University professors work to make Hollywood films scientifically accurate

By Colleen Vest

Many Hollywood movies have involved science in story plots, from the 1931 production of “Frankenstein” to the “Jurassic Park” series. However, scientific information and scientists have not always been accurately portrayed on screen.

University professors May Berenbaum and Gene Robinson are working with Hollywood to change that.

“The hope is to link Hollywood with authentic scientists,” said Berenbaum, an entomology professor at the University. “Real science offers stories that are just as compelling and interesting as the faux plots.”

The Science & Entertainment Exchange, a program to bring scientists and the entertainment industry together, was launched by the National Academy of Science, said Robinson, entomology professor.

“The idea is to provide a staffed office in Hollywood to help contact scientists and important discoveries to improve handling of scientific information in film production,” Robinson said. “So, if someone is doing a movie or show with a lot of genetics in it, the office in Hollywood can connect the movie writers and directors with renowned geneticists.”

The Science & Entertainment Exchange held an event in Los Angeles on Nov. 19 for a few of the scientists involved with the program and some Hollywood insiders, Robinson said. Robinson and a few other scientists spoke to give an example of how the exchange could help with scientific accuracy in entertainment.

“The thing that annoys me about some movies is that scientists create the problem and then average citizens, police or the military are the ones fixing it,” Berenbaum said. “When actually, scientists fix a lot of problems.”

However, ther are some TV shows do a decent job of portraying science, Berenbaum said.

“The ‘CSI’ (Crime Scene Investigation) shows are revolutionary,” she said. “They do some alterations, procedures that take days get done in hours, but the scientific techniques and the way evidence is evaluated to reach decisions are good.”

She cited “The Doctors” as a show that does not stand up to scientific accuracy.

“The people on that show just sit around and talk without ever consulting literature,” Berenbaum said. “They’re not using information the way real medical doctors gather and use information.”

Taylor Lemick, sophomore in Media, said the exchange could be helpful.

“I guess it would be good for some movies to be accurate, but I don’t think it will affect the entertainment industry in a negative or positive way,” she said.

The program is just another source of information for film companies to use while developing new story lines, Robinson said.

“It could improve the way they present science and even give new story ideas,” Robinson said.