Why These Four?

In previous posts, I wrote about other people and projects I considered for A Life’s Work and why I chose four subjects instead of three or five or twenty-seven. But neither of those posts address why I chose these four people.

A Life’s Work is very simple, really. It’s me searching for an answer to the big question: why are we here? I knew I didn’t want to have four artists or four scientists or four philosophers or four clerics addressing that question. I wanted people who were doing different things. I also wanted people who were doing things I was interested in because I knew I was going to spend a lot of time with this film.

So with that in mind, I proceeded. Actually, it was more like I kept my eyes open and my antennae alert.

Paolo Soleri was the first to sign on. An architect and a philospher: a builder, an artist, and a big thinker all in one. Perfect.

I knew I wanted someone doing something with living things: animals, insects, trees. I was also thinking about water a lot; I was thinking elemental. When David and Jared Milarch of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive (then Champion Tree Project) came to my attention, and when I learned there have been four generations of tree-farming Milarchs, I salivated.

SETI was a no-brainer. I had been fascinated by this endeavor since I was a teenager. The question was, who at the SETI Institute. I was torn between Frank Drake, Seth Shostak, and Jill Tarter. They were all intriguing possibilities, but as I read more about each of them, it seemed Tarter would be the best fit in this film.

I knew I wanted some kind of preservationist, too. Originally I was thinking along the lines of someone who actively seeks out lost silent films. I didn’t know of any such person. Lost silent films seem to become found because someone stumbles upon them, not because someone is actively seeking them out. I toyed with the idea of a conservationist who specializes in Tibetan textiles. I liked this idea because textiles are doomed: at best, you can slow down deterioration, but eventually, it’s going to disintegrate. But when my friend Roland Tec brought Robert Darden and the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project to my attention I knew I had my final subject. Robert is a multi-hyphenate (writer-teacher-musician-gospel music fanatic), and included in that litany is deacon. I thought this brought in an element that had been lacking. The prospect of including gospel music in the film was gravy.

They did very different things. I loved that they lived and worked in different parts of the country. They were articulate and passionate about what they were doing. I thought they would complement each other in ways I couldn’t script, and that’s turning out to be true.

So that’s why these four.

See also the “How Do You Find These People?” posts.
Robert Darden
David and Jared Milarch
Paolo Soleri
Jill Tarter