Yesterday I had the exciting opportunity to interview the producer of this week’s Langer Film Series installment, BLAST!
Paul Devlin was on the Mercyhurst University campus all day yesterday as part of the On Screen/In Person Program started this year.
BLAST! follows Paul’s brother Mark Devlin, a scientist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania and funded by NASA, as he tried to launch a telescope through the use of a hot air balloon, in Sweden and then Antarctica.
Paul explained his idea for the film, saying that he had been driving his brother to the train station when his brother asked him if he would document his latest telescope launch. Paul responded jokingly, saying if it involved an all-expenses paid trip to Sweden, then he was in.
“I didn’t expect to hear anything about it after that,” Paul said.
But his brother returned with the funding and off they went. What was supposed to be a five-day trip turned into five weeks when Paul realized “there was a story line there.”
Paul spent his time interviewing the scientists, waiting for the bad weather to pass, and finally documenting the telescope launch.
The challenge with this film, Paul said, was to balance the necessary scientific terminology with the needs of the audience.
“The scientists couldn’t handle the independent film part of it, and U.S. viewers couldn’t handle the heavy science terminology,” he said.
It was hard to please both sides.
Eventually, though, the film was complete, and was released independently in New York City, where NPR and the New York Times gave it the much-needed press for it to become popular. This enabled him to go on the road and do viewings, hence being at Mercyhurst.
Even Paul’s brother likes it, much to his relief.
“He didn’t like it in the beginning, but he does now,” said Paul. “It’s hard to portray it rightly, and he despaired it wouldn’t be finished. It came out right though, and we got to travel around the world.”
As for the level of secrecy NASA portrays, Paul laughed.
“My brother wanted me around, but they certainly didn’t. But my brother was in charge,” Paul said. So he remained.
As for future plans, Paul is now working on a documentary called “Front Man,” which he described as “the moment where you realize you won’t be a rock star after all,” and the choices to made after that realization.
He also works as a video editer with CBS Sports on NFL Today, and has also covered the Olympics, Tour de France, tennis and soccer.
More information about the movie can be found at blastthemovie.com.