Since interviewing the Katz Brothers in a seedy noodle shop in San Francisco's Tenderloin when their film Pop Skull screened at IndieFEST 2008, producer Peter Katz has kept me abreast of the film's trajectory through the festival circuit; the 2008 Comic Con panel he organized on independent filmmaking; the 2009 Comic Con panel he organized on translating genre comics into films; Pop Skull's acquisition by Halo 8 for late July DVD distribution; and most recently Pop Skull's participation in advancing neurocinema. As producers go, Peter is definitely hardworking and unquestionably innovative.
In late August, Peter Katz and Matt Pizzolo (president of Halo 8) teamed up with researchers at the San Diego MindSign Neuromarketing facility to conduct a neurological scan on a test-subject watching Pop Skull. The technology of neuromarketing, previously explored in Time, seeks to determine if it is possible to monitor specific areas on the brain when activated by thoughts, feelings and memories.
Using a Siemmens 3T fMRI scanner to scan subject Brigette's brain as she watched selected scary scenes from Pop Skull, MindSign researcher Philip Carlsen analyzed the data from the scan and was able to pinpoint exact moments when her brain was lit up with fear. Here, Peter explains the process and what they discovered.
The results of that experiment have been further detailed at Mental Floss, and in recent interviews with Wired and CNN.
Though, admittedly, cost-prohibitive to use for current genre fare—already struggling with shoe-string budgets—the Pop Skull experiment hints at what might be coming in the future and raises thorny questions about marketers accessing people's amygdalas to tailor fear and aggression, scientific intrusion on the creative process, and perhaps more importantly—as we were taught by Jurassic Park—that "nature will find a way" to circumvent such manipulations and what that might ultimately mean.
Cross-published on Twitch.