Home arrow Murder at Harvard? arrow Step 1: Review Film and Script

Step 1: Review Film and Script
Tuesday, 23 September 2008

So we just had a first "screening" of "Murder at Harvard" with the filmmaker Eric Stange, Myself (pictured below) and several Untravel groupees.  We went through the film straight taking notes on the script of particular locations mentioned in the film. 

Michael Epstein points at the murderous stove from Murder at Harvard film

The goal was twofold

1.  Determine what places referenced in the film are still around and publically accessible?

2.  Determine what are the themes of the film that we most want to emphasize? 

On point number 1 we did pretty well.  The Beacon Hill streets are still bubbling with cobblestones and the chill of the fateful November morning in 1854 is still here (despite our increasing carbon footprint.)  There are still Parkman's in this town well-versed in great, great grandad's fate, and many a doctor at Mass General Hospital can unload about the implications of the murder.  The lab, the courtroom, and the famouse privvy where the body was found are just sets for the film. 

On point number 2 we had more difficulty. 

Extrapolating Convesation:  I got on my hobby horse about Simon Schama (the Harvard historian who's book "Dead Certainties") and his struggle to find the proper language of the events of the murder.  His quest for the key conversations I thought would make a strong theme for the mobile project (maybe Schama narrates a walk where the final stop is the real conversation on the street where it happened.  That conversation that made a professor into a murderer.)  I just find the idea of setting your life towards discovery of a powerful conversation very compelling.  That got shot down as too esoteric and Schama probably can't do the entire voiceover for this mobile production.

Class Struggle:  We were all struck by the Brahim social pressures and caste system that existed in Boston at the time of the murder.  Digging into the class struggle of the janitor (the founder of the Parkman bones) against the professorial class was interesting to us. 

The Clues:  what we seemed to settle on as a good starting point was the idea that there are very specific events and characters that drive the story forward.  If the walking version of the movie has specific stops, each stop could reveal a piece of evidence or a character in the drama.  The concept being that each stop's geography would also do a fine job of supporting the character or piece of evidence.

So our next trip was to go about finding these specific potential geographies.  Lucky thing is that I live four blocks from MGH, the murder site.  And Eric Stange, the co-producer on the project, grew up two blocks from my house.  We are definitely gonna be in familiar "haunts" for this project (har!)

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