When I think of science documentary films, and I may be outcasted for such a heretical statement, I mostly think of painfully boring attempts at projecting science at an unsuspecting audience. I have heard folks refer to PBS programming as P-robably B-oring S-tuff made for broadcast. Combining science and entertainment, or data and storytelling, just seems like a bad idea — right?
Maybe science, and information more broadly, can be used in such a way that is both engaging, entertaining and relevant. There is no better time to explore this possibility than the present. Amazing tools are being built that enable storytellers, and documentary filmmakers, to enrich their content with science. This is especially true for data that is constantly changing — think economic indicators.
The pioneering folks of Popcorn Maker at the Mozilla Foundation and Susan McGregory of Data Docs are inventing ways to make docs that are built to live on the web. These new transmedia projects integrate video and realtime data in an HMTL5 environment that utilizes data from government APIs. Check out their project on the metrics of unemployment. Oh, and the ‘data’ presented in the film, such as the current unemployment rate, is not just some static graphical element, but actual current unemployment stats — very cool.