Hollywood, UN join forces to fight climate change

James-Franco-Hathaway-hosts_320Last Sunday the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — The Oscars — celebrated its 83rd year. Motion pictures nominated for an Oscar have always held great power in shaping culture and conversation, and have brought important issues into the American conscious. Award winning (or nominated) films can focus the spotlight on global issues in ways not possible in most forums. In the last few years there have been a growing number Oscar nominated movies with environmental themes, such as last year’s best picture nominee Avatar or this year’s best documentary nominee Gasland.

Now the United Nations is joining the efforts to bring climate change into the Hollywood spotlight.  CAP’s Emily Bischof has the story.

The UN is hoping to join forces with tinsel town.  Last week, the UN hosted a “Global Creative Forum” at the Hammer Museum in West Los Angeles. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations sat down with celebrated actor Don Cheadle in front of several hundred members of the entertainment industry to promote climate change messaging in Hollywood and throughout international film and television. He asked the movie industry for help saying, “Together we can have a blockbuster impact on the world.”

The event featured a series of themed panels including: “The United Nations and Hollywood for a Greener and Better Planet,” “Making Global Warming a HOT Issue” and “Empowering Women and Protecting Children for a Safer World.” While the UN did not make any specific recommendations to industry attendees, they hope that film and television makers found inspiration and will use their creativity to feature climate change themes in their future projects.

The movie industry is already demonstrating its long term commitment to fighting global warming behind the scenes, as many production companies are beginning to green the movie and television making process.  Groups like the New York Production Alliance have teamed up with the Producers Guild of America and Green Media Solutions to create a Green Guide, which makes recommendations for how to make production more sustainable: everything from catering to set construction, to dry cleaning. On the other side of the country, Los Angeles based Warner Brothers Studios constructed Hollywood’s first LEED certified sound stage and expanded the studio’s solar electrical installation to produce 500 Kw of energy.

This call for environmental themes in Hollywood could be arriving at a perfect time as reasonable and informed discussions of climate change have become increasingly rare. Not only do polls show a decline in the number of Americans who believe there is solid evidence that the earth is warming,  but our leaders in Washington are avoiding climate change messaging (even President Obama not so inconspicuously left it out of the State of the Union).

But not talking about something does not make it go away – and the UN has good reason for concern.  Recent studies and trusted climate science reminds us that that we cannot ignore the “Inconvenient Truth” that Al Gore brought to our attention just a few years ago. Just a few weeks ago, scientists warned that by 2020 there will be over 50 million environmental refugees, fleeing their homes where food is both insecure and unsafe due to climate change impacts. Recent data also suggests that warming just another 1 degree Celsius could result in sea level rise totaling from 15-20 ft. or higher, threatening up to 180 of our own coastal cities.

Finally, last year we saw devastating floods in Pakistan, which inundated 1/5 of the country. These crises demonstrate a small proportion of the problems we are currently facing and will continue to face as the planet becomes warmer.

The UN hopes Hollywood will take a starring role in the fight against climate change, but will tinsel town be able to resurrect the climate change dialogue that has gone mysteriously missing from recent conversation?  Will television and movies have the power to brand solar and wind power as a sexy alternative to fossil fuels? Can movie stars and Hollywood icons bring us together in a united front against the threats of a warming world?

Stay Tuned.

Emily Bischof, CAP Intern.

16 Responses to Hollywood, UN join forces to fight climate change

  1. Bob Lang says:

    “In the last few years there have been a growing number Oscar nominated movies with environmental themes” … blah-blah-blah

    According to analysts, the Tar Sands activity in Alberta has never been higher than today.

    At $100/barrel boom times are back in Alberta’s oil patch.

  2. CruelIrony says:

    Can only be a good thing. Hollywood has an exceptional prophetic record on pressing issues of our time; from ‘Wall street’ to ‘Capitalism – a love story. Can’t wait to see creative productions on Climate Change.

  3. Prokaryotes says:

    A video produced by the The American Association for the Advancement of Science covering the topic of climate change.

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    Moviemakers today are not like the muckrakers of recent prior eras, who produced The China Syndrome, Soylent Green, and Chinatown. The eight major studies are the only ones capable of making big budget films, and they have major banking and fossil fuel tentacles. It takes at least $100 million to make and market a movie with good production values, which is why we mostly see sequels, adaptations, focus on sex and personal neuroses, car crashes, “star” vehicles, flagwaving, and violence. The aware actors like Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Leo DiCaprio know this, but even they wouldn’t be able to attract funding for a disturbing movie about the oil and coal companies, for the reasons above.

    An Inconvenient Truth was a small budget documentary. Avatar could only have been made as an allegory, and not even that unless cash machine James Cameron was the director.

    I’m glad for the effort at the recent meeting, but would be shocked if studio owners were either present or serious- it was probably the creative people, who are very aware of the world we live in. Poisoning of the public dialogue in movies is not nearly as bad as in the media, but the sin of omission continues. The creative people are going to have to step up and demand that the studios show a conscience. It could happen, but don’t hold your breath.

  5. David Smith says:

    I hope they coordinate with climate scientists in the creative process to help visualize more acurately possible future events.

  6. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Ban Ki-moon using the strategy of the indirect approach. He only needs one good one to make a huge impact on the general public. That could be the straw that causes people to open their eyes and see what is going on around them. Let’s see if it works.

    Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! ME

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’d like to see Hollywood ‘stars’ set an example, not preach from on high. Conspicuous over-consumption of luxury goods, particularly while billions under-consume, is, in my opinion, moral evil. How I’d like to see (if I ever watched) the ‘stars’ turn up in last year’s frock, purchased from the local op shop, maybe after alighting from the local bus.

  8. Climate Warrior says:

    The most surreal movie experience I’ve ever had was watching Pixar’s Wall-E with the two of the most important children in my life. I recommend it. I don’t want to say more, so as not to give it away.

  9. 350 Now says:

    Leo DiCaprio was mentioned above but few people I know have heard of “The Eleventh Hour” – a terrific docufilm that interviews a broad range of scientists and climate experts.

    It’s a DVD choice on Netflix, but may be viewed in entirety (if you don’t mind the verbal descriptions of the scenes without subtitles, evidently for the seeing impaired) at:

    I like to listen to it in the computer/speakers while doing household chores. Each listening I learn something new or have a new insight. If you haven’t seen it, please check it out.

    Also, on Youtube, there are gripping 1-2 minute interviews with these same folks in a series for a “time capsule”. Gripping, to say the least. I’d be interested to hear others’ comments. Even though it’s a few years old, it seems timeless.

  10. Jeandetaca says:

    Hollywood could bring very moving messages about global warming, that is sure. De Caprio Eleventh Hour was a powerfull documentary, but with no measurable impact on people.
    Today we are living in a world full of confusion; we sell and buy “goods” with indications of dangerousness (cigarettes, sweets and Mac donalds). This is freedom, but this is confusion also.
    If there is no consistencyy between the message and the messager, I think there will be no positive effect.
    OK for a great and moving film, but with stars standing to stop flying for example; this would have an effect on people awareness and dedication to move toward a low carbon society.

  11. Dappledwater says:

    MM @ 8 – “Conspicuous over-consumption of luxury goods, particularly while billions under-consume, is, in my opinion, moral evil.”

    Yeah, that’s how I see it too.

  12. 350 Now says:

    Jeandetaca @11 – I’d like to hope that there was a measurable impact on those who viewed the film. The greater problem is how many/few saw the film.

    I count myself as one who is awake, aware and active toward earth concerns and yet I saw no ads nor reference for the 11th Hour film in my little appalachian holler – albeit web-connected for over 10 years.

    I came to learn of it THREE YEARS LATER thru an obscure reference that led to a youtube video. So… if that’s the route we take to reach a “powerful documentary” then that speaks volumes as to the piss-poor marketing/communication ALL of us are doing. The major cities were likely treated to a premier with stars and associated promo events but imho the failure of the production co. was not aggressively promoting it to middle america.

    I have since ordered ten DVD copies (from Walmart @ $5 each) to pass around schools, community centers and friends

    Does anyone think “middle america” would ever have heard of “An Inconvenient Truth” had it not been produced by Al Gore and the political maelstrom surrounding him?

  13. Mike Roddy says:

    350 Now and Jean,

    Yeah, I really liked The Eleventh Hour, and saw it at the SEJ premiere a few years ago. Unfortunately it was made on a shoestring, and did not find an audience.

    Hollywood movies are designed to masturbate the audience (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Setup, tension, and final explosion, a formula that also worked in thoughtful movies like Chinatown. Audiences are overwhelmingly young, especially in theater releases. A great movie about global warming can easily follow that trajectory by being faithful to the scientific evidence of where we are headed. The future is fictional by definition, so creative license could lead to something that is both important and entertaining, which is what the world needs.

    Documentaries are too plodding to excite a mass audience. We need a visionary dramatist here, someone who can combine the skills of Hunter Thompson, Roman Polanski (especially great with older villains), and our best character actors. The need is there, and so is the audience.

    Hollywood has changed. Thirty years ago most of the studios were independently owned. Now, corporations own them, and studio bosses got the message: don’t offend the oil and coal companies!

    This is almost as bad as totalitarian censorship, and is why we need our best actors and our biggest bankrolls (Soros? Turner?) to step up here. They’d better make it soon.

  14. Richard Brenne says:

    Mike Roddy is batting around a thousand as usual with these comments.

    The thing is that we don’t need one great film, we need as many as we can get, although when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the hugely influential (at the time) “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, he said, “Are you the little woman who started this great war?”

    Uncle Tom’s Cabin was better emotional manipulation than the great art of Huckleberry Finn and other monumental works by Twain, Dickens, Shakespeare, Chaplin, Capra and The Beatles.

    By the way, those listed above prove that truly great art can reach the largest audiences while being among the greatest works of art in their or any other mediums.

    In addition to genius, each of those great artists also showed great caring for the poor and for their audiences. Another word for such caring is empathy, and another word still is love.

    Also they had caring audiences. Rolling Stone does lists of the greatest rock and all other popular music ever, and the list is top-heavy toward the late 1960s and early 1970s. Sure, many of their senior editors are older, but they’re also right. I’ve turned to my friends and said, “Why hasn’t there been any great guitar licks compared to the best of the Stone, Who, Beatles, etc?” and he said, “Lack of soul.”

    That caring produces the soul that produces great art. The exact same is true of films, when the same span brought us The Graduate, Butch and Sundance, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfathers, Chinatown and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and there hasn’t been a Hollywood (or almost any big movie) near any of those for years or almost two decades.

    Again, a lack of caring, a lack of soul, a lack of passion, a lack of artistry, and the financing structure Mike talks about.

    But if a novel, screenplay and film were good enough, it could get made, most likely through independent channels with the kind of funding Mike’s talking about, and it could be a Schindler’s List, Gandhi, Lawrence of Arabia or other great film made mostly outside the Hollywood system itself.

    Hollywood filmmaking has never been worse in its history, especially with all the money they spend today. It is almost purely adolescent, derivative drivel with almost nothing of any interest to say. The bigger budget the movie, the more computer effects and the more gunfire the more true this is, generally, with some excepts like Avatar and Wall-E, which are good but nowhere near the quality of the other films I’ve mentioned here.

    As a screenwriter, filmmaker, producer, moderator and public speaker (not, A-list, more like F-plus or D-minus), I’ve found that the quality of the audiences is as important as the quality of my own work, like we’re both yearning to form a connection between us.

    So let’s each be the best artists, writers, speakers, performers and audience members we can be. Preaching to the choir is a wonderful thing, because that choir can grow and grow and sing and preach to more themselves. We don’t need to do just one thing, we need it all.

    I myself have chosen these comments as my primary artistic vehicle (for now), testing the waters from humor to spirituality to anger to see what floats, and doing it when the comments are just about to close so no one has to read them.

    I think many of your comments are great little works of art themselves, and please keep them coming. As a member of the choir I appreciate them greatly.

  15. 350 Now says:

    Re – 11th Hour

    Bravo, Richard Brenne. Thank you for your thoughtful reply above; I always enjoy your posts; you never waste our time.

    I recall seeing a news blurb that a followup to the 11th Hour was being planned and the simple response from DiCaprio was (paraphrasing here) – the first one was a tremendous. amount. of. work. in. editing; that someone else would need to do the followup…. Can you even begin to imagine this project as an editor????

    And I recall thinking – why would he invest umpteen thousands of hours and $$ to do a follow up film when (we) environmentalists did such a piss poor job helping him promote the first one.

    As far as I can tell, the film is damn near perfection. And the complaints I read may as well be written by middle schoolers… such as “boring to have the interviews as head shots with black backgrounds” when actually it was near genius to frame all the interviews in the same format. Duh. (To clarify, I don’t know any of DiCaprio’s other work other than Titanic)

    The only thing I regret is the title being so similar to some video game or whatever. Repackaging it with a new title and maybe a few updates would be terrific. He steered waaaaayyy clear of political insinuation which was brilliant.

    As mentioned on another thread, I bought 10 copies of the DVD from Walmart online at $5 each to share with schools, library programs, friends, etc. If the 42K readers here on CP did that, we’d have our Hollywood miracle.

    Speaking of miracles, I had to laugh out loud last evening when I first viewed “Who Killed the Electric Car?” when Dr Romm is discussing the “miracles” that must occur for hydrogen fuel cells to work. The first miracle: since the car costs about a million dollars, of course that price is going to have to come down. HA! Brilliant Dr Romm! The little joke I thought of for the question who killed the electric car? Pick a card… andy card…