Project Timeline – After the Glow: Radium Girls (8.2)

In February 2017, we were assigned the visual essay and given the guidelines. That week I decided to choose the topic of the dial painters from World War I. Because I already knew a lot about this topic (prior experience with the play Radium Girls by D.W. Gregory in high school) I originally focused on finding the music that would match the topic. Originally, I looked into both Clara and Robert Schumann’s piano works trying to find something complex that had a feeling of spiraling out of control. After searching through some of those piano pieces I didn’t feel as though it fit the topic as well as I would’ve like. So I began looking up songs from the early 1900’s to capture the feel of the era towards the beginning of the video. I started putting pictures into place based on chronological order of the dial painters learning about radium, their lives being consumed by it, the medical consequences and ended at their graves. As soon as I had this order I felt something was missing and had the idea of adding the ticking sounds of the clock for emotional effect of time running out coinciding with the watches the dial painters were painting. I added this in at the beginning and faded it into the song “Shaking the Blues Away” sung by Doris Day as the pictures shifted from war scenes to the women working in factories or shops to create the feeling that contrasted with war and the previous photos. I really liked this song for the essay because it is a catchy, upbeat and the lyrics include “if you are blue it is easy to shake off your cares and troubles” contrasting with the images of products containing radium at this time. This was intended to create an anxious emotional response from the viewer as it is now common knowledge that radium is highly poisonous and contrasted with the happy music it is unsettling. The text onscreen switched to a green color when the mention that other companies use radium in their products. The song “Shake the Blues Away” faded out to “Closer than Sisters” by Abel Korzeniowski. I found this piece of music by looking into movie and television shows soundtracks. Originally, I looked at Dr. Who and Lord of the Rings to find suspenseful music but then I stumbled into Penny Dreadful, a television show that explores the origin stories of many classic folklore characters in Victorian, London. I added this music in when the medical side effects are touched upon to add depth and suspense to the photos. As I found this piece I also found the a capella piece at the end as well from the same television show, called Lullaby. I found this song absolutely chilling when applied to the story so I added it when mentioning the last survivor and zooming into the graves MORE. Lastly, I put the clock ticking to add to the effect that they are still radioactive and this problem isn’t over. When I turned the project in it was 5:49. On YouTube this version currently has 14k views and 12 comments.

When I decided to submit this project for an academic award I revised and added. The first thing I decided was to change the song, “Shaking the Blues Away”, after receiving comments that the song was racist. After looking into the lyrics I agreed the song was bigoted and debated about changing it because that was the norm of the time. Ultimately, I changed it because I didn’t want it to distract from the real message. Throughout this process I have changed many more things leading up the completion. This includes, searching for another song with the same impact and I found “Pretty Baby” by Billy Murray. I added a couple facts to stress how young and naïve the women were and to make them easier to emphasize with. Because “Pretty Baby” was so short I added “I Ain’t Got No Body” by Marion Harris as the story progressed that include lyrics like “I ain’t go nobody, nobody cares for me” to add to the point of the women being taken advantage of. Then that song faded into “Closer Than Sisters”. I changed where the text turns green, when the effects where mentioned; even the text was affected by the radium poisoning. Eventually, “Closer than Sisters” faded into Lullaby when the graves are shown. I kept the ticking at the end of the radium girls section as a transition into a new section I thought would give the video depth and context in society today; The Flint Water Crisis. I chose the song “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons to directly contrast the era music featured in radium girls while the lyrics say “welcome to the new age, I’m radioactive” directly connecting the event to the similar event that happened 100 years ago. I added a lot of protesters to create more sympathy and ended with an another excerpt from Lullaby before adding the clock ticking, waiting for the next crisis. I believed this would create a huge emotional impact on the viewer by comparing the events from 100 years ago to something that is happening present day and in the state I live in.