And so begins the search for the subject of my documentary.
My first idea was the book that my adviser, Abigail, is writing about an ancient American agrarian civilization called Cohokia. Cohokia is located just outside of Saint Louis on the Mississippi River, so a site visit would be possible, although the drive would be long — about 6 hours.
Based on archeologist’s research, Abigail believes that global warming caused changes in the river and the surrounding area that led to Cohokia’s downfall. The point of her book is to say, Hey! If global warming destroyed one civilization, we should be careful how we let it impact ours!
I emailed Abigail on Wednesday to find out if she was interested in the idea and am waiting to hear back. The weather is getting warmer and I imagine that the archaeologists are planning their triumphant return to the site to continue excavations. This would be a great opening, climax or conclusion to the piece, depending on the timing and any interesting events.
My biggest worry with this topic is that it will be difficult to catch the researchers who are in charge of the project. I am not sure where they are located. The benefits would be the amazing setting in Cohokia. It would be fabulous to shoot during the magic hour on the Mississippi River.
The second idea was given to me by my friend Josh, a scientist at the Field Museum.
Josh and his colleagues have been working on a new historical ecology project on sharks in the Central Pacific. The team uses a unique kind of data to travel back in time to see how shark populations have changed in the region.
What is the data, you may wonder? It’s shark teeth taken from the ancient weapons of the Gilbert Islanders! These artifacts are anthropology holdings in the Field Museum’s collection and present an amazing opportunity.
Because shark species can be identified by their teeth, Josh and his team can figure out what sharks were present in the waters of the Gilbert Islands in the 1840s to 1890s. They have already found three species which appear to have since disappeared.
Considering the importance of sharks to the Gilbertese culture, their findings highlight how both biological and cultural diversity are under threat.
My main concern with this subject is that we would not be able to take live shots from the Pacific. We do not have the time or the funding to get to the research site, although Josh likely has photos or videos we could use. Josh himself is very knowledgeable, great on film and has media training, which means that he is very easy to shoot. It would also be a fun opportunity to get footage of interesting artifacts that few people are able to see.