Posted by Paul Devlin:

The Balloon is inflating and there’s no turning back! NASA and my brother Mark’s science team are going to re-launch BLAST in a few hours from McMurdo Station Antarctica

See it happen live on NASA’s Real Time Video and then use the Payload Tracking to follow BLAST’s flight path around the South Pole!   



BLAST! Extra - Life in Cambridge Bay

Posted by Paul Devlin:

After the BLAST telescope launched from Arctic Sweden, we knew only that it would land some where in Arctic Canada. But that’s a BIG place. NASA wasn’t sure when the cutdown would happen and reports were conflicting.  I wanted to document the recovery, but where to fly to, on short notice somewhere far above the Arctic Circle?   Eventually, I just went to JFK Airport and waited for news of my destination.

I wound up in Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Canada.  BLAST had landed more than 200 kilometers north of the Inuit settlement.  The logistics were difficult and I would not be able to join the recovery team in the helicopter to the landing site.  So I gave one of my video cameras to Kevin, the Inuit Polar Bear Spotter so that the team could document the recovery themselves.

Meanwhile, I had time on my hands in Cambridge Bay. So I started exploring the hamlet and documenting what was happening, including practice for the upcoming Inuit Games. The idea was that it might become a colorful digression in BLAST!.  In the end, most of this material did not make the final movie.  But that’s why we love DVD extras!  This is one of my favorites.

BLAST! Trailer  

BLAST! Excerpt - Polar Bear Spotter

Posted by Paul Devlin:

Fascinating local flavor? A distracting digression? A critical comment on how science ignores the local culture it impacts? The most endearing character in the movie? There are many different reactions to the polar bear spotter in BLAST!

Of course, for me as a filmmaker it was irresistible to focus on Kevin, the local Inuit who helps with the first recovery of BLAST in Arctic Canada. It introduces an element of danger and emphasizes the remoteness of this adventuresome science. But leading into a look at the indigenous people of Cambridge Bay, Arctic Canada, is leftover from a concept proposed by BLAST!’s science writer Emily Kagan. Emily suggested that as the scientists pass through various cultures in search of the origins of the Universe, it would be interesting to contrast the current scientific models with the creation myths of those cultures. It was a fascinating idea, and we explored the creation myths of the Sami people in Arctic Sweden, the Inuits in Canada, even the Moaris in New Zealand (no creation myths out of Antarctica though!). Ultimately, these were too difficult to communicate effectively, and became a digression in the editing process as well as the narrative. But people loved Kevin and the Inuit story, and complained when it was removed in early rough cuts. I’m happy we kept it. Look for even more of that part of the story in an upcoming BLAST! Extra, “Life in Cambridge Bay.”

BLAST! Trailer

BLAST! Extra - Life in McMurdo

Posted by Paul Devlin

We are thrilled to announce that BLAST!  will air this week on PBS, WNET-Channel 13, New York,  Thurs, Nov. 4th, 8PM (Primetime!), Sat, Nov. 6th, 1:00AM & 1:30PM, Thurs, Nov. 11th, 4AM.  If you're in the area, be sure to tune in!

This broadcast is proudly sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts & Sciences.

McMurdo Station is like an artist residency for scientists – total isolation, all needs taken care of, nothing to do but focus on your work.

There’s a real hierarchy there.  The support staff are fascinating people, who have chosen very unconventional lifestyles, many returning year after year.  But the scientists are royalty, treated with deep respect.

While I was at McMurdo, I met Henry Kaiser an accomplished musician and expert Antarctica underwater diver. He was also producing Werner Herzog’s film Encounters at the End of the World. At one of McMurdo’s watering holes, he introduced me to the table as a fellow filmmaker, listing my credits, awards and adventures. But this crowd had seen it all and were unimpressed.

Then he added, “...And his brother is the PI (Principal Investigator) of one of the NASA balloon experiments.” WOW! Now that was a different story. Suddenly, I was much more impressive, and the conversation picked up.

For more insight and dark humor about McMurdo Station, check out the book, Big Dead Place.

BLAST! Trailer     

BLAST! Extra - Werner Herzog Visits BLAST Team

Posted by Paul Devlin:

While I was in Antarctica shooting BLAST!, Werner Herzog was also there, shooting his movie, Encounters at the End of the World.

He came to visit the BLAST team and interviewed my brother for Encounters.  When he showed up with his cameraman, Werner was surprised to discover a couple of our cameras trained on him, turning the tables.  I really enjoy this piece – we often hear Werner’s voice in his movies, but this is a rare glimpse of him in action, interviewing.  

The interview with my brother did not make the final cut of Encounters.  Werner was definitely in search of the quirky, edgy element at McMurdo station. Mark was unfamiliar with Werner’s work and played it too straight.
Werner wanted to use some of our footage of balloon launches in his movie.  We tried to work out a footage trade, but he was under contract to Discovery and had to be careful about what he released.  By the time his team decided what they wanted, we were under contract to BBC and advised also not to release any footage.  Looking back, I wish we had been able to accommodate him.

Werner and I were on the same flight back to New Zealand.  It was delayed leaving Antarctica and we chatted on the Ross Ice Shelf – which also served as the landing area – for about 45 minutes.  Priceless career advice from a Master.

BLAST! Trailer:

Artist Share - Sundance Fever - Part 2

Posted by Paul Devlin:

Here’s Part 2 of our Production Update documenting our experience with “Sundance Fever” while making BLAST!  You can see Part 1 here.

Stay tuned for more of our ArtistShare Production Updates for a behind-the-scenes look at our filmmaking process.  And good luck to all the filmmakers out there with Sundance deadline extensions!

Artist Share - Sundance Fever - Part 1

Posted by Paul Devlin:

The Sundance film festival is on the horizon and many filmmakers have been killing themselves trying to meet the submission deadline, THIS WEEK!  Others have been granted extensions and are still killing themselves.  

Be careful! The Sundance deadline has ruined many movies. Our advice in these circumstances comes from our advisor Bob Hawk, “Make the movie, not the deadline.”  

 We documented our experience with “Sundance Fever” while making BLAST! in a two-part Production Update.  These Updates were part of our Artist Share Participant model for fundraising.  Participants who helped fund the film were kept up to date on our progress through these videos, which we released regularly.

We plan to share more of these Production Updates, including Part 2 next week.  So if you’re interested in the filmmaking process, visit again and see how we did it.

By the way, if you’re interested in more info on film festivals, I also wrote an article in The Independent on our experience releasing BLAST! to the festival circuit.

BLAST!: God and Science

Posted by Amber Yoder:

One of the really interesting conversations to come out of BLAST! is the discussion of religion and science.  In this clip from the film, Barth Netterfield - one of the leading scientists on BLAST!, talks about how his belief in God has informed and inspired his scientific research.  This small portion of the film has inspired a lot of dialogue in audiences after screenings.

There is a lot of debate over whether science and religion are compatiable studies. Barth has written a lengthy response on his opinions and experiences in the BLAST! blog.  In it he writes:

As you say, most senior scientists are atheists: in my view, this is a natural product of a generation of extremists (both Atheist and Fundamentalist Christian) arguing that science and religion are incompatible. Even today, there is a lot of rhetoric expelled on the topic of “Christianity vs Evolution”, as if these two ideas were somehow at odds.

But I think that the climate is changing. I have found with current and recent students who have ‘grown up’ with ‘cosmological fine tuning’ and Anthropic arguments for the nature of the Universe, the default belief seems to be ‘agnosticism’ rather than Atheism.

To read all of Barth's response, visit the BLAST! guest blog.

If you find this topic interesting, you might also enjoy the new book Science and Religion: What Scientists Really Think by Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund. In it Ecklund discusses the results of her study of 1,646 scientists at top American research universities.

Among her findings: ~36% of those surveyed believe in God and practice a form of closeted, often non-traditional faith.  Learn more from this interview with Ecklund from the Center for Inquiry's Point of Inquiry podcast.

So are science and religion incompatiable, or can we find a common ground?  Let us know your thoughts!

How To Get Funding For An Independent Documentary

Join director Paul Devlin as he pitches BLAST! at the Toronto Documentary Forum.  BLAST! was the first film ever to partner with Artist - a company that developed a participant model for fundraising that has been very successful in the music industry.  Paul has written extensively about our experiences on the ArtistShare project.  You can read his article published in DOX magazine here. (pdf)

The BLAST! Artist Share project included regular video updates of the filmmaking process for participants. These are now being made available to general audiences.

In this update, Paul and the BLAST! team travel to the Toronto Documentary Forum at the Hot Docs Film Festival. They are there to pitch the idea for BLAST! to dozens of commissioning editors in a roundtable forum with hundreds of onlookers. The stakes are high, perhaps determining if the film will be funded and broadcast internationally.

Enjoy this unique insiders view into the filmmaking process!

BLAST! Theatrical run in Filmmaker Magazine

Filmmaker Magazine CoverIn a recent print issue of Filmmaker Magazine, Director Paul Devlin talked about the challenges facing an indie filmmaker pursuing a theatrical release. Paul discusses the often conflicting opinions and advice he received from friends, family and filmmakers alike:

"I discovered there's no shortage of conflicting opinions and emotions when it comes to whether or not a non-fiction feature filmmaker should try a theatrical release these days. I heard both "You're crazy. It's a big mistake. The model doesn't work anymore. Don't do it!" and "You can't stop now, before you've crossed the finish line. You have no choice. You must do it!""

Editor Scott Macaulay comments on the longest article ever published by Filmmaker "If you want to know what you're in for in terms of work, finances and emotions after you decide to self-release your film, you need to read this piece." More here.  You can read Paul's article in its entirety here. (pdf)

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