by Alexis Gambis

(writer-director of The Fly Room Project, founder of Imagine Science Films)

The Fly Room Project is the latest Imagine Science Films initiative. It will be an ambitious Summer 2013 interactive lab and exhibit about genetics which will include film, microscopy, and video installations. It comes to life 100 years after the original Fly Room that existed in the Zoology Department at Columbia University. The early 20th century Fly Room is considered to be the birthplace of modern genetics where the basic laws that govern heritability and the passing of traits were discovered. No one ever imagined that this claustrophobic space, overflowing with mutant red-eyed fruit flies would gain so much fame.

As you enter in new Fly Room Summer 2013, you will travel back in time to Summer 1927. On the wooden tables, hundreds of milk bottles filled with "real" fruit flies and brass-knobbed microscopes will sit next to glass jars of ether and banana mush. Science/AAAS, the world's largest scientific society and magazine, is our Presenting Sponsor for this project and will provide original research articles documenting the early discoveries in the emerging field of Genetics.

The goal of The Fly Room Project is to raise awareness about the early history of genetics, especially in an era where we are confronted with the excitement and scares of the Genomic Age. With our fruit flies in the spotlight, we will place emphasis on the importance of model research, notably fruit fly research, in our scientific advancement and the current research in understanding evolution, development and disease. The space will also have a treasure hunt twist where kids, a la Goonies, will embark on wild aventures to uncover clues. They will peer through milk bottles searching for answers from their fellow insects.

The Fly Room Project will bring back the philosophy of the original Fly Room which was to foster a democratic atmosphere open to new ideas and unconventional thinking. The exhibit will also paint a portrait of the work and the minds that gave significance to this room. We will show exclusive on-camera testimonials from the daughters of the Fly Room residents. 95-year old Betsey shares her stories about an unconventional father Calvin Bridges and her visit to the Fly Room in 1927 when she was 10 years old. Other stories and fly-charged anecdotes will be told by the daughters of Alfred Sturtevant and Hermann Muller.

The Fly Room will be recreated by a dynamite duo of Production Designers Ika Avaliani and Anna Yates. Artist and Photographer Catherine Chalmers will cover the walls with larger-than-life imagery of insect development. 'Art Perversionist' and Filmmaker Luis Nieto will create a Fly Circus with mutant flies. The space will be sonically charged with the old-new electroacoustic score of Daniel Wohl.

And yet, what is most unusual about The Fly Room Project is that it will also be a film set for a feature production. The film is focused on the story of 10-year old Betsey visiting her father Calvin Bridges in the Fly Room lab in 1927. Actors will enter into the skins of the Drosophila scientists and bring to life the important discoveries of the lab. 10-year old Betsey will be played by first-time actress Zoe Brooks. The film is primarily told from the perspective of little Betsey and yet flies will will occasionally have their moments to dissect human behavior.

The more that Betsey understands the world of flies and genetics, the more she enters a magical yet haunting world where flies and humans mix together. The insect world also foreshadows the evolution of Betsey’s relationship with her father Calvin Bridges and further deconstruct their interactions.

Dates of Fly Room Exhibit and Film to be announced soon.

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