When it comes to storytelling, the women of the “Scirens” know what they’re doing. When it comes to science? Even more so! These four actresses, namely Taryn O’Neill, Christina Ochoa, Tamara Krinsky, and Gia Mora, banded together to “spread science news and foster science literacy…and to ultimately inspire and create science-infused entertainment in all forms.” As you can imagine, when we discovered them we absolutely had to know more, so we took a morning to chat via Google Hangout about media, science, and the wonders of the natural world. The following is a condensed version of our time conversing!
DIGITS: The Scirens sounds like such an amazing collaboration. Can you tell us about the type of content you’d like to develop?
Tamara: We’re just starting the process of developing content. The great thing is that we’re all actresses, but we’re also all creators. We all write and/or produce in various forms. We’d love to create content for a variety of different platforms, whether that’s web, film, or television. One example we look to for inspiration is the Participant model. Participant Media is a company that creates incredible entertainment, including Academy Award-winning films. They have a mandate that every project they do should inspire social change. I think we’d like to do something similar, in that we want to create excellent content and infuse it with some kind of science element.
Gia: We all have these individual projects that we’ve been doing, and it’s been really exciting to get to support each other in our individual endeavors. We’ve been able to learn from and add to each other’s careers.
DIGITS: What kind of science and performing projects have you catalyzed?
Gia: About a year and a half ago I got this idea for (Eintein’s Girl, a one-woman show about love and theoretical physics), and I had to learn a lot about physics–because I had to tell jokes about it! I came to LA and, contrary to what everybody on the east coast says–they all think LA is just vapid and shallow–there was a great community here of science-minded folks. This world opened up to me, especially a love to use the narrative form to teach science to those who might not otherwise pursue it.
Taryn: Christina’s Know Brainer podcast has been going for five episodes now. Tamara has Science Lush, which is an amazing blog about the fusion of science and the arts. We do things together and it’s a gestating process of ideas right now. In the meantime it’s about connecting with each other and our community.
DIGITS: And Taryn, you do a lot of science and science-fiction oriented projects, right?
Taryn:When I moved back to Vancouver BC, I started auditioning for a lot of scifi gigs. I became involved as both a producer and actress on a scifi webseries called After Judgment — that’s when I really fell in love and started endeavoring to write my own scifi. Doing that, I found that I wanted to make it as theoretically viable as possible, which led me to a lot of research and learning. This research opened up my whole world to the beauty of the natural laws of the universe. Then, of course, I wanted to share this with people—it provides such a wonderful framework for existence. You can have awe and wonder in your everyday life just by learning about the world around you!
DIGITS: And Christina – were you involved in studying science before or after you started performing?
Christina: Before and apparently during. I’m currently working on my masters in Physics, but at this pace I’m gonna be 50 by the time I get it. Science has been my world. It’s always been a really important part of my life. I’m so fortunate that I get to combine the two now – acting and science. I love it.
DIGITS: Our lead character loves math. What words of advice would you give to young girls who might not think that science is for them – that it’s more of a boys’ field?
Taryn: There’s so many things we could say!
Tamara: I would say focus on what you love. Math is gender-blind.
Taryn: Numbers don’t know if you’re a boy or a girl. Curiosity is really strong right now in the pro-science movement, because if you just are curious about why things are the way they are, that can help so much. Girls say “Oh I’ve been told boys are more spatially oriented.” But nature is made up of all species of all sexes! We need the female perspective of math and science the same as we need the male perspective. Our brains are a little bit different, but everyone’s brain is a little bit different.
Gia: There are no limits. The only limit is your imagination.
Tamara: I would also add – not just for the girls reading, but for their parents and teachers – just how important mentors are. Why are there fewer women in the STEM fields? A large part of it is about being seen and being encouraged. If you’re a girl interested in this realm, find that mentor. If you could be a mentor, be aware that your interest and enthusiasm in a student or younger colleague’s work could make the difference in them continuing to pursue STEM work. Be that encouragement! I have a three and a half year old, and on her first day of an extra curricular science class, she came home and I asked her how she liked it. The very first thing out of her mouth was this: “Mommy, it was so much fun—and the teacher was a GIRL!” Now, I haven’t talked about science being a girl or boy thing. She has no concept of gender in science. But she actively recorded what she saw. They notice. It matters.
Taryn: I was on a panel called ‘In a Galaxy Far Far Away’ at The Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media — the focus being female STEM representation on TV and Film. Their motto is ‘If you can see it, you can be it.’ The institute had commissioned a huge study on 130 family films and 275 prime time TV shows to see how often women in media were portrayed as having a STEM career. What they discovered in that study was staggering—there was a definitive shortage (Editors note: about 16% of scientific roles in the media were filled by women, according to this study). According to this study, there are almost no role models whatsoever for young girls to think that a woman could be an engineer. Even when there was a woman in science in a film, it was always in earth sciences, biology, that type of field — almost never chemistry, engineering, or math. (Editor’s note: The study found that to be barely 2%. You can read more about this research here.)
Gia: We can all point to Madame Curie, but that was a long time ago! We need to see portraits of ourselves.
DIGITS: To quote the question of the week from Christina’s podcast, Know Brainer, “When using storytelling devices what are the most important responsibilities to take into consideration?”
Taryn: First and foremost: what’s the best way to serve your audience? That’s what matters. What’s the audience you’re trying to reach? What are you trying to say? It’s not about you and your story. It’s about them and how your story can speak to them or influence them.
Gia: Piquing curiosity. If someone leaves a theatre or finishes a book or closes their computer after watching a web series, I want them to go, “I need to learn more about that!” Just to get them to engage further, after the story’s finished, I think that’s really exciting.
Tamara: That is what’s so cool about the time and the era that we live in. As soon as you finish a book, TV show or film, you can jump online and dive into further exploration of whatever it is that’s caught your attention.
GIA: That’s a huge part of how science became interesting to me. You can watch lectures from prestigious universities on Youtube for free—classes that I would never have been a part of, never had a chance of being exposed to, I can watch a lifetime’s worth online. It’s incredible.