LabCut: A Science Film Project was conceived by three PhD students at the University of Warwick. The idea was to create a space for scientists, filmmakers and communicators alike to come together and create short films based on the scientists’ research. The aims were two fold: Create films to improve the science communication of their research, but also create a long lasting community of collaborators with an improved interest and knowledge of the differing fields, with scientists open to the advantages the arts can bring to their field and way of thinking and communicating. Funded by Warwick Wellcome QBP, the first workshop was held in June 2019 and themed around human health related research, with 17 participants from across the country creating five films. These can be found on the LabCut Science Films Youtube.
Mentors were invited to come and share their experience and help train participants in an intensive three day program, designed by the LabCut team. A local filmmaker Jay Langdell, of JAM-AV Media, was hired as our primary mentor, using his expertise to help participants throughout the filmmaking process. The workshop started with group formation, crucially to get our 17 participants (and strangers!) interacting with each other, and learning about their shared and unique experiences and interests. The energy in the room was highly enthusiastic and infectious, and with the help of Oliver Scott, of Mercurial Dance, an experienced creative workshop leader, we ran exercises to get ideas flowing and groups forming. Our unique strategy for group formation gave participants the freedom of teammate selection, whilst also restricting the balance of expertise in each production group. This was followed by a series of short lectures from invited speakers on science communication (Dr Corrine Hanlon, Research and Outreach Manager, WISB) and film theory (Dr Matt Denny, Teaching Fellow Film and Television Studies, University of Warwick), providing education and inspiration.
This was implemented in the filmmaking process through communication strategy and cinematographic techniques. Our filmmaker helped turn ideas and messages into scripts and storyboards, and the second day, with the help of assistants and equipment provided by our filmmaker, saw all teams shoot the footage required to produce these films. In the afternoon, an editing workshop was held, with many participants new to the process and software, before teams were left to work together and finalise their films. It was wonderful to see teams really coming together in the last push, delegating tasks and teaching each other, as work stretched late into the night and into the third and final day. As pressure built, the final cuts were perfected and five science films emerged for the public showcase that afternoon. Dr Matt Denny led discussions and Q&A with filmmakers as each film was shown, and a real sense of pride was felt around the room by what this new community had created.
Since the workshop, these films have gone on to be showcased at the British Science Festival (BSF) 2019, shortlisted for the Bristol Science Film Festival 2019, shown on the Big Screen in the Piazza at the University of Warwick, and, as of October 2019, collectively gained over 1500 views on Youtube. Participants continue to champion their LabCut films and experience, have volunteered with us to help create a new film with children at the BSF Family Fun Day, and some have started new collaborations on their own science communication projects. As we now look for funding to run future workshops and events, we hope for the LabCut community to grow and our films to continue to spread to audiences across the globe, as we work to help spark new collaborations and ideas for the betterment of science and its communication.