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Science, Entertainment and a Digital World


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I spoke at the UCLA School of Film about how the growth of the digital sphere and social media have reshaped a better-informed, more sophisticated audience hungry for edgy, sleek and accurate science and technology content in television and film. We discussed the beginnings of science as a mainstay in entertainment, examples of great content, and how an interconnected triangle of entertainment industry professionals, the public and bloggers/advisors/scientists can work in concert to take smart scientific creative content to the next level.

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Science, Entertainment and a Digital World

  1. 1. Science, Entertainment and a Digital World Jovana J. Grbić, PhD Sloan Colloquium, UCLA School of Film October 24, 2009 ©, all rights reserved
  2. 2. Overview Part I: The History of Science in Entertainment Part II: Jurassic Park and the Dawn of the Internet Part III: The Good, the Bad and the Influential Part IV: The ScriptPhD Philosophy: L.A.B.
  3. 3. Timeline I: 1900-1930 1902: Le Voyage Dans La Lune 1910: Frankenstein The Silent Film Era: An Era of Firsts 1912: Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde 1916: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 1926: Metropolis 1929: Frau im Mond
  4. 4. Timeline II: 1930-1950 1933: King Kong The Invisible Man 1949: Captain Video 1936: Flash Gordon The Man Who Changed His Mind Feel Good + Propaganda Movies 1945: Strange Holiday 1930: Just Imagine
  5. 5. Timeline III: 1950-1970 1961: Dr. Kildcare 1969: Marcus Welby 1963: Dr. Who (BBC) The Outer Limits 1966: Star Trek 1950: Buck Rogers 1959: The Twilight Zone The Cold War and the Nuclear Age 1950: Destination Moon 1953: War of The Worlds 1956: Forbidden Planet 1968 2001: A Space Odyssey
  6. 6. Timeline IV: 1970-1980 1972: M*A*S*H Solaris (USSR) 1978: Battlestar Galactica 1974: NOVA Space Travel 1971: The Andromeda Strain 1979: Alien Mad Max Star Trek (Motion Picture) 1975: The Rocky Horror Picture Show 1977: Star Wars Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  7. 7. Timeline V: 1980-1990 1982: St. Elsewhere Blade Runner ET 1983: V 1989: Star Trek TGN Doogie Howser, MD 1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark 1984: 1984 GhostBusters Terminator Rise of Gadgets 1985: Back to the Future Cocoon Weird Science 1987: Spaceballs
  8. 8. What Science Entertainment Used to Be <ul><li>Sparse content compared to today’s era (many more science-oriented films and shows) </li></ul><ul><li>Heavy on science FICTION, light on science </li></ul><ul><li>Thematic in nature – very little corellation to scientific vs. social/political advances of the time </li></ul><ul><li>Nothing that revolves around technology save for nuclear destruction and outer space travel </li></ul><ul><li>Hopeful, unrealistic, meant to titillate not really engage </li></ul>
  9. 9. Jurassic Park: Before + After <ul><li>Assumed audience knew or would understand cloning – complex science </li></ul><ul><li>Written by a medical doctor (Michael Crichton) </li></ul><ul><li>Thematic Elements: Reprecussions of bioengineering and technology revolution </li></ul><ul><li>Game changer for future film and television content </li></ul>Jurassic Park – 1993 Universal pictures $900 million gross – still in top ten Dolly the Sheep cloned in 1996
  10. 10. The Dawn of the Internet Internet visualization map for routes of information exchange Number of internet users: 1995-2010 The internet is exploding and there’s nothing to stop it! Nasdaq Hosts Sites The market might go up and down, but the Internet grows forever • Late 1994: Mosaic released, WWW is born • 1996: The word ‘Internet’ is common
  11. 11. Science is EVERYWHERE <ul><li>Academic, government and industry labs have websites </li></ul><ul><li>Most newspapers/magazines have a science + technology section </li></ul><ul><li>The birth of the blog </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter, Facebook, other social media – news travels fast </li></ul>2008: At least 2,000 science blogs written by PhD scientists (Technorati)
  12. 12. Science + Technology in Entertainment post-Internet <ul><li>More science/sci-fi/technology/medical content on television (and movies) </li></ul><ul><li>Better (more) informed audience </li></ul><ul><li>More sophisticated content </li></ul>The Internet # of Zombie movies (from io9)
  13. 13. The Good <ul><li>ER Surgical Checklist scene from Season 15, episode 19 – based on WHO recommendations </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ Breaking Bad’ chemistry </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accurate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Doesn’t dwell on the Big Picture, rather inserts details that contribute to story </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. The Bad <ul><li>‘ Outbreak’ – opening scene during title credits where government agent walks through BSL labs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Access to BSL3 and BSL4 labs is EXTREMELY restricted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No personal protective equipment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Takes tube with bare hands – never! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ Impact’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>People around the world can’t all see it in the dark at the SAME time </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Meteor that desctructive could NEVER hide behind another body – the asteroid would have to be enormous </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Energy required to move the Moon from its orbit is… well… astronomical </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dishonorable mentions: ‘Armageddon’ ‘Deep Impact’ and ‘The Core’ (unobtainium?) </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Misconceptions/Positive Effects YES NO
  16. 16. ‘ The CSI Effect’ <ul><li>The belief that juries demand more physical evidence </li></ul><ul><li>Police collecting more physical evidence, in turn inundating crime labs </li></ul><ul><li>More forensic programs in colleges and universities </li></ul><ul><li>Jurors wanting DNA tests performed more frequently </li></ul><ul><li>The problem? </li></ul><ul><li>About 40% of the forensic science on </li></ul><ul><li>CSI doesn’t actually exist! </li></ul>CSI premieres
  17. 17. Medical Shows Affect Your Health <ul><li>Epidemiological studies conducted by the Kaiser Foundation </li></ul><ul><li>Presence of blogs amplifies this effect </li></ul><ul><li>Study in journal Resucitation : Med students copy bad intubations from TV </li></ul>Purposefully embedded a health message in an episode then tested select group of viewers Health on Prime Time Television 947 episodes 33 series 2204-2006
  18. 18. Geek Chic To Reality I Flying Cars Communicators Dick Tracy’s wrist phone eBooks from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  19. 19. Geek Chic to Reality II
  20. 20. L.A.B.: The ScriptPhD Philosophy “ People bring ideas to life” Media+Entertainment Science The Public Building Relationships Exchanging Information
  21. 21. L.A.B.: Listen <ul><li>Scientists </li></ul><ul><li>Watch movies and TV </li></ul><ul><li>Know how your material is being represented </li></ul><ul><li>Make yourself visible! </li></ul><ul><li>Give and write feedback </li></ul><ul><li>Keep it simple: small bites are easier to swallow for non-scientists </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate effectively </li></ul><ul><li>Writers </li></ul><ul><li>Seek out advice </li></ul><ul><li>Ask SPECIFIC questions and involve the scientist </li></ul><ul><li>Attend a lecture/seminar </li></ul><ul><li>Shadow a scientist or doctor </li></ul><ul><li>Read blogs + tech publications </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate effectively </li></ul>
  22. 22. L.A.B.: Advise Start a Blog For Your Area of Expertise • Start with short, simple posts • Guest post for other bloggers • Invite colleagues to post on your site Increase Your Web Presence • Let out an occasional Tweet • Set up a site for your lab/research • Write the occasional supplement to scholarly articles Work For a Science Movie/TV Show • On staff or freelance • Fringe: Neurobiologist Ricardo Gil da Costa • BSG and Eureka : Physicist Kevin R. Grazier • CSI: Engineer Naren Shankar • Grey’s Anatomy : Dr. Zoanne Clack Write Your Own! Michael Chricton Arthur C. Clarke
  23. 23. L.A.B.: Blog… <ul><li>Sample Topics Covered Recently in </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The Last Beekeeper” Documentary: Colony collapse disorder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Star Trek”: The Physics of Star Trek </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Adam”: Asperger’s Syndrome </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Three Rivers”: Organ Donation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Moon”: Lunar Facts 101 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Breaking Bad”: Chemistry 101 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>In-Depth Means: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interviews (Leading science experts, screenwriters, producers) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Panels + Roundtables </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Original pieces </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The science behind your favorite shows </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. … And Blog Some More Science Fiction: Astronomy+Physics: Medical Reviews: Popular (Layman) Science: … and many more!
  25. 25. Writers’ Resources in L.A. <ul><li>Science and Entertainment Exchange </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hollywood, Health and Society </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Science Network </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Here to help you write creative science! </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Acknowledgements Hosts: UCLA School of Film, Hal Ackerman, Etana Jacobsen Fellow Collaborators/Idea Generators: • Media + Entertainment subsidies (present and future) • Bloggers ( “sites we like” blogroll is a great resource!) • Scientists, Engineers, Innovators, Techologists, Geeks, and Nerds Design and Concept Branding: Zookeeper Industries, LLC YOU! Engage and collaborate with to expand the conversation about science and technology in entertainment, media and pop culture: • Twitter: @ScriptPhD •Vimeo: ScriptPhD • Facebook: ScriptPhD • ScriptPhD • LinkedIn: Jovana Grbić • Email: [email_address] Presentation and content ©2009 All Rights Reserved.