Category Archives: Profile

Profile: ‘ER’ TV Writer/Advisor Channels Storytelling Towards Social Activism

Television writer, producer, activist and practicing pediatrician Neal Baer, MD.
Television writer, producer, activist and practicing pediatrician Neal Baer, MD.

It has become compulsory for modern medical (or scientifically-relevant) shows to rely on a team of advisors and experts for maximal technical accuracy and verisimilitude on screen. Many of these shows have become so culturally embedded that they’ve changed people’s perceptions and influenced policy. Even the Gates Foundation has partnered with popular television shows to embed important storyline messages pertinent to public health, HIV prevention and infectious diseases. But this was not always the case. When Neal Baer joined ER as a young writer and simultaneous medical student, he became the first technical expert to be subsumed as an official part of a production team. His subsequent canon of work has reshaped the integration of socially relevant issues in television content, but has also ushered in an age of public health awareness in Hollywood, and outreach beyond it. Dr. Baer sat down with ScriptPhD to discuss how lessons from ER have fueled his public health efforts as a professor and founder of UCLA’s Global Media Center For Social Impact, including storytelling through public health metrics and leveraging digital technology for propelling action.
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Podcast: “Hollyweird Science” and the Quantum Quirks of Entertainment

Hollyweird Science cover ©2015 Springer Books, all rights reserved.
Hollyweird Science cover ©2015 Springer Books, all rights reserved.

Dr. Kevin Grazier has made a career of studying intergalactic planetary formation, and, over the last few years, helping Hollywood writers integrate physics smartly into storylines for popular TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Eureka, Defiance and the blockbuster film Gravity. His latest book, Hollyweird Science: From Quantum Quirks to the Multiverse traverses delightfully through the science-entertainment duality as it first breaks down the portrayal of science in movies and television, grounding the audience in screenplay lexicon, then elucidates a panoply of physics and astronomy principles through the lens of storylines, superpowers and sci-fi magic. With the help of notable science journalist Stephen Cass, Hollyweird Science is accessible to the layperson sci-fi fan wishing to learn more about science, a professional scientist wanting to apply their knowledge to higher-order examples from TV and film or Hollywood writers and producers of future science-based materials. From case studies, to in-depth interviews to breaking down the Universe and its phenomena one superhero and far-away galaxy at a time, this first volume of an eventual trilogy is the essential foundation towards understanding how science is integrated into a story and ensuring that future TV shows and movies do so more accurately than ever before. Full ScriptPhD review and podcast with author and science advisor Dr. Grazier below.
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Interview: Michio Kaku and The Physics of the Future

Physics of the Future images and all content ©2011 Doubleday Publishing.

Dr. Michio Kaku recently consolidated his position as America’s most visible physicist by acting as the voice of the science community to major news outlets in the wake of Japan’s major earthquake and the recent Fukushima nuclear crisis. Dr. Kaku is one of those rare and prized few

who possesses both the hard science chops (he built an atom smasher in his garage for a high school science fair and is a co-founder of string theory) and the ability to reduce quantum physics and space time to layman’s terms. The author of Physics of the Impossible has also followed up with a new book, Physics of the Future, that aims to convey how these very principles will change the future of science and its impact in our daily modern life. (Make sure to enter our Facebook fan giveaway to win a free copy this week!) Dr. Kaku graciously sat down with ScriptPhD.com’s physics and astronomy blogger, Stephen Compson, to talk about the recent earthquake, popular science in an entertainment-driven world, and his latest book. Full interview under the “continue reading” cut.
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PODCAST: Professor Brian Cox and the ‘Wonders of the Solar System’

Our solar system, a true wonder to behold! Image © NASA, all rights reserved.

“I think we’re living through the greatest age of discovery our civilization has ever known,” declares British physics superstar Professor Brian Cox as a preamble for each episode of The Science Channel’s BBC import Wonders of the Solar System. Episode by episode, Dr. Cox deconstructs our wondrous Universe one focus at a time—the Sun, the Big Bang, life on other planets. But he does something even more important. He infuses his own obvious enthusiasm and passion for his field in each experiment and factoid. As a viewer, you can’t helped but be absorbed in the intergalactic vortex of knowledge. The timing of this mini-series and emergence of Cox’s exuberant personality could not be better. Funding for NASA missions has been cut dramatically, with an ongoing re-evaluation the role space exploration should play in the national budget and science ambition. American viewers should get used to Cox as a modern-day Carl Sagan, because his star is rising fast. ScriptPhD.com was extraordinarily fortunate to sit down with Dr. Cox in Los Angeles for a one-on-one podcast about the show, the current state of space exploration, and what is possible to achieve experimentally if we only try. My conversation with the inspirational, eloquent and brilliant Brian Cox, along with our review of Wonders of the Universe, under the “continue reading” cut.
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PROFILE: Popular Science's Theo Gray

The Elements, a hardcover book of photography for every element in the periodic table. ©2009 Black Dog and Leventhal Publishing.

He is one of the most popular and explosive (sometimes literally!) science columnists of our day. Since 2005, he has written the Popular Science blog Gray Matter. He has been willing to try virtually any chemistry experiment known to man, all in the interest of proving a theory and educating (and entertaining) a fortunate lay audience. He has created the most widely acclaimed periodic table ever, which has been replicated into posters, an actual table, playing cards, and now, a gorgeous full-color hardcover book. Who is this mad scientist I am referring to? Why, Theodore Gray, of course! For Day 3 of Science Week, ScriptPhD.com is thrilled to review his new book The Elements, an equal parts homage to chemistry and photography. Editor Jovana Grbić sat down with Theo in a candid, in-depth interview about his books, his favorite elements, and the responsibility science writers have to informing the public. More more content, please click “continue reading.”
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Guest Article: HBO’s ‘Temple Grandin’ Biopic Honors Autistic Scientist

Temple Grandin film

poster ©2010 Home Box Office, all rights reserved

This was a remarkable week for autism science and publicity. In a stunning and rare reversal, medical journal The Lancet retracted the 1998 paper responsible for suggesting a link between autism and MMR vaccinations, incurring over a decade of acrimonious debate and frightened parents. Ironic then that this should be the week when HBO premieres their new feature film Temple Grandin, about the eponymous world-famous scientist. Dr. Grandin has written and spoken openly about her struggle with autism and how it’s colored her view of the world and influenced the science she studies. ScriptPhD.com is extraordinarily honored to extend a warm welcome to friend and fellow blogger Susan Etlinger, author of the autism spectrum blog The Family Room, to review the biopic and interview the project’s executive producer. For full content, please click “continue reading.”
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On ‘Creation’, Charles Darwin, and Survival of the Fittest

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin’s postscript to perhaps the greatest work of biology ever recorded, The Origin of Species, ignited an acrimonious debate about science, religion, the mutual exclusivity thereof, and where we come from. 150 years later, as we celebrate the anniversary of Darwin’s monumental scientific achievement, it is a debate that has yet to abate. Regardless

of what stance one takes on evolution and natural selection, fascination with the life and times of this inimitable figure is undeniable. A new biopic, Creation, delves into the dichotomy of Darwin the naturalist and family man, the disapproval he faced from a devotedly Christian wife, and the inner anguish he faced in whether to publish his findings. ScriptPhD.com’s Stephen Compson was recently treated to a private screening of the film and had the extraordinary opportunity to sit down with Darwin’s great-great-grandson Randal Keynes, whose Charles Darwin biography the movie was based on. For our exclusive content, please click “continue reading.”

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INTERVIEW: Greenwriter.org

Logo ©2009 Greenwriter.org.  All rights reserved.
Logo ©2009 Greenwriter.org. All rights reserved.

Here at ScriptPhD.com, we are increasingly aware of science and technology that provides solutions to the stresses and threats facing our global environment. As part of a new series we are launching called “It’s Not Easy Being Green”, we are committed to bringing you coverage of the best “green initiatives”, especially those relating to the entertainment industry. With the help of the newest addition to the ScriptPhD.com family, talented European filmmaker Svetlana Dekic, ScriptPhD.com’s first video production is a filmed interview with environmentally-conscious company Greenwriter.org. Based in Hollywood, CA, Greenwriter.org is seeking to reinvent the way we buy and sell screenplays by establishing the first free online screenplay catalog service that directly connects writers worldwide with Hollywood production companies–all without having to print a single sheet of paper! Our interview, under the jump.
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INTERVIEW: Alex Tse, screenwriter of “Watchmen”

Who watches the Watchmen? A whole lot of people! One of the spring’s biggest breakout hits was director Zack Snyder’s cinema adaptation of the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons classic 1989 graphic novel, Watchmen. ScriptPhD.com first caught up with one of the Watchmen screenwriters, rising star Alex Tse, during this summer’s Los Angeles Film Festival, and sat down with him recently to talk about the experience of working on the blockbuster. Before being contracted on the Watchmen project, Tse got his big break when his first script, Sucker Free City, was produced by Showtime Television and directed by Spike Lee. His current projects include a collection of sci-fi and comics screenplays, including the 1951 collection of science fiction short stories The Illustrated Man, the 2005 American thriller novel The Winter of Frankie Machine, the anime Ninja Scroll, and a film adaptation of the upcoming graphic novel Battling Boy by Paul Pope. Tse grew up in the San Francisco area before attending Emmerson College in Boston. Our full transcript under the “continue reading” jump.
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INTERVIEW: Best-Selling Author and Medical Doctor Josh Bazell

Dr. Josh Bazell, author of medical mystery Beat the Reaper

ScriptPhD.com recently reviewed and recommended a new medical mystery thriller, “Beat the Reaper”, written by real-life medical doctor Josh Bazell. A longtime aspiring writer, Josh majored in English Literature with Honors at Brown University, after which he entered the English Lit PhD program at Duke. He ultimately chose to pursue a post-graduate degree in medicine at Columbia University, and completed his residency in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco. He is currently working on his second book and is a practicing psychiatrist.

In between getting ready to release “Beat the Reaper” as a paperback, with a Leonardo di Caprio-starring film adaptation in the works, and writing his follow-up novel, a busy Dr. Bazell generously lent us some time to chat. To read our interview, please click “continue reading”.
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