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Interview - Nicholas Christakis

More selfies with subjects.

So the in-person interviews in New Haven happened entirely thanks to Dr. Nicholas Christakis, the Sol Goldman Family Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University, Director of the Human Nature Lab, and Co-Director of the Yale Institute for Network Science.

I have to say, my preliminary Skype interview with Nicholas was pretty remarkable for me. Besides the fact that he's an utterly fascinating person with an amazing wealth of knowledge (and knowledge that bridges diverse disciplines to boot), I kept having this sense that I'd met him somewhere before, that he'd had this conversation (or similar) previously. I'm sure I'd seen his TED talk before, but that wasn't it. I kept thinking, "Man, mom would have loved this guy."

At the end of the conversation, I admitted that I'd love to interview him for the documentary, but that, well, things are self-funded right now, and it would probably be a Skype interview. And without waiting a beat, Nicholas said, nope, we'll just fly you up here and you can talk to the weekly meeting of the Human Nature Lab. Needless to say, I was floored, and more than once I thought of mom, and thought: that's something mom would have done. I'll spare you more mushiness, but after going around and around budgets for months, this was significant for the film, yes, but for me personally as well.

When we met in person, I mentioned the insistent sense that he seemed familiar, and my mom would have loved him. It's not totally impossible, after all. My mom, Dr. Natalie C. G. Freeman, was an epidemiologist and focused on children's public health issues. During her career, she worked with many fascinating physicians, sociologists, educators, statisticians... my childhood memories are rich with them, even as I've lost their names and affiliations. Many have passed away themselves, leaving me with a quiet sense of gratitude more than sadness now-a-days.

Anyway, the interview was fascinating. Immediately afterwards, I gave my first work-in-progress talk on Familiar Shapes, which was very fun, and I'll muse on in the next post.

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