August 11, 2005

Selling science careers

by Michael Mateas · , 11:59 am

A recent New York Times article describes a new Pentagon research project in which 15 researchers are being trained at the American Film Institute on how to write sellable Hollywood screenplays. The reason?

Fewer and fewer students are pursuing science and engineering. While immigrants are taking up the slack in many areas, defense laboratories and industries generally require American citizenship or permanent residency. So a crisis is looming, unless careers in science and engineering suddenly become hugely popular, said Robert J. Barker, an Air Force program manager who approved the grant. And what better way to get a lot of young people interested in science than by producing movies and television shows that depict scientists in flattering ways?

It’s an uphill battle, though; with 75,000 screenplays floating around Hollywood, only 500 movies are made a year. Maybe they should train scientists in game design so that games depict scientists in flattering ways (since it’s so much easier to pitch new IP in the games industry). Maybe this is a good Persuasive Games area – Ian should get right on this. I’d prefer government grants to pay for researchers in, say, interactive drama, to participate in screen-writing workshops.