in 1993 to learn a bit more sophistication in the making of films. It was rushed, under-funded, and still somewhat of an experiment. So my side of it has problems.
For starters, this was my one and only experiment with the technique of “talking into camera,” aside from the scene in “Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy,” where I made fun of the technique. It tends to be a lame technique (in my opinion) and I come off as a complete douche attempting it. “Hi, I’m your host, and I’m here to tell you about …” Blah. There are more effective and compelling ways to present material than to just look at the viewers and blurt it out. By the time of “Flock of Dodos” I had figured this out, thankfully.
Also, the music is dreadful. I rushed the guy who did it for me and didn’t have nearly enough money to pay him properly, so the music also sucks. Really bad. Making it doubly painful.
But that all said, if you can hold your nose through those parts, it really is worth viewing all 40 minutes to hear what the three women have to say — especially keeping in mind it’s 20 years later. Colleen Cavanaugh is still a professor at Harvard University, and Cindy Van Dover is now the Director of Duke University’s Marine Laboratory. Ruth Turner (who was on my thesis committee and was a truly great and inspirational scientist) passed away in 2000 at age 85. These are three great women scientists, and they played off each other very well.
PART II: Cindy tells of exploring deep sea fissures, two miles down. Ruth recalls the early days of diving in Alvin. And Colleen remembers Mr. Frew from seventh grade who showed his class the science of a pond.
PART III: Colleen says she needs “a wife” to manage her overbooked schedule. Cindy talks about the limitless future of deep sea research. And Ruth offers up her advice to students, “Do what sets you on fire.”
Particularly worth listening to are Ruth’s recollections of being viewed as “a secretary” in the 1950’s by her male scientist colleagues, Colleen talking about the stress of being a junior faculty member (I viewed this part recently with a friend who is right now a junior faculty member — she groaned, saying, “NOTHING has changed in 20 years”), and Cindy telling about the rigors of training to be the first woman pilot of the deep sea submersible R.V. Alvin. They are all three very candid and sincere. It’s not your typical short attention span, sound bite documentary. It’s something different. And their parts hold up very well, two decades later. Which is cool.
And by the way, one lovely footnote to add. I sought financial support for this video and, as usual, ended up having to pay for most of it out of my own pocket. One person at Sea Grant said to me, “Why would we give money to you? If we want to pay for a film to be made, we’ll hire a professional filmmaker.” That was one of the final bits that made me realize my vision of being both a science professor and filmmaker was probably impossible. So I quit the science part and went to film school.