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Scientists as Screenwriters

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With scientists Martin Gundersen and Diandra Leslie-Pelecky.




USC professor Martin Gundersen, who is working to improve the image of science in movies and TV, has been the impetus behind the American Film Institute’s screenwriting for scientists workshops. Physicist Diandra Leslie-Pelecky has taken the workshop twice.

Martin Gundersen is Professor of Electrical Engineering-Electrophysics, Physics and Astronomy, and Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Southern California. He sometimes acts as technical adviser to films.

Diandra Leslie-Pelecky is Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Nebraska, where she studies magnetic nanoparticles. Her research, which involves shrinking magnetic material into little balls a thousandth of the size of a human hair, has important possibilities for drug delivery.

In this fascinating serial interview, Martin Gundersen explains:

  • How he got the idea to teach scientists and engineers to write movies and TV
  • How a brainstorm turned into a popular series of American Film Institute workshops with Department of Defense support
  • Why he thinks the portrayal of scientists in film leaves something to be desired
  • How audiences are coming to expect more scientific accuracy in their entertainment
  • How science enriches our lives

Then, Diandra Leslie-Pelecky reveals:

  • What the workshop application process was like
  • How the would-be screenwriters were received by the entertainment community
  • What the instructors and the classes were like
  • What she learned that surprised her
  • How the participants got to pitch to DreamWorks at the end of the workshop
  • How at least one workshop participant has gone on to make screenwriting her career

Interviewee(s): Martin Gundersen, Diandra Leslie-Pelecky
Host: Paula B
Date: November 7, 2005
Running Times: 36:56
File size: 23 megabytes
Rating: G
The American Film Institute Web Site:
The AFI Catalyst Workshop, “Communicating Science and Engineering:” Catalyst Workshop