That's Doron Weber's job. And he gives away millions each year to make it happen.
Doron Weber spends his working life trying to help people understand science and technology. But he doesn't sit around gazing at test tubes, building circuits, or measuring fruitfly wings.
Instead, he reads screenplays, TV treatments, plays, and book proposals.
As a program director for the $1.4 billion Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Weber gives out around $10 million a year to stimulate compelling works of art dealing with scientific topics, everything from grants for works in progress to money awarded for works Sloan didn't back but wants to highlight and congratulate. He's forged partnerships with leading film schools like the University of California, the American Film Institute, and Columbia University, along with Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival and Robert DeNiro's Tribeca Film Festival.
Weber, 50, has funneled Sloan money to support books (among them Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love and Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed), PBS programs on topics such as genetics and string theory, and plays such as David Auburn's Proof, the Broadway hit that won a Tony Award and a Pulitzer in 2001. This year, Miramax will release the movie version of Proof, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins.
Another Sloan-backed project, tentatively titled Face Value, could hit the big screen next year. It's the story of movie goddess Hedy Lamarr, who, during World War II, cocreated and patented an invention intended for a secure, remote-control guidance system for U.S. torpedoes; since then, her work has helped build today's wireless-communications infrastructure. "Sex and science have never been so closely intertwined," says Weber.
But then, making science sexy is Weber's job. Recently, American Way talked with him about the challenges of encouraging box office winners from the world of science.