June 10th, 2009
Spark Blog: Video: Filming on a Freezing Footbridge

Sound Recordist John Garrett and Director/DP Larry Engel size up shooting conditions.

The day we had scheduled to film with Harvard University’s Dan Gilbert dawned beautiful – but frigid! If we were planning to shoot in a lab or office, that wouldn’t really matter, but the idea was to film Alan Alda and Dan in conversation outside. We needed a compelling discussion because their talk focused on a topic that was crucial to our Human Spark story, but we also wanted an exciting location that added some visual flair to the film and subtly illustrated the breadth of our human abilities.

Producer Graham Chedd thought a chat en plein air would add the visual variation we needed and be a big improvement over the “two-guys-sitting-on-a-couch”-type shot that is too often the easy default. The goal was to position Alan and Dan in the middle of a footbridge that spans the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge. Luckily they were both very good sports and we had gloves!

Do you know who Dan is? If you don’t know him from his book Stumbling on Happiness [more info at Wikipedia], perhaps you saw his quote on a Starbucks coffee cup:

“The human brain is the only object in the known universe that can predict its own future and tell its own fortune. The fact that we can make disastrous decisions even as we foresee their consequences is the great, unsolved mystery of human behavior. When you hold your fate in your hands, why would you ever make a fist?”

In this video Dan talks about distilling his work down to a 59-word message – an ability closely tied to the Human Spark.

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