Sean is the architect and Executive Director of HHMI’s Tangled Bank Studios. Born out of the conviction that film remains the most powerful medium for bringing ideas, knowledge, and stories to life, this endeavor aims to bring great stories about science and scientists to both general audiences and students in the classroom.
There are two main prongs to film production at HHMI. To produce feature films for television and large-screens, HHMI founded its own production company, Tangled Bank Studios. Tangled Bank’s first feature documentaries aired in 2014 including: the three-part PBS special Your Inner Fish, based on Neil Shubin’s best-selling book; Vaccines: Callling the Shots (NOVA ,PBS); and Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink (Smithsonian Channel). More recent films include Backyard Wilderness (2018), The Farthest (2017, PBS), the story of the epic Voyager mission to the outer planets and beyond, Amazon Adventure (2017, IMAX), the story of Henry Walter Bates' exploration of the Amazon in the mid-19th century, The Lucky Specials (2017), Spillover; Zika, Ebola & Beyond (2016, PBS), and Can Alzheimer's Be Stopped (2016, NOVA, PBS).
To produce short films for the classroom, HHMI’s long-established Educational Resources Group works with highly accomplished filmmakers to produce films that tell engaging stories while presenting content central to science curricula. The films are distributed for free for downloading, streaming, and on DVD, as are teacher resources for each scientific story.
Sean has served as executive producer or executive in charge of all of HHMI Tangled Bank Studios feature films and executive producer and/or on-screen presenter of approximately twenty short educational films. Most importantly, these films and supporting educational materials are now being used by tens of thousands of science teachers at the high school, middle school, and college levels.
To watch the short films, visit the HHMI Biointeractive website.
Sean has also been involved in the making of a number of earlier documentary films, including the 2009 NOVA special to mark Darwin's anniversary, "What Darwin Never Knew" that was based on Sean's books "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" and "The Making of the Fittest".
A two-hour special program that marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species and the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, the film explores the new evolutionary science that is revealing how evolution works at the most fundamental level. Sean served as scientific consulting producer.