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New York Skeptics Lecture: The science & fiction of ANYA

New York, NY
Time TBD
New York City Skeptics events

In this public lecture, ANYA co-creator Carylanna Taylor will discuss how a casual thought experiment with her writing/producing partner Jacob Okada developed into a feature film.  ANYA is a love story and genetics mystery coming in 2019. The film began in 2014 with Jacob's seemingly random question: how do species diverge? Drawing on experience teaching evolution in Intro to Anthropology, Carylanna gave a basic answer about fertility and genetic drift. Later that day, Jacob asked "Would you still marry me if I were a different species of humans?" ANYA's story about a couple and the evolutionary geneticist who discovered the unusual source of their infertility was born. We wrote the first draft over the next few months. 

To come up with a concrete, plausible source of speciation, we reached out to the National Academy of Science's Science & Entertainment Exchange. They connected us with two amazing geneticists at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ting Wu and Dr. Ruth McCole lent their research on ultra-conserved elements of DNA to the film and became our science advisors, allowing us to observe their work, inviting us to events of the Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd), reviewing scripts, and advising us on set.  Our collaboration led to a movie that is far richer than our original script: ANYA tackles contemporary issues in genetics such as diversity in the scientific community, research ethics, DNA testing among vulnerable populations, and gene-editing. 

Because of the research that went into making the film, ANYA has already scooped headlines and is likely to scoop more. In November 2018 news broke that a Chinese scientist appeared to have successfully created a "CRISPR baby." We filmed a similar plot point in summer 2017! 

In addition of the overview of ANYA's development, the lecture will include the film trailer, a sneak peak scene highlighting the knowledge gap between researchers and participants, and pre-recorded comments for The New York Skeptics Society by ANYA's science advisor, Dr. Ruth McCole.