Production Journal: December 21, 1994

The focus of my work is mostly on the script, although that implies a substantial amount of attention to gathering the images for the side screens and dealing with the interactive exercises. In terms of the script, the basic outline is firming up. I know I have said this before, that scripting a live and spontaneous program seems like an oxymoron. But it is actually extremely useful, because even if the show is different every hour, it has to have structure. Everyone is there for a purpose which needs to be rather carefully defined. The key educational points have to be detailed. The result should be spontaneous in feel but from a production standpoint must be highly controlled.

For instance, we found that we could do better by pairing up Frank Sansone and Steve Mattox. They may never have met and they certainly have not stood together on a lava field in front of cameras, but from writing the material for them to cover I discovered that they would work well together. Writing is like producing the program in your head, and if you do it well you can find opportunities and flaws which would otherwise appear only during the real thing.

I am also pairing the biologists, partly for consistency and partly because I can get the same synergy between them if I get them talking to each other. Partly to avoid the "lecture" approach into which most people will default if given a chance. Ken and Cheryl the first week, Rosie and Cheryl the second week. Each will have his/her own time, but also shared time. It seems to solve a lot of problems. I hope that John Spencer and Bob will also form a slightly less tightly-bonded pair, but given the mode of communication (video phones) I have somewhat diminished expectations for that to work totally well. But if anyone can do it, it's Bob.

We are also dealing with a lot of nitty-gritty logistical issues, like how the Lava Crane will be anchored (hard to say since we don't even know what the surface will be like two months from now), whether or how the XBT's can be launched or dropped from a boat (difficult at best), what conditions are required for keeping the spiders and flies alive, and so on.

I am sorry to report that Melissa, who was my chief assistant last year for Q&A is taking another job and will not be working on the Project any more. For those of you who deal with Melissa, those responsibilities are being taken on by Heidi Blum.

Adam Grossberg, who was the third person in my group dealing with interactivity, will be on the expedition and will be on the front lines for Q&A. Adam coached the drivers before they went on the air last year. That function will be handled by a NASA-supplied pilot this year. We wanted the student drivers to have a consistent contact person throughout, instead of getting oriented by one person and handed over to a stranger when it's time to go on the air.

So we have a veteran team still.

The next big event is a final scout to the site in late January, when we will tape the storytellers.

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Gene Carl Feldman ( (301) 286-9428
Todd Carlo Viola, JASON Foundation for Education (