I was excited to receive a personal invitation to attend the premiere screening of the first live action film based on PhD Comics! They had spotted this very blog and thought I would be interested in the film and also letting everyone know about it.
I am sure the majority of readers are familiar with PhD comics, but if not here is the link http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php. It is drawn by Jorge Cham who got his PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, and was a full-time Instructor and researcher at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) from 2003-2005. “Piled Higher and Deeper,” the comic strip, has appeared in The Stanford Daily for the past nine years, and in other graduate student newspapers. If this is all new to you it may be that you have seen the comic stuck on a piece of lab equipment, fridge door, or on someone’s Facebook or blog page. They pop up everywhere scientists roam and strike a cord within each of us.
Those thoughts that you might not have voiced about your mentor, PhD student, postdoc, technician or professor are cleverly and concisely drawn out by Cham a couple of times a week. Those who have gone through graduate schools, especially in the sciences, can truly appreciate the humor. Therefore, I was excited when it was announced that they were making a movie based on the comics. At the same time I was also a little apprehensive about how the comics would translate to the big screen. I was amazed when I discovered that not only was it filmed on the Caltech campus, but that the actors are real life scientists or workers at Caltech. The film producers are students, and all the original songs on the sound track are written and performed by students and postdocs from Caltech. There is nothing more likely to add some real authenticity than that!
I enjoyed the film, as I do the comics, but here is my disclaimer. Although I am familiar with the comics I do not rush to the website to see the latest comic, so I am not an aficionado of them. I do know enough that I think the movie is a fair representation of the comic. So, if you are a fan, I am sure you will enjoy the film too. I think the actors did a wonderful job, especially the performance of “Prof. Smith.” For anyone who has experienced a cantankerous professor, it will bring a rueful smile to your face as you watch the hero of the film attempt to please him.
The Caltech premiere of the movie also included a Q&A with the actors and creator Jorge Cham. I have to admit I found it exceptionally cute during the Q&A of the “unnamed grad student” (who in real life is an undergrad) when he said that filming had not dissuaded him from following his dream to get his PhD. Perhaps it showed him the “truth” behind the various myths of getting a PhD, and hopefully it will also enlighten others who are aiming for the same illustrious goals. One of my friends is also an extra in the film, so waiting for him to appear was also great fun.
The evening ended with live performances of the music from the movie soundtrack. The party atmosphere on the night was infectious with everyone eager to watch the movie and see the stars. It was amazing to see how many people had come out to watch and support the film – there were even 2 showings that evening to ensure the majority of people got to see it.
Overall, I give the film a positive thumbs up. You can view the trailer and press release at http://jorgecham.com/movie/infoki.php . Visit the website http://www.phdcomics.com/movie/ to view a map of screening locations and viewing schedule. It is also possible to organize a showing of the movie at your campus which might be a fun activity for everyone from undergrads to full professors. It might provide the perfect networking event for everyone. If you have seen the film I would love to hear what you thought of it.