[This post originally appeared on October 16, 2009. The clip in this post is one of my favorite sections of the work in progress. The post is also a fave because of the comments it generated. I love the virtual exchange between artist Jane Deschner and scientist Jill Tarter. I would be thrilled if the comments continued on this post, and that’s the real reason I’m reposting it.]
Here’s a clip from the sample of Jill Tarter, Director of SETI Research, The SETI Institute. I hope you enjoy it.
My favorite part of this clip is the edit that happens about 1:43 in.
… you need to know more than just how to run a house or an apartment. You need to know why as well as how.
All of this counseling …
The expression on her face–it’s as if she were watching Miss Jenkins dole out that advice–it’s so telling.
How did I find Why Study Home Economics, this educational film made by Lawrence, Kansas’ Centron Productions? (Was this directed by Herk Harvey, director of the cult horror classic Carnival of Souls, who worked for Centron for 25 years?)
Before I get to how I found it, you need to read the unedited transcript from that section of the interview.
Why do you want to take calculus, you’re just going to grow up and have babies. You want to take shop, no you have to take home economics. Oh, you’ve already taken home economics, well I guess you can take shop. All of this… this counseling that was so aimed at making you do what was expected and the norm rather than going off and being an engineer…
You may notice that the clip and the transcript differ. That’s not a big deal, that’s what editing a documentary is all about. But notice what we cut:
You want to take shop, no you have to take home economics. Oh, you’ve already taken home economics, well I guess you can take shop.
In that sentence Tarter tells us about the prevalent attitude of the time.
From the start I’ve always thought there was a place for educational films in A Life’s Work. When Cabot and I were editing, we thought a good place to insert some of it might be here.
I had discovered the Internet Archive when I was searching for stock footage quite a while ago. I went to the site (and I encourage you to do so, too; it’s an amazing site, more interesting and entertaining than YouTube) and I searched “home economics” because those words were planted in my mind by Tarter in the complete interview.
I found Why Study Home Economics and downloaded it. When we watched it, we realized we struck a little gold. That little bit of educational film shows and tells us the attitude of the time. Tarter’s sentence became unnecessary. It is, I think, an efficient, effective, powerful, and amusing edit.
But I would never have dreamed I’d find archival footage that cut in so well with her statement and expression. Never. Sometimes you just get lucky.
Did you like the clip?
Special thanks to everyone at SETI, especially Jill Tarter, Seth Shostak, Frank Drake, Karen Randall, Cynthia Phillips, Rocco Mancinelli, Chris Neller; Susie Jorgensen and Rick Forster at Hat Creek Radio Observatory; U.S. Park Ranger Steve Zachary; and the students in SETI’s 2008 Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates Program in Astrobiology. More on the students in a future post.