15-0155 Great Transitions: The Origin of Tetrapods
Produced by Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Category as a finalist: Educational/Institutional
In the long history of life on Earth, certain evolutionary transitions loom large—for example vertebrates extending their range from water to land. In the search for so-called transitional forms, few discoveries have generated as much excitement as Tiktaalik, a creature with a mix of features common to fish and four-legged animals, or tetrapods. Almost as stunning as the find itself, is the story of the search for Tiktaalik, with set-backs, calculated risks, and high adventure in the Arctic. Presented by University of Chicago paleontologist and award-winning author Neil Shubin, the film provides a first-hand account of a painstaking search that paid off with a fossil find that has had enormous impact on how we understand our world. We made the film with the intention of showing the process of science, as well as how scientific work is actually done, including: how to ask an important question, how to put facts together to gain novel insights, the important role of collaboration, and the importance of persevering in the face of set-backs. The film was crafted using footage from the documentary film series, Your Inner Fish, with some additional interviews shot with an educational audience in mind. HHMI collaborated with director Rob Whittlesey, of RCSR Productions. It is an exemplar for producing multiple features tailored to reach different audience and extend the overall impact of a film project.