“Energy at the Movies” PBS series stars UT professor Michael Webber


The history of energy concepts in movies such as “The Matrix,” “Wall-E,” “The Hunger Games” and “Back to the Future” will be the subject of a new series featuring a UT assistant professor that will soon begin syndication on Public Broadcasting Service stations across the country.   

The series will feature Michael Webber, assistant mechanical engineering professor, and is titled “Energy at the Movies.” The series will trace the history of energy by analyzing how it is portrayed in more than 60 different films. Producer Juan Garcia said he worked with Webber for five to six years designing multimedia presentations for his classes before producing “Energy at the Movies.”

“[Webber’s] goal is really to educate the public and increase energy literacy,” Garcia said. “That is his sole goal and his series does just that.”

The idea for the series began in 2005 when Webber, after being inspired by movie history courses, gave a presentation called “Energy at the Movies” to a group in California. Afterward, Webber turned his presentation into an undergraduate course at UT, which he taught in the spring of 2010 and 2011.

Kelly Sanders, a civil engineering graduate student, said she has worked and researched with Webber since 2008.

“Dr. Webber is an incredible researcher and professor, not only because he identifies the relevant questions to answer, but because he always communicates with his audience in mind,” Sanders said. 

Sanders said that public interest in current energy and environmental challenges will be crucial to help solve them.

“‘Energy at the Movies’ is a vehicle to engage people who might not normally tune in to energy issues to show them that these topics touch all of our lives in one way or another,” Sanders said.   

Filming began March 9, 2011 at the Austin City Limits Studio 6A in UT’s Jesse H. Jones Communication Center — Building B and lasted six months.

“This is something I’ve had my heart set on for a while,” Garcia said. “I think if it’s done right it can be extremely engaging and educational and informative.”

A special episode of “Energy at the Movies” is scheduled to run on KLRU at 9 p.m. on April 18 and will last an hour. 

“[The series] gives a deeper look into energy policy and the ways we shape energy policy,” Garcia said. “Everyone, including students, has a great opportunity to learn.”

Electrical engineering senior Brandon Crosbie said a TV series is a smart way to raise awareness about energy issues. 

“It needs not only people knowing about it, but knowing the importance of it,” Crosbie said. “The first step is getting people to know what we need to do.”

Printed on Tuesday, March 26, 2013 as: UT professor presents PBS series on energy