This production was exciting to produce for several personal reasons. My childhood dream was to be a physicist, and to attend MIT. Somewhere in high school the arts won out in my mind, and I spent a lot more time in music and photography than the sciences. But my interest in science has always informed my communication efforts on technical subjects.
One of the evolutionary adaptations we made during the course of filming was to bring more youth and energy into the mix. After about two days of interviewing octagenarians, I told Marc Brodsky, Executive Director, that despite their sincerity and knowledge, these distinguished gentlemen were not going to be able to portray the energy and forward-thinking spirit of this very young-at-heart agency. I asked him to allow me to interview college students for the project, and also to portray children being taught physics. He kindly let me shoot kids in the AIP day care facilities, and flew several outstanding college students in from around the country to our interviews in Washington and New York.
One of the most thrilling days for me personally was the trip to Boston, where we got to interview Norman Ramsey in his home. Dr. Ramsey won the Nobel prize for discovering that extremely accurate atomic clocks could be based on the spin of electrons. From this discovery, we all enjoy the GPS and MRI technologies.
By far the most thrilling part of the shoot for me was the San Diego leg. There we interviewed Dr. Frederick Seitz, who at 96 was still lucid and just starting work on another book on the history of physics. Then we went to Mount Palomar, where Cal Tech was kind enough to let us film during their busy research hours from sunset into the darkness. They agreed to rotate the massive dome on cue, so that I could get a timelapse shot of the dome turning and doors opening just after sunset. I shot that scene with three cameras at once. Awesome!
As I was working on it, I found myself drawn to the wave action of the oceans as a metaphor for the many energy forms that physics describess. This visual metaphor of the sine wave became a strong unifying element, and helps to bring an artistic simplicity to what could be a mishmash of complex technical subjects.