It’s that thing you saw in any high school Biology class or beyond. Somewhere between early sea life and humans today, there was a fish— it had legs. Director, Dylan McGale’18 and his Producer, Sho Schrock-Manabé’18, are bringing it back to life for their thesis film, Tiktaalik, to challenge the role that politics play in science. But this flopping, lizardy-looking fish isn’t the main character of their film, that’s reserved for a science-denying Congressmen from Florida. It’s as if the creature flops into his life to test his creationist beliefs and before he can decide what to make of it, he must reconcile responsibility vs. power.
“We originally thought the only way to pull this off was going to be a LOT of C.G.I, but we had no idea how lucky we were going to get,” says McGale about recreating the fishapod for film. In the early stages of research, the two scoured the internet looking for the most convincing representation and quickly realized that the most real-looking renditions were not CGI. A paleo- artist was fabricating physical models, then taking photos of them with a regular camera. When they pitched the film to this creator, Tyler Keillor, he agreed to help the project on one condition: the fossil discovery which informed Tyler’s model was led by evolutionary biologist, Neil Shubin and he had to sign off for the use of the model.
“Once we had that, Tyler began working on the model and even agreed to come on as an animation consultant as well,” says McGale. “These two know Tiktaalik better than anyone.”
McGale is adamant about advocating for scientific-literacy beyond just evolution. He says the film uses the less-debated issue of evolution to address the same mentality many politicians use to regard climate change, “that’s an issue that by denying they actually screw us all over.” McGale and Manabé wanted to make sure they weren’t ignoring the impact their own production could have on the environment. Manabé was able to reach an agreement with the non-profit Bonneville Environmental Foundation to donate carbon offsets to mitigate the entire carbon footprint of the film, making it the first-ever, high-budget student film to be completely carbon neutral. “But that could kinda feel like cheating,” Manabé said, “so we wanted to go a little further.”
The two are really shooting for the moon, also setting it in their sights be the first student film receive the Environmental Media Association’s Green Seal certification. To even apply, their production will need to reduce their crew’s driving mileage, reduce the energy usage of their lights, increase recycling and decrease waste. To pull it off, they’ve delegated one onset position to monitor these efforts, they’ve eliminated the use of plastic, single-use water-bottles onset by receiving a sponsorship from a reusable bottle company, and will donate all leftover catering through an app called Copia.
When the tech company AMD came to Chapman to hold a pitch-fest, the Tiktaalik team gave it their best and recently found out they were lucky enough to be one of four senior thesis films to receive support. But their film isn’t fully funded yet, with 10 days left, they could use your help in reaching their Kickstarter goal of $10,000. You can find out more by watching their pitch video and contribute by visiting their Kickstarter Campaign.