Filmmaking Scientist Experiments With Comedy

Scientist turned director Valerie Weiss discusses a scene with cinematographer Jamie Urman on the set of her film, "Losing Control."
Scientist turned director Valerie Weiss discusses a scene with cinematographer Jamie Urman on the set of her film, "Losing Control." Courtesy of Richard Salazar

Valerie Weiss received a Ph.D. in X-ray crystallography from Harvard University, but she wanted to be a filmmaker. So she abandoned the lab, moved to Los Angeles, wrote a screenplay, and is now filming her first feature.

For most Hollywood filmmakers, the road to success does not go through Harvard Medical School. But there are exceptions.

Valerie Weiss hopes to be one of them.

She went to graduate school to study the three-dimensional structure of enzymes. Know an enzyme's shape, and you may learn something important about how it functions.

"I think the whole reason I even went into science is because I loved to know how things work," she says.

But Weiss says science tends to be very specialized these days. You can spend years working out the structure of a single enzyme. Her interests are more eclectic.

"At the same time that I was interested in science, I was really interested in theater," she says. Both science and theater try to provide answers to basic questions.

"Why is the world the way it is? Why do people relate to each other the way they do? I think I like asking those questions on every level," she says.

Bringing The Lab To The Screen

Just because she has become a filmmaker, that doesn't mean she has abandoned science. In fact, the film she's making now is set, in part, in the lab.

"The film is called Losing Control, and it's about a female scientist who wants proof that her boyfriend is 'the one,' " she says. In fact, she is recruiting videos of real scientists giving her main character advice on how to find "the one," and invites those interested to e-mail her production company at contact@phdproductions.com. Selected scientists may have a chance of appearing in the film.

Not that science is particularly effective in helping people find mates, but this a comedy, with a scientific theme.

Weiss isn't out to proselytize for science. But she says there's no reason real science shouldn't be included in movies.

"Why not science?" she asks. "It is fun, it is sexy, and it's a really rich, untapped area that I'm excited to explore." Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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