BEREA, Ohio — Several scenes from Netflix’s feature film White Noise may look familiar to those with a well-trained eye. The film, which premiered at the Venice International Film Festival on Wednesday, used various locations in Northeast Ohio as its backdrop. For a professor at Baldwin Wallace University, the production of the film provided a unique opportunity to ensure it was as authentic as possible.
Dr. James McCargar, professor of chemistry and associate dean of the BW School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Informatics, served as a scientific advisor on the film White Noise, which is an adaptation of a novel of the same name written by Don DeLillo. in 1985. As part of his role as science advisor, McCargar consulted the production staff on what a laboratory would have been like in the 1980s. He also helped train the production staff on how the actors should behave and move if They were scientists.
“I was on the tour and helped them understand maybe what a scientist would do in these lab spaces; how they would move; what kind of movements would they make; how they would work with the glassware, et cetera,” McCargar said.
The scene was filmed during a brief period of time last summer when the labs were not being used for academic purposes. Much of the lab’s modern equipment had to be disassembled and removed before filming could take place.
“There’s equipment, instrumentation, all kinds of things in there that wouldn’t be from the 1980s. We had to remove them, including refrigeration units, freezer units,” McCargar said. “I think that’s the only thing I really appreciated. There was always this drive for authenticity and wondering what this would look like in this environment. How would this actor move? What would they do? Being able to talk about it and instruct about it really adds authenticity. This brought a lot of information about this process. I have a lot of respect for the directors, the actors, those who have to make sure the sets are really authentic and reflect the times.”
In addition to helping with the authenticity of the set during the tour, McCargar was also on set for much of the scene’s filming. Being the scientist that he is, McCargar couldn’t help but observe and assess the process of making a feature film, as well as the dynamic between director and actor.
“It was absolutely surreal. When you’re on set and you’re looking at Adam Driver, who’s been nominated for an Academy Award, and you’re looking at Noah Baumbach, I got this new appreciation for how a director works with an actor,” McCargar said. “Interesting how the [director] it’s so open to the actor in terms of what could work best. As an instructor, that’s something I’m always open to: how I can improve a class.”