In September1987, soon after joining NOVA as a producer I started a two decade long project to chronicle the lives of seven young, medical students embarking on the longest and most rigorous endeavor in higher education: becoming a doctor. This is the fifth and final installment.Watch clip / Read more
Dogfight over Guadalcanal
This documentary recreates, blow by blow, the dogfight between Navy pilot James “Pug” Southerland and Saburo Sakai, that took place over Guadalcanal in August,1942. Examination of the Wildcat’s wreckage answers some long held questions about the battle.Watch clip / Read more
Mayday: Bomb on Board
Docudrama about terrorist Ramzi Yousef’s bombing of Phillipine Airlines flight 434.Watch clip / Read more
Machines Time Forgot
History is littered with mysterious achievements, feats that cannot be explained by the known technology of the time. In this series historians and artisans tackle four of these ancient exploits: Assyrian chariots, the first submarine, cathedral cranes and a ship mounted Byzantine flamethrower.Watch clip / Read more
Last Flight of Bomber 31
On March 25, 1944, seven Navy airmen took off from the Aleutian island of Attu in Bomber 31- and vanished.Watch clip / Read more
In Medieval Siege timber framers, engineers, and historians take on the challenge of testing two trebuchets that could fit the description of Edward I’s fabled siege machine Warwolf. In Chine Bridge the team must first decipher the image of a unique canal bridge on Song Dynasty scroll before construction can start. How mighty stone monuments were raised is the challenge in Pharoah’s Obelisk and Easter Island. Unlocking the secrets of ancient plumbing is the task in Roman Bath.Watch clip / Read more
Anastasia Dead or Alive
Forensic investigation into fate of Anastasia Romanov - daughter of the last Czar.Watch clip / Read more
This old Pyramid
With the help of local artisans, an archaeologist and a stonemason build a pyramid near the Giza plateau to find out how the ancients did it. This Old Pyramid aka “The Pyramid Builders” gained the third highest audience figure ever for a BBC Horizon programme: 5.1 million viewers on 22 February 1993. With its engaging protagonists and experimental archaeology approach the programme’s popularity led to the creation of a series exploring ancient engineering: Secrets of Lost Empires.Watch clip / Read more
MIT in Service
1x15 (MIT’s youtube channel) Director
MIT’s 150th anniversary video. Made at the end of my Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT.
1x60 (AEROCINEMA) Director/writer
The race between Britain and the United States to be the first to go supersonic. The M-52 was a top secret supersonic research aircraft developed by Miles Aircraft and Frank Whittle during WW2. At the end of the war the Air Ministry canceled the project shortly before its first flight opening the door for America’s Bell X-1 to take the supersonic crown. The film investigates the reasons behind this controversial decision.
Wright Brothers Flying Machine
1x60 (PBS NOVA) Writing and additional directing of glider tests
On December 17, 1903, a wood and cloth biplane, representing four years of intense research by Wilbur and Orville Wright, took off from the dunes at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, with Orville at the controls-thereby making history’s first controlled, sustained, and powered flight. For the centennial of this great event NOVA commissioned an authentic replica of one of their brilliantly conceived craft by pilot and Wright aficionado Ken Hyde. The Wright 1911 Model B, was the pinnacle of the brothers’ accomplishments and the world’s first practical passenger-carrying flying machine, with all the essential technical features of today’s aircraft. The film’s climax is to be the maiden flight of the magnificent replica. But the first taxiing test suddenly becomes the Model B’s first flight with disastrous results. It crashes into trees near the runway and the model B is destroyed. Although badly shaken Hyde survives the crash.Nova Website
1x60 (PBS NOVA) Director/Writer (with Philip Smith)
The film reveals the colorful history of pyrotechnics and explains the chemical secrets that put the bang in the rocket and the fizz in the Roman candle. The show introduces a gallery of firework creators and pyromaniacs, and reveals how hi-tech firing systems are transforming public displays into a dazzling, split-second science.
Secrets of Lost Empires: China Bridge
5 x 60' (C4/PBS NOVA) Director/Writer
The reconstruction of a unique Song Dynasty bridge over a canal near Shanghai whose unconventional design still confounds engineers today. The design is neither an arch nor a beam, but rather a delicate hybrid of the two: a series of interlocking horizontal and cantilever beams form a graceful arc. It was a style never attempted in the Western world.
How could such a daring and intricate structure have been assembled above a river? Retired engineer Tang Huan Cheng says he knows the answers. He has carefully studied the Rainbow Bridge for nearly fifty years; now a team of engineers and craftsmen helps him fulfill his long-cherished dream of reconstructing it.Nova Website
Making of a Doctor
2x60' (PBS NOVA) Director/Writer
Nominated for an Emmy. Shown on C4s Cutting Edge strand.
Third installment of 21 year Harvard Medical School Doctors’ Diairies series follows the newly minted doctors through their residency.
During the three years of internship and residency training the seven doctors gain experience in their chosen specialty. But Internship, the first year out of medical school, is the most grueling as they face information overload, self-doubt and 36 hour shifts. There is very little work life balance left.
...Absorbing... exciting... Like patients on some mood-changing medicine, the young doctors keep shifting from exhilaration to exhaustion. Their testimony supports recent news stories about the peril of using overworked, under-experienced young doctors to man the wards. Dr. Bonnar says, "The fact that I care about patients becomes less important than the fact that I am absolutely strung out and absolutely can no longer think anymore." New York Times
Secrets of Lost Empires: Obelisk
4x60 (BBC/PBS NOVA) Director. Series Creator and Producer
In each program academics, engineers and craftsmen use traditional techniques and materials to test out their hypotheses on location. In Obelisk, the challenge is to raise a 40-ton obelisk at a quarry in Aswan using stones, ropes, timber and sand.Nova Website
The Blimp is Back?
1x60 (PBS NOVA) Director/writer
History of Airships and a look at some fanciful ideas for the future?
Leprosy can be cured
1x60 Director. (PBS NOVA) Selva Barnes Productions
There are around 200 new cases of leprosy diagnosed each year in the United States and a few of these are native born. In some southern states the nine-banded armadillo is a carrier of the mycobacterium that causes leprosy. An institution once called the Louisiana Leper Home is now an internationally known research centre. But Carville hospital is also home to leprosy patients incarcerated under earlier draconian quarantine regulations who never returned to the outside world even though they are now burnt out cases.
New Face of Leprosy
1x60 (BBC/CBC) Director/writer Selva Barnes Productions
Investigation of this ancient scourge in India. Despite the benefits of a new multi drug therapy for leprosy the stigma caused by ignorance of the disease is the biggest obstacle to reducing incidence. I made this film after spending two years at Schiefflin Leprosy Research and Training Hospital, Vellore, Tamil Nadu where I established Karigiri Video, which produced teaching and public education programmes for doctors, patients and the public.
White Water Men of the Coulonge
1x30 (CBC/Nat Geo) Director/Producer/Writer. Selva Barnes Productions
Quebec’s Coulonge river is the only North American river where large quantities of white pine are still driven by hand downstream using pike poles and oar powered pointer boats. The film was made on the last spring log run before truckers took over the job from log drivers. Interweaving scenes of the excitement and danger of the drive today with that of a log drive shot in the 1920s the film is a tribute to that now extinct species: the original Canadian logdriver. Music by Kate and Anna McGarrigle.
“Nimble pacing, the effect is immediate and unsentimental” Winnipeg Free Press
Great Canadian Wild Goose Chase
1x30 (CBC) Director
Story of how two Ontario government naturalists coaxed “extinct” Canada goose back to life and how these magnificent honkers then got the upper hand. Presenter Stuart McLean
12x30' (CBC) Director/writer
CBC’s national food & farming series - my filmmaking bootcamp. Traveling the length and breadth of Canada my programmes included profiles of Alberta cattle ranchers, Ontario winemakers and Newfoundland cod fisherman along with an investigation of the meat packing industry. One of the more memorable experiences was an insider look of the McDonalds hamburger empire that involved me flipping burgers for a week in preparation for grilling founder Ray Kroc.View Excerpt
1x25 (TVOntario) Director/Producer Selva Barnes Productions
An observational film of the impact of a month at a unique Canadian summer camp on a group of adolescents who experience social, emotional and behavioural problems as a result of learning disabilities. Two years earlier I had worked at Camp Towhee as a councilor during my training to become a clinical psychologist. In my youthful enthusiasm for behaviour modification I attempted to impose this regime on the kids in my cabin - a resounding failure that confirmed that I had better stick to filmmaking.
No Man Left Behind
1x30 (AEROCINEMA) Director/Producer Periskope
The Mayaquez hostage incident - a story of chaotic presidential leadership and an ill-fated military operation where Cambodian and American lives were needlessly lost in the battle for Koh Tang island on May 15, 1975. In the fog of war three marines were left behind alive. A fact that was suppressed by the Pentagon for decades until journalist Ralph Wetterhahn uncovers their fate at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. But can Wetterhahn and a team of forensic archaeologists find their remains.
Missing over Mig Alley
1x60 (NATGEO/NOVA/fiveUK) Series Producer, Windfall Films
The Korean War pitted the two most advanced fighters of their day, the American F-86 Sabre and the Soviet MiG-15 in furious air battles over North Korea’ s notorious “MiG Alley”. But what happened to the downed American and British pilots, many of who survived, but disappeared without a trace? The film follows relatives of missing airmen as they search for answers.
“There is loads of interesting stuff here. Brilliant” Sam Wollaston, The GuardianNOVA Website
Machines Time Forgot: The First Submarine
4x60 (C4/Discovery) Director. Series Producer/Writer, Windfall Films
In First Submarine the challenge is to reconstruct David Bushnell’s 1776 revolutionary egg shaped submarine, designed to attach a mine to the side of HMS Eagle, in New York harbourC4 Website
3x60' (PBS NOVA) Director/Writer
Fourth installment of Doctors’ Diaries series. 14 years after they entered medical these are the rewarding early years of firmly establishing a reputation in their chosen medical specialties. But one of the doctors abandons medicine and another loses his dream job because of a clash with his employer. Getting to this point in their career has also taken its toll on their personal lives.
"This fascinating series does a great public service. It demystifies doctors." TV Guide
"It's compelling and it's real." New York Times
"...a program rich in many dimensions." Wall Street Journal
"...a remarkable documentary about a normally closed world." Boston Globe
"Best US show of the night!" Toronto Star
1x60 (PBS NOVA) Producer
Follows vet students as they move on to the frontline of animal care at Tufts Veterinary School animal clinics. After three years of basic science, vet students leave the classroom and for the next 12 months cameras follow students as they receive hands-on training in virtually every specialty of modern veterinary medicine.
Secrets of Lost Empires: Inca
4x60 (BBC/PBS NOVA) Director. Series Creator and Producer
In their Andean domain the Inca builders created daring suspension bridges made only of grass and magnificent earthquake resistant citadels from precisely carved interlocking blocks. The puzzle is how the Inca masons moved, scribed and positioned such blocks often weighting many tons without cranes or even the wheel? In an isolated village high wire artist Philippe Petit marvels as an Inca suspension bridge is woven across a deep gorge.Teachers Guide
So you want to be a Doctor?
2x60 (PBS NOVA) Director/Writer
The second installment of the 21 year Doctors’ Diaries series.
Students make the transition from the classrooms of Harvard Medical School and into the teaching hospitals. Every month over the next two years they rotate through all the different specialties. By the end of the fourth year they must decide on their own field of medicine. The experience they have in each of these rotations strongly influences their choice and some cherished career plans for surgery are abandoned as reality bites.
Can we make a better Doctor?
1x60 (PBS NOVA) Director/writer
The opening episode of NOVA’s two decade long Doctors’ Diaries series on medical training tracks seven students through their first year at Harvard Medical School.
Immediately after arriving at Harvard, in September 1987 students face the first of many rights of passage into the medical tribe when they are confronted with dissecting cadavers in the gross anatomy lab. The year is a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows for students as they are faced with acquiring encyclopedic amounts of medical minutiae and learning to speak medicalize consumes ever more of their waking hours.
1x25 (NATGEO) Director/writer. Selva Barnes Productions
An exploration of the extraordinary world of Macumba - one of Brazil’s pervasive spirit cults filmed in Rio de Janeiro and Recife. To deal with the stress relating to health, money and love millions of Brazilians turn to spiritism for help. Based on the belief that we can communicate with the supernatural world through mediums who act as intermediaries, Macumba is one of the most popular cults for those seeking help.
The film follows a young woman, Beta Cruz, who joined a Macumba sect after her husband was killed. She was quickly recognized as having the ability to be a medium and was initiated into one of the cults in Rio De Janeiro. Now Beta wants to leave the sect. But this takes time, and rituals have to be observed and sacrifices made.
The Medicine Show
6x20 (CBC) Director/writer
CBC’s popular medical magazine produced in Winnipeg and presented by Henry Comor. My stories included, an investigation of the dumping of over medicated psychiatric patients on the streets of Toronto, the stigma of leprosy faced by Vietnamese boat people in Winnipeg, coping with Alzheimers at home and the physical and mental stress of a young teenager trying to become a Olympic gymnast.
Dirty Sky Dying Water
1x60 CBC Director
Hard hitting investigation of those responsible for acid rain crisis in Eastern Canada by ace reporter Linden MacIntyre
“Fine, well reported documentary...delightfully biting music by the inimitable McGarrigle Sisters” Toronto Star
“Concise, informative, thoroughly researched, beautifully photographed and scary as hell” Mike Boone The Gazette
Holy Old Mackinaw
1x30 (CBC) Director/writer
Loggers Life. Wonderful B&W footage of the colourful history of British Columbia’s logging industry and its hard-boiled Lumberjacks
Stand by Your Man
1x25 (CTV) Director/writer. Selva Barnes Productions
The film was made at the time of Tammy’s separation from singer/songwriter husband George Jones. She was a very gracious lady. I still have a vivid memory of her putting on a magnificent mane of a wig in the back of her bus before a performance.
1x25 (BBC Wales) Director/Camera
The first film I sold to a broadcaster! A very personal visualization of the music of Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott and homage to Ken Russell made at art school.