So, after seventeen months of work Meteorite Men is finally a reality.
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Sometimes dreams do come true: The author (above left) and Steve Arnold with a 230-lb Brenham pallasite recovered during the filming of Meteorite Men. The meteorite was buried about four feet underground and had to be excavated using a back hoe. Photograph by Caroline Palmer © Aerolite Meteorites.
When LMNO Productions Executive Producer Ruth Rivin first contacted Steve Arnold and me and asked if we'd ever thought about doing a television series about our meteorite hunting adventures I replied: "That's all we've been thinking about for the past two years." After appearing in episodes of The Best Places to Find Cash & Treasures for the Travel Channel, Wired Science for PBS, Naked Earth: Our Atmosphere for National Geographic and Cosmic Collisions for Discovery, Steve and I realized we really liked making adventure TV documentaries and wanted to do more.
Ruth is a very accomplished career producer and actually heard about us first through a Los Angeles Times article about Steve. She hadn't seen any of our shows, so I sent her copies of some of our earlier work and the long journey from an idea on a piece of paper to a cable network adventure documentary began.
In February, 2008 producer Elizabeth Meeker flew out to Tucson to meet with Steve and me during the annual gem show. We had one day to shoot enough material for a five-minute reel that would be sent out to networks in the hope of generating interest in an ongoing meteorite series.
We started early and filmed first in our showroom at the InnSuites hotel, which actually required us to close down the room for a while, right in the middle of the world's biggest gem and mineral show.
After a quick lunch I drove the three of us out to a small but scenic canyon northwest of Tucson. Even though the terrain looks wild and rugged in the reel, I was concerned that the sounds of passing traffic might ruin the mood. But Elizabeth kept her back to passing motorists and while watching the short, you'd really think we were way out in the boonies.
That reel, combined no doubt with LMNO chief Eric Schotz's enthusiasm, landed us some high level meetings. In July of 2008, Steve and I flew out to Washington, D.C. to meet with Ruth, Eric, and some serious movers and shakers the cable TV world.
Science Channel, part of the Discovery network, ordered a one-hour pilot, and then the real work started. Veteran TV producer Bob Melisso was brought on board as supervising producer and also directed the location shooting. I was thrilled to learn that Bob would hire the supremely talented Randall Love as the director of photography. Randy has worked for Lucas Films making Star Wars documentaries, for the BBC, Discovery, HBO, PBS, Disney and just about any other notable TV or movie company you can think of. He has a wonderful eye for detail, especially natural history subjects, and I can't imagine anyone doing a better job of filming Meteorite Men than Randy.
Location shooting for Meteorite Men took place in October of 2008. Here Steve and Geoff try to figure out why they are digging up so much scrap iron at the secret Alpha site. Producer Elizabeth Meeker is in the red jacket; Director of Photography Randall Love wears a white shirt and ball cap, while Director and Supervising Producer Bob Melisso focuses on the action. Photograph by Caroline Palmer © Aerolite Meteorites.
Initial location shooting took place in the famous Brenham, Kansas strewnfield where Steve made his record breaking meteorite discovery back in 2005 and also at a second site, so secret that all members of the location crew were required to sign confidentiality agreements before filming began.
We had five days for the primary locations, followed by an exciting day at ASU Tempe's Center for Meteorite Studies, where we got to meet with meteorite academic luminaries Dr. Meenakshi Wadhwa and Dr. Laurence Garvie. Small pieces were removed from a couple of our finds, and examined in the iBeam lab, which showed that their chemical composition matched representative Brenham specimens in the university's collection (we knew they would, but it made for good TV and upped the hard science quotient).
Our film crew amassed about seventy-five hours of footage from the three locations, and that had to be edited down into 43 minutes of actual air time. Quite a feat for even the most talented of editosr. In March of 2009 I was in Los Angeles on business for a couple of days and had the opportunity to sit in on the audio mix of the show.
What a treat for a musician and former audio engineer! Ruth and I, and our editing and sound team spent the evening in a very chic high-end mixing studio in Burbank, California, and I finally got to see the show for the first time.
Filming at ASU's Center for Meteorite Studies with Dr. Meenakshi Wadhwa (left), Steve Arnold (center) and the author, along with a few big space rocks we brought along for show-and-tell. Photograph by Qynne Arnold © Aerolite Meteorites.
The world premiere took place on May 10 on the Science Channel, and was also broadcast in high definition on Science Channel HD. We threw a small premiere party at the Aerolite Meteorites headquarters in Tucson. By a lovely coincidence my father, Sam Notkin, who so inspired me when I was a little boy by his interest in astronomy, was here for the screening. New York City rock 'n' roll musician Anne Husick flew in specially with her boyfriend Mike Reed, and Nancy and Dr. Larry Lebofsky, co-editors of Meteorite magazine joined us, along with a few other close friends. The Arnold family had their own get together in Arkansas and we compared notes the next day.
The author stares intently at the screen during the Meteorite Men world premiere, while location photographer Caroline Palmer gently reminds him not to take space rocks quite so seriously. Photograph by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Photography © Stu Jenks.
May 10 was most definitely a day to remember. To learn more about the show, please visit the official Meteorite Men website, and you are invited to follow the Meteorite Men on Twitter for the latest news.
Additional Meteorite Men show times can be found on the Science Channel website. Also, please check out the August 2009 issue of Meteorite magazine which will feature an exclusive behind-the-scenes article about the making of Meteorite Men.
Oh, and one more thing. We want to make a lot more episodes, so please tell Science Channel they need to send us back out to find more rocks. Not sure that we can top a 230-pounder and a 273-pounder from Brenham, plus over a hundred pounds from the secret Alpha site — all in one episode — but we're game to try if you're willing to tune in. UNTIL THEN . . . WATCH THE SKIES!
- Tags: ASU Tempe, Bob Melisso, Brenham Kansas pallasite, Center for Meteorite Studies, Discovery Network, Dr Laurence Garvie, Dr Meenakshi Wadhwa, Geoffrey Notkin, LMNO Productions, Meteorite Hunters, Meteorite Hunting, Meteorite Men, Randall Love, Ruth Rivin, Science Channel, Steve Arnold, Television Show, TV Show