Filmmaker Chris Palmer on the scientist/filmmaker conflict

Film and video can be compelling forms of communication — but using video in science is hard to do well. Science is complex and scientists are groomed throughout their careers to speak in a precise, measured way. Film makers, on the other hand, rarely have a graduate background in science, and they are attuned to storytelling, colorful characters and sound bites. Thus a conflict often rises between filmmakers and scientists, which is colorfully summarized by wildlife filmmaker Chris Palmer

Palmer sharing comments after a presentation at AAAS last night about wildlife filmmaking.

Palmer works to promote better portrayal of wildlife in film, both in terms of imbuing films with a conservation message, and also by maintaing an authenticity to filming wild animals. He emphasizes that scientists and filmmakers need each other. The filmmaker gains scientific insights and can anchor story arcs around scientific inquiry; and the scientist gets the word out about their work and the broader issues they study.

There are many great examples of science public outreach on video, but there should be much more. And not only in photogenic fields of wildlife biology and astronomy. But when working with video, all scientists will struggle with the conflict Palmer desribes on some level, as they seek to be brief, and express scientific concepts with relatable metaphors.

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