On November 20th, 2015 the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, in association with the Science & Entertainment Exchange and the Sundance Institute, presented an evening screening of four shorts made by Sloan-winning filmmakers inspired by the work of four scientists at Neue House in New York City. Sundance’s Anne Lai facilitated the production. The evening was moderated by actress Kerry Bishe, star of HALT AND CATCH FIRE—the subject of a previous Science & Film article—about the early years of growth in the tech industry. Introductions by scientists preceded each screening. Each short film covered a different area of science demystifying the scientific process, debunking myths, and featuring scientists themselves. Each of the films is presented in full below.
Flora Lichtman is a science journalist working in radio, video, and writing who is currently host of the Sloan-supported Adaptors podcast, which covers climate change. Sloan has commissioned Lichtman before. Earlier this year, with her collaborator Sharon Shattuck she made two shorts animating research findings to make them accessible to popular audiences. One film was about research into the flu strains, the other about saber-tooth teeth.
For the Science in Film Forum Lichtman made a short film THE INNER LIFE about the body’s microbiome. The microbiome consists of a unique mix of trillions of microbes that thrive inside each of us. There has been an intense amount of scientific research into the microbiome in recent years. See: “The Secret World Inside You” at the American Museum of Natural History. Lichtman’s innovative film, which uses mechanized motion, paper animation, and painting, was made in collaboration with scientist Martin Blaser, director of the Human Microbiome Program at NYU. The Sloan Foundation has a related program funding research into the microbiology of the built environment, the subject of a recent New Yorker piece.
Katy Scoggin has received previous Sloan support for her narrative feature FLOOD. FLOOD began as a short film, Scoggin’s thesis film for the NYU graduate film program, for which she received an NYU-Sloan Production Award. Scoggin shot, directed, edited, and produced CHUCK AND BARB GO HUNTING. The beautifully made film has a humorous tone that cuts right to the heart of scientific inquiry showing the everyday goings-on of two longtime pals who are amateur fossil hunters living in western Kansas. Nick Pyenson, an expert in marine fossils at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, introduced the film.
Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt received Sloan support in 2009 through the Sundance Labs for his script ON THE LEFT, about a designer who travels the world to research human behavior for a large mobile phone company and ends up in Cuba where he becomes embroiled in Havana's flourishing black market. His film PUPPY LOVE is a dark comedy which centers on a couple who put themselves in the hands of a shrink who employs the aid of the hormone oxytocin in the therapy to ill-effect. Perlmutt collaborated with Zoe Donaldson, a post-doctoral researcher at Columbia, who explained oxytocin’s coordinated role in reproduction.
Braden King won a Sloan-Sundance award in 2007 for his feature film HERE. His meditative short film, THE WHITE GUARD, was made in collaboration with radio astronomer Summer Ash and is shot at a radio astronomy facility in Southern France. The film contemplates the devices we use to measure the eternal.