Hollywood has a lot to offer the science world, but you gotta respect the cultural divide.

THE S FACTOR PANEL AT AGU: All three of us were in the same film school class at U.S.C. starting in January, 1994. Previous to film school I was a tenured professor of marine biology, leaving me with a brain that is still 50% scientist. Sean Hood did an undergraduate degree in physics at Yale University giving him a brain that is today 75% Hollywood, yet still 25% scientist. And Jason Ensler? Ain’t no science bones in his body. He brings the 100% pure voice of Hollywood to the mix. Out of this combination we will provide a bridge from the way scientists approach communication to the way Hollywood approaches communication. This is how you effectively connect the two worlds.

yo mang


In my 20 years of living in and around Hollywood I have attended numerous events in which the organizers have this great idea of, “let’s put a group of great scientists together with a group of great filmmakers and let them cross pollinate!”

Guess what happens most of the time. They might as well say, “Let’s put a group of people who speak only the Ebo language of Nigeria together with a group of people who speak only Greek and let them cross pollinate.” (the Ebo reference is of course a nod to my best friend and Sizzle co-star Ifeanyi Njoku).

In the end, the Ebo speakers will gather on one side of the room and speak amongst themselves as the Greek speakers gather on the other side to speak amongst themselves. I’ve seen it over and over again. Scientists and filmmakers do not match. They not only speak two different languages, but they think very differently when it comes to communication. I talked about this a lot in my book.

Scientists are “story-averse.” They have a sort of story-phobia — the fear that “if I start worrying about telling a good story, I’ll stop worrying about keeping things accurate.” Which is a valid concern, but the fact is you can tell great stories without having to alter any information whatsoever. Journalists do it every day. You just need guidance in how to organize the information in a manner that will grab the interest of the broader audience, and that is exactly what we will be doing in this workshop Tuesday evening at the AGU.



I spoke yesterday with Sean Hood about the workshop. He’s viewed the ten selected videos twice and has a bunch of the same thoughts and comments I have — starting with being pleasantly surprised with the quality. The videos are good. And yet … they don’t do a particularly good job of storytelling, so there’s plenty to work with.

We’ve got lots of specifics to offer up — one video has spectacular footage buried in the middle of it instead of putting it at the start to grab the viewer’s attention, another desperately needs music scoring, several need to not open by introducing the on-camera host (and maybe not even have an on-camera host), pretty much all of them need to give more thought to posing an initial question, most of them need better visual elements, and all of them need to give more thought to how you grab, hold, and satisfy the attention of viewers.

Lots to work with. It’s going to be a great session. Bring all your friends, it’s open to the public. Look forward to seeing you there!