Filming at the Museum

“Making It Part of the Collection”

Several months ago I agreed to be a part of an exhibit demonstrating beetle pinning. One of the many “fish bowl” windows looking in on staff in the new building will be into a preparation room/lab where insect pinning and plant pressing is slated to occur. When no one is in the room, say on weekends or something, there will be videos, photos and displays as a public offer.

My kitA couple months ago I met up with the film crew to talk about what a scientific preparator does. This involved me demonstrating pinning and pointing of beetles, labeling, talking about sorting accessions, a little bit about collecting and how a person ends up with such an odd job anyway. I talked and demoed for about forty minutes.

Last week I received “the script” or basically highlights of what I do distilled down to a dozen or so sentences that when read out loud would last about one minute thirty seconds. This wasn’t the verbatim script to be used, but included language and terms to make sure I said for clarity and to match up with what will presumably be on other related exhibit materials. For insect pest management purposes I also sent three drawers of specimens (aka more props) to be frozen for a week before being allowed in the new building.

A few days ago I received the call sheet which outlined a dress code for the people being filmed. No bright colors as they might flash hot on film, no stripes or patterns, no black, but to wear something you would ordinarily wear to work.

Yesterday morning porters arrived in my bay and packed up my kit, or basically most of my bay, to take to DC2 (Darwin Center phase 2), the new building that will be housing the botany and most of the entomology collections and staff soon. I was to be filmed there to make it look like I was working in the lab. So, not only did my microscope, tools, points and glue go, but also books and even desk lamps (as the labs don’t yet have lamps in them) to populate the desk as props.

Trying to point while looking at a video screenThis morning, I arrived early, I didn’t want to chance being late with public transport falling apart this week due to all the snow. Which was fine, this gave me over an hour to take care of a few things before the start. I would be the first to be filmed today, all three of us with activities that fit into the “Making it Part of the Collection” theme. Me, preparing insects, another woman preparing genitalia slides, and some one from botany showing how plant specimens are pressed and prepared.

There was the hair and make up girl who, after plastering on a good deal of foundation, actually came up to me between shots to touch up, blot and powder my nose. First, they filmed me walking in and working through everything quietly without me talking to get an “over all” shot. After that they broke down each tiny motion into a shot filmed from multiple angles. A lot of, “so, can you place those specimens back in the vial and pour them out into the tray again?” or, “can you do that with your left hand so it fits in the screen better?” There was also the, “we’ll film your hands while you are doing things, then we’ll film your face while you’re talking explaining what you’re doing while you pretend to do these things.” The woman filming was very excitable. You would think she captured the money shot for a porno once the macro lens was on and an inch away from and focused on the tiny weevil I was pointing.

Almost five hours of filming for what will be a video under two minutes.

I really enjoyed myself. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product and how all these strange scenes will be cut together to tell a cohesive story. I will be seeing a preview and blooper reel to comment on before anything gets put in the exhibit. I hope I don’t sound like an idiot.

(I took a few photos from this day, stay tuned!)