Randy Olson lived a whole life as a marine biologist, but got so frustrated with boring documentary films about his profession that he quit being a scientist and went to film school to see if he could make something better himself. After spending most of the 1980s earning his Ph.D. (Harvard University, 1984) and working in Australia studying the Great Barrier Reef, he began making award-winning humorous short films about sea creatures, such as his music video about the sex life of barnacles, Barnacles Tell No Lies.
In 1994, he resigned from his tenured professorship at the University of New Hampshire to attend film school at the University of Southern California. His student film at USC, a 20-minute musical comedy, You Ruined My Career, was selected for the “Filmmakers of Tomorrow” showcase at the Telluride Film Festival and chosen as on e of the Top 100 Student Films in the history of USC Cinema School. After film school, he began combining his comic filmmaking skills and his marine biology background to create the Shifting Baselines Ocean Media Project for which he wrote and directed short films and commercials with Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Henry Winkler, Tom Arnold, and the Groundlings Improv Comedy Theater.
Flock of Dodos: the Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus, a feature documentary, draws on both his evolutionary biology background and his Kansas upbringing as he visits the controversy raging over evolution in his home state.
Olson’s book Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style recounts lessons from his own hilarious – and at times humiliating – evolution from science professor to Hollywood filmmaker.