Pentagon teaches scientists to screenwrite

The NYT reports on a Pentagon-funded initiative to teach screenwriting to scientists...

The NYT reports on a Pentagon-funded initiative to teach screenwriting to scientists in the hopes of boosting the accuracy of portrayals of science (and scientists) in movies:

At a cost of roughly $25,000 in Pentagon research grants, the American Film Institute is cramming this eclectic group of midcareer researchers, engineers, chemists and physicists full of pointers on how to find their way in a world that can be a lot lonelier than the loneliest laboratory: the wilderness of story arcs, plot points, pitching and the special circle of hell better known as development.

And no primer on Hollywood would be complete without at least three hours on “Agents & Managers.”

Exactly how the national defense could be bolstered by setting a few more people loose in Los Angeles with screenplays to peddle may be a bit of a brainteaser. But officials at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research spell out a straightforward syllogism:

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?

There is so much wrong with this that I don’t know where to start. Did ‘Pretty Woman’ encourage more people to become hookers-with-hearts-of-gold? Did ‘Master & Commander’ lead to an increased public interest in sailing? Aren’t there enough hack-screenwriting-seminars in this town already? Granted, the program also includes seminars in which scientists talk about their fields with working writers, which isn’t a bad idea per se, but still, I think the Pentagon has better things to do with its money right now. I’d rather see this $25,000 go to, say, body armor.