My career in TV started with work experience at the BBC, collecting spit (or “DNA samples”, as they were officially known) for Blood of the Vikings, a big-budget series that “traced the legacy of the Vikings in the British Isles through a genetics survey”. This was a truly shitty job, but I was pretty quickly rewarded with my first contract at the BBC and I was also credited as an “author” on the scientific paper that was published once all the spit had been analysed; I think this entitles me to claim that I am a “published scientist”. Or maybe not.
Within months of starting at the BBC, I shot my first sequence for broadcast TV (thanks to a series producer who took a risk). I went on to work on a number of science / history shows at the BBC, including What the Victorians Did for Us and Horizon. I moved on from the BBC to work for independent TV companies including Pioneer Productions and Screenhouse (where I helped to make BBC TWO’s Science Shack).
I have written, produced and directed a number of TV programmes and made several short films. A lot of my independent film-making has focussed on working with scientists, helping them to tell their own stories. These days, I am spending a lot of time making films to encourage parents to do science activities at home with their children and teacher training films.
Why is Science important? In this film, I set out to uncover a genuinely satisfying answer to my students’ most common question: why is science important? The film is essentially a summary of the responses collected to this question at the website www.whyscience.co.uk.
In Search of Giants: I wrote, produced and directed this series in which Prof. Brian Cox takes us on a journey through the history of particle physics, from the discovery of the electron to the hunt for the elusive Higg’s Particle at the Large Hadron Collider.
Painting with Numbers: Everything from the movement of atoms to the life cycle of stars can be expressed using mathematics. It’s also at the heart of many everyday things, from the most beautiful pieces of art to the decisions we make when placing a bet. I wrote, produced and directed this series about mathematics, presented by Prof. Marcus du Sautoy.
Alexis Nzila: A Portrait I made this film of the winner of the 2006 Royal Society Pfizer Award. I worked closely with Alexis so that we could make a film which did not need somebody else to narrate it. The film covers some important issues about the nature of doing science in Africa – it’s a real shame it has not reached a bigger audience.
The Matter with Antimatter: Equal amounts of matter and antimatter were created at the birth of the universe but our universe seems to be made almost entirely from matter. In this film, Dr Tara Shears explains why this is one of the greatest mysteries in science and how it might be solved by the biggest experiment in history.
Shapeshifter: Dr Jenny Rohn explains how modern biology can involve “cutting and pasting” DNA to make new tools with which to investigate nature. Her particular work involves genetically manipulating cells to find out why they have the shapes they do.
Sizing Things Up: One of science’s greatest achievements is to have accurately measured everything from the width of the universe to the diameter of a quark. This film features an animated zoom in from the universe to the heart of a hydrogen atom and reveals how things at both ends of the scale are connected by their common origin in the Big Bang.
In Search of Giants: A history of particle physics, presented by Brian Cox.
Do Make Friends: The first film I made, and still my favourite.