Terraforming planet Earth

Terraforming (literally, “Earth-shaping”) of a planet, moon, or other body is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to be similar to the environment of Earth to make it habitable by Earth-like life. (Wikipedia)

The land of overlapping IDs

Niederschlesien, Niederschläsing, Dolní Slezsko, Dolny Ślůnsk, Silesia Inferior, aka Dolny Śląsk. The quintessential Europe. The region which has as many names as identities. Or go back – its identity is something fluent, overlapping, ever changing, and emergent. It doesn’t conform to the framework of national identities, it does not conform to the scheme of borderlines.

Every single square meter of this region changed hands countless number of times.  Last time it happened in 1945, after the WWII, when it became a part of Poland.

Or go back again – last time it happened in 1989, right after the end of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe. The region was abandoned by the state, became a subject of the bold experiment of liberal capitalism – and it is not entirely clear whether it will recover anytime soon.

It was my first visit there – going back in summer.

Selling docs in the city of dancing huizen

So – how is it to sell a movie? Your movie. You know its weaknesses, you hate all those moments that suck (but you don’t know how to fix them), you are well aware that its idiosyncrasies – but you still deeply believe in it, you believe that perhaps you’ve managed to save this little piece of reality from getting forgotten, unnoticed. But becoming a victim of your own subjectivism and ordinary bias is so instinctive….

So – how it is to sell a science documentary movie which doesn’t fit common formats, the movie which is intentionally old fashioned and slow paced? Let the talking heads talk, someone I respect greatly said. But how to sell a talking head in the YouTube era, when attention span equals ten seconds? Well, it doesn’t come easily.

Visit to IDFA: International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam was quite an experience. Despite the fact that the Pioneers series has been screened, broadcasted, noticed, and even praised locally, breaking the barrier and making it internationally recognizable is a challenge. The more that science sells rather poorly at the Docs for Sale market. But: 1) countless lessons were learned, 2) wonderfully helpful people met, 3) new ideas conceived. And yes – some great deals were made too! More about it – soon, once it’s official. 

Enough whining and boasting – time for a trivial closing observation. While taking pictures of the old Amsterdam, I noticed nothing. Although then, editing them for export, I found myself clueless about the apparent optical distortions of the images. Houses seemed to be dancing. Each wiggled separately, leaning to the right, to the left, hanging over, falling down. One could look for a single vertical and horizontal line in vain.

But this is how it is – due to the moving foundations, laid on a sloughy ground, all the buildings have been acting like living organisms. A short visit to the Rijks Museum proves it wasn’t intended at all, of course, when the Herengracht was designed and erected. Have a look at the View of the Golden Bend in the Herengracht by Gerrit Adriaensz (1671-1672). What perfectly – and boringly – executed a layout!

The question is: what makes movies and buildings truly interesting?

Trials and errors in an equatorial multiverse

Sometimes story comes first, sometimes form does. And sometimes they grow together, in an organic way. That was the case of Ekert: A Model Kit, the seventh episode of the Pioneers series. We were experimenting on the set, with Artur Ekert, looking for a proper flow (some early beta testers of the movie ask if we were high when filming – we were definitely not), and then I continued home, editing.

Striking a proper aesthetic mode that would correspond to the subject matter, which is the idea of quantum multiverse, was a challenge. My intention was to bring this Singaporean, equatorial, radiant, humid heat to the screen, and make it flicker, multiply, and overlap, but not in a classical way, but a possibly “quantum” one. Did I succeed – it’s not for me to judge.

This trial and error method generated a handful of by-products, teasers, two of which I decided to present below. 

The movie is being now processed by Jacek Mazurkiewicz, a master of double bass – more about it soon!


Are all quantum physicists poorly localized?

Filming the seventh episode of the Pioneers series was quite an adventure – I shot Artur Ekert in Singapore, tormented him before and after sunset, and bothered him in Indonesia, when he tried (in vain) to find a hideaway.

Who is Artur Ekert? He was born in 1961, in Poland. He is a physicist, mathematician, and one of the inventors of quantum cryptography and quantum information science.

Here he explains how to keep secrets in a world of mistrust – in a little movie we shot in Singapore, announcing an article by Artur Ekert and Renato Renner that was published in the 27 March issue of Nature, the weekly international journal of science:

Artur Ekert is a professor at the University of Oxford and the National University of Singapore, a top notch security advisor, a founder of the Centre for Quantum Computation at Cambridge, and the director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. Artur Ekert has been awarded the Maxwell Medal, an Institute of Physics Prize, the Hughes Medal, and the European Union Descartes Prize. He’s also a Royal Society Fellow. 

In real life he is an easygoing chap with one funny quirk – he is unbelievably poorly localized, just like a quantum object (have a look at the video we filmed four years ago, above). Artur Ekert has to be chased, which – action wise – is not the worst kind of situation you can imagine…

More about the movie soon. Today let me share a few freeze frames – and a teaser trailer (top). Enjoy!

Yes – regarding media footprint you might also know Artur Ekert from Reality Lost, or the pilot of Breaking the Codes, the movie we’ll shoot one of these days.

Dirty pleasures of the modern technology

Technology equals empowerment. And empowered by the camera (a new Sony, A6300) that I acquired especially for shooting in difficult conditions in Singapore (more soon) I experimented with some semi-astro photography.

And that was a blast – without any major effort one can expose successfully quite a chunk of a night sky, plus everything below, in detail. Understanding what you actually managed to frame out there, in the cosmos, is another thing, but pleasure was immense.

By the way – this is not a Super Moon, as one could suspect. Just a regular one.

A new old Japanese addiction

It didn’t happened overnight, but it did. You might have noticed that I’ve become one of them – dirt bikers. Since my old Honda is not capable of any high speed, high power extravaganza, I tend to stay on the sluggish side – but can’t stop thinking of switching to something of a higher number of hp.

Yes, it’s like an addiction.

All pictures taken with the first iteration of Sony RX100, the best pocket photo camera ever (this blog is not supported by Sony).

The mystery scored by Boyd F. C. Bennett

A Drinking Bird Mystery deals with a drinking bird mystery, of course. But there’s another mystery: how good music transforms a movie, how it elevates a movie. Especially if the music itself is a crucial part of the story. Just like in the Charles H. Bennett’s case.

Boyd F. C. Bennett father was a musician and a talented composer, based in upstate New York. His legacy continues embodied by the Bennett Conservatory of Music in Croton on Hudson, which he co-founded in 1950. It is also transmitted into the future encoded as musical scores. Having been granted access (courtesy Charles H. Bennett) to some of them I discovered that this is exactly the kind of the music that I had been looking for.

A kind of intelligent playfulness marked by occasional darker undertones characteristic for Boyd F. C. Bennett’s compositions perfectly matched the persona of the protagonist, the ambience of locations – and the story itself.

Since I’m a musical troglodyte I badly needed an expertise – and someone able to actually play the score right. The help was impersonated by Jan Bokszczanin, thoroughly educated Russian born Polish musician and organ pipe virtuoso (follow him, he is not only a great musician who plays in places like the Notre Dame cathedral in paris, but also a devoted teacher and local activist). All the music by Boyd F. C. Bennett used in the movie is played by Jan.

There is also other composers’ music in A Drinking Bird Mystery, like this beautiful Alexandre Tansman’s Sonatina, recorded by Jan Bokszczanin and Paweł Gusnar on New Polish Music for saxophone and organ (Musica Sacra Edition, 2007).