Design Studies Alumna Participates in 48-Hr Imagine Science Film Festival Challenge

Graduate of the Design Studies Master’s program Gigi Polo ’14 recently worked with a team from The New School to participate in the Imagine Science Film Festival 48-hour Challenge. Competing against five other teams of filmmakers to address the theme of “Time,” Polo talked with Insights to discuss the genesis, process, and story behind this work. Her team’s project and the interview have been reproduced below.

Imagine Science Film Festival
GIGI POLO (filmmaker) & TAL DANINO (scientist)
Crew: Mario Paoli (Professor at the School for Public Engagement), Lauren Quirolgico (Media Studies MA alumna)
48-hour Challenge

Did you meet the other members of the crew while you were a student at The New School?

When I got confirmation that I was selected to compete, I knew that for this project to be doable in 48-hours I needed a very special crew. Mario Paoli was my production teacher during my MA in Media Studies; I learned from him everything I know about equipment, both analogue and digital; he is also an awesome musician and sound designer. After I graduated we worked together in the post-production of my documentary, Madly Gifted. Lauren Quirolgico was Mario’s TA when I was his student so we all knew each other. Lauren has a keen eye for composition and a vast experience with lighting and editing. She has been working since graduating from New School in the TV and commercial video production with very tight deadlines, so her experience to produce quality video under pressure was ideal for this competition. Working in such an intense project you have to work with people that you know, feel comfortable with, and communicate well. So here goes, the power of 3! Yang Lin, Mario’s TA was also of huge help as our main cameraman.

Danino working on a voiceover. Photo: Polo

Danino working on a voiceover. Photo: Polo

I met Tal Danino, the scientist who worked as our advisor, during the opening event of the Imagine Science Film Festival at the Google office. His easiness and willingness to help in any capacity was an important ingredient in making this project a fun and unforgettable adventure.

What inspired you to produce this particular video on this topic?

I have always had a special love for science so when I got an email from Parsons that encouraged faculty to participate in the Imagine Science Film Festival in any capacity—one of the opportunities was the 48-hour challenge—I jumped right in. Basically, we were given a scientific topic, a character, a line of dialogue, and a prop…and 48 hours to produce a film that represented the scientific theory using all the elements given.

Our topic was “A Synchronized Quorum of Genetic Clocks.”

I worked directly with Tal Danino (, a postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University whose research is at the core of this theory. We talked about all living organisms having internal synchronicity. Humans have circadian clocks (that is why our bodily functions are affected by day/night cycles, and why we experience jetlag). Bacteria synchronize too by communicating in a process called quorum sensing; when reproducing they copy DNA and express quorum sensing molecules to produce bursts of GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein).  Humans replicate synchronicity in man-made things (machinery) for efficiency, also GPS for positioning, computer CPU’s for calculation, & lasers. From this point, we developed our main concept: synchronized clocks from living organisms to machinery, from the macro to the micro level. We called our piece REPLICATE, as our concept became this idea of synchronicity being everywhere, and how it can be “replicated” in the laboratory.

From left to right: Polo, Paoli, Quirologico. Photo: Polo

From left to right: Polo, Paoli, Quirologico. Photo: Polo

We had great, ambitious ideas, and very tittle time. We ended up splitting the work and pasting it together at then. For instance, Mario designed the sound with my direction: I would describe a feeling, or give him a concept, but he never saw the sequences of images until the last minute when we were putting it all together. I loved the experience, and I would do it again. There is something magical about the constraints and the rush that makes creativity flourished.

Is this at all related to the work you did as an MA student?

Although this project is more related to my first MA, from Media Studies, I feel that the extensive research I did during my MA in Design Studies allowed me to quickly pick up on the topic at hand, and address it in an unconventional way.

Polo and her team working. Photo: Polo

Polo and her team working. Photo: Polo



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