By Jennifer Gardy, Guest Host
Another year, another Nature of Things…
Since hooking up with CBC in 2007/8 for the eight-part series Project X, I've been lucky enough to come back a few times to do my best David Suzuki impression and guest-host TNoT. I'm still working on getting the hair right and I could really use a Cowichan sweater to complete the look, but I think I'm doing alright. They keep asking me back.
This year's outing, Myth or Science, was without a doubt the single craziest TV shoot I've ever done. And coming from a girl who's been centrifuged, sent on a zero-G flight, pig farmed in rural - make that VERY rural - Mexico, and made to run on a treadmill in 40C weather, that's saying a lot.
Our crew of four had just three weeks to fly all across North America shooting the episode, usually spending only a day or two in the various cities we visited. During those days we had to fit in preparation, scenic shots, experiments, interviews, and other footage, and we usually managed to finish with just the tiniest amount of time to spare before we had to speed to the airport, fly to the next town, and do it all over again. As our director, Jeff Semple, described it, it was 'guerilla science filmmaking'.
We ended up running for every plane, wondering if we were going to make it (and once half the crew didn't - Jeff had to head back to La Guardia and retrieve them from a later flight). Our panicked journeys to the airports took us through near-tornados in Florida to the worst gridlock ever seen in Manhattan's SoHo Neighbourhood. But we always made it in time for the next day's shoot, and the next day's adventures….
And adventures there were! We didn't know what to expect on any given shoot, and often times we ended up altering our original shooting plan and going in a whole new direction - trying a new type of experiment or a new way of framing the story. While much of what we do in the show involved recreating published experiments, we ended up doing lots of new stuff too - the whole mosquito segment, for example, was us flying (ha! mosquito pun!) by the seats of our pants and trying random combinations of things in the olfactometer.
The experiments we tackled in this episode were also pretty kooky - especially the cold weather claims. Being submerged in 14C water, strapped in a harness and wearing a noseplug and snorkel, was probably the craziest and most uncomfortable thing I've had to do in the name of science television. I don't mind the cold and I don't mind the water, but when you put the two together you're dealing with a whole different beast. The tank was an unusual sensory environment too - I've never felt even the least bit claustrophobic in my life before, but the second my head went below the surface of the water my heart started racing and it was all I could do to keep calm (and cool and collected - ha!). I nearly bowled Dr. G over as I raced to the hot tub the minute I was released from the tank! We shot the alcohol myth the next day and sitting in a -10C freezer in a bathing suit was FINE BY ME after the tank the day before (the vodka shots probably helped. After we shot that segment I curled up in the corner of the lab and had a snooze…)
It was a crazy shoot, but probably the most fun I've had on science TV yet. If you have even half as much fun watching the episode as we had making it, you're in for a great Thursday night.