There's a Hotline Filmmakers Can Call For Science Advice
By Anna Green
Are you a screenwriter, trying to decide which hyper-durable substance your superhero character’s armor should be made of? Or struggling to figure out which fuel source would be most realistic for your movie’s inter-dimensional spaceships? Just pick up your phone and dial 844-NEED-SCI, a science advice hotline for filmmakers that has more than 2700 professional scientists from around the world waiting to take your call.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the hotline connects to the Science and Entertainment Exchange, a program of the National Academy of Sciences with the goal of helping filmmakers incorporate accurate science into their films—at least, to some degree.
Dr. Jessica Cail, a Los Angeles psychopharmacologist who moonlights as a stunt woman, told The Wall Street Journal her goal is to find a “middle ground between fantasy and reality,” to help filmmakers make their films, if not fully realistic, at least “plausible-ish.”
To date, the Science and Entertainment Exchange has consulted on more than 1300 projects. They organize a range of annual programs, including lectures and seminars around Los Angeles, and regular “speed dating” events to help match filmmakers up with the right scientist for their project.
Once a filmmaker gets assigned their very own scientist, science consultation can take a range of forms. While some filmmakers have general questions that inform the overarching plot of the film, others get surprisingly specific. When filmmakers Will Matthews and Jeffrey Addiss needed a plausible way for the world to end, they turned to theoretical physicist Clifford Johnson, who recommended a black hole. On the other hand, Marvel once had a more specific request for Cail: to come up with ingredients for a super strength serum, to be used on their TV show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Cail recommended an anabolic androgenic steroid mixed with a liver-enzyme inhibitor, while Marvel added some “gorilla testosterone and a drop of peppermint” to spice up the mixture.
The Wall Street Journal explains that the goal of the Science and Entertainment Exchange isn’t to make films 100 percent scientifically accurate. Rather, they hope weaving real science into fictional stories will generate more interest in scientific subjects. The goal is to work in science while still retaining entertainment value—what filmmaker Will Matthews calls using science “in a popcorn way.”
[h/t: Wall Street Journal]