Answers provided by Producer Gabriela Quirós.
Describe some of the challenges faced while making this film.
GQ: The biggest challenge in filming this episode was containing the fruit flies in a square, glass receptacle that was small enough. In this case, the scientist whose fruit flies we were filming, Eric Hoopfer, from Caltech, in Pasadena, is very good at building tiny glass boxes because he himself has filmed his flies as part of his research. So Eric built us a few boxes by gluing together very thin glass slips that are used to put samples under the microscope. These boxes were tiny – narrower than your finger.
How do you approach science storytelling?
GQ: I try to prepare as much as possible before we go out filming to try and understand what we can expect to see. And then I hope that in addition to the behaviors we’re planning to film, we’ll also end up being surprised with something we didn’t expect to see.
What impact do you hope this film will have?
GQ: I hope that it makes folks appreciate how exciting and weird scientific research can be. We don’t get to do too many stories about genetic engineering, because it’s difficult to show the effects of the engineering. So this story was a unique opportunity to talk about genetic engineering in a compelling way.
Were there any surprising or meaningful moments/experiences you want to share?
GQ: Watching those fighting fruit flies is very entertaining, and Josh’s camera work made it possible to observe their behaviors in quite some detail, so much so that Caltech neuroscientist David J. Anderson, whose lab we filmed in, licensed the footage from KQED to use in his research. So our footage of fighting fruit flies could one day show up in a scientific publication!
Anything else you would like people to know?
GQ: This episode pairs fighting fruit flies with a score inspired by Bruce Lee movies. How great is that?
GQ: I’m working on a story about planarians -- flatworms with two tiny eyes that make them look like cartoon characters. They’re similar to fruit flies in that they’re used for many different kinds of scientific research. They’re even cooler than fruit flies because they can regenerate. It’s as if you could grow a new you out of a part of you.
As the curators of the Science Media Awards Summit in the Hub (SMASH), we believe storytelling is a common thread in our shared human experience, and that new media allows us to convey the wonders of scientific discovery in new and compelling ways.