Panic! Is It a Valuable Part of the Process?

In a previous post (The First Cut Is the Hardest), I mentioned how I edit the sit down interviews first. I go through the transcript and select everything one of the film’s subjects said about a certain theme. I then try to construct some kind of arc from that material.

Right now I’m doing this with the “different successes” section.

How Does the SETI Institute Measure Success?

I was particularly interested in how the SETI Institute measured success, and Jill Tarter spoke eloquently about this. So, I edited and edited and edited and came up with these two-minutes.


It’s not finished. I’m still ambivalent about “and therefore you take your success incrementally.” And the timing will change once the images are on top of it. But overall, I’m somewhat pleased with audio.

I decided I’d keep the beginning as a talking head because she starts off in this contemplative pose.

Jill Tarter
Jill Tarter contemplates my question: How does the SETI Institute measure success?

But  I wanted show Tarter doing something other than sitting in a chair and talking to me, so it  was time to find the visuals that would go over much of this. But first …


Yes, panic. Panic that I don’t have the right footage. Panic that I used all the good footage already. Panic that I didn’t shoot enough. Panic that I need to fire up the camera and shoot more. Panic that I don’t have a clue what to put over this audio in the first place and therefore I’m a total fraud of a filmmaker and I should just go eat some worms. Panic, panic, panic!!!

 And Then About an Hour Later …

I took a breath, closed my eyes, and listened to what Tarter was saying.

“ …my colleagues and I…” “We…”  (seven times in one minute) “For us…” (her emphasis).


Though A Life’s Work is about these subjects, I also want to show at some point that they are not engaged in these endeavors alone. They stand on the shoulders of giants, and they are all part of a team. This is what I heard Tarter saying and this was my opportunity to show the teamwork.

Did I have the footage?

Yes. I had footage of Tarter’s SETI colleagues working, sometimes together, sometimes on their own.

At the Hat Creek Radio Observatory Allen Telescope Array
SETI Institute offices in Mountain View Frank Drake



But there is no mini-narrative as there is, for example, in the Searching for Gospel Vinyl clip.

Does This Matter?


But Back to the Panic!

Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a little on how much I panicked. But I did panic.

I don’t think panic is a bad thing, as long as you don’t let it take over and/or paralyze you.

A Life’s Work is not on a deadline. This can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I have plenty of time to think and make decisions. On the other hand, there’s no sense of urgency, and sometimes urgency isn’t such a bad thing. Urgency demands quick and often creative decision making. Panic kind of works the same way for me. Sometimes. Maybe. At least in this case it worked.

And now, back to dealing with images that will cover the second half of the audio above. First order of business: some panic.

Has panic ever worked for you? Or is it just bad, bad, BAD!


2 Replies to “Panic! Is It a Valuable Part of the Process?”

  1. A panic that I can get under control definitely pushes me to get things done quickly and sometimes really well. The panic provides the energy that feeds whatever I am doing. In the midst of panic, I also have thought that I was a fraud. But I don’t think I ever thought about eating worms.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Eleni.

      I’ll bet there’s some good evolutionary explanation for why panic exists and persists, like fight or flight. And I bet you could expand on that.

      As far as eating worms: yeah, that might be just me.

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