Green Group Scolds Screenwriters For Not Using More Climate Propaganda
Hollywood screenwriters have been scolded by a green group and urged to improve their narrative on “climate change” by embracing the group’s playbook released Tuesday designed to enhance correct thinking on global warming.
The result will see more climate activism than ever before on screens large and small while not necessarily imitating The Day After Tomorrow (2004), the most famous example of a climate disaster film when the planet is beset by superstorms, hurricanes, and tsunamis. [bold, links added]
The new call is for subtle messages built around keywords and scenarios.
Only a sliver of screen fiction, 2.8 perhaps, refers to climate change-related words, according to a study of 37,453 film and TV scripts from 2016-20 that is the basis for the climate guide, AP reports.
Good Energy: A Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change is designed to address that.
It was created with feedback from more than 100 film and TV writers, said Anna Jane Joyner, editor-in-chief of the playbook and founder of Good Energy, a nonprofit consultancy.
“A big hurdle that we encountered was that writers were associating climate stories with apocalypse stories,” she said in an interview with AP. “The main purpose of the playbook is to expand that menu of possibilities….to a larger array of how it would be showing up in our real life.”
Bloomberg Philanthropies, Sierra Club, and the Walton Family Foundation are just three of the groups that provided funding for the guide even as viewers over the past decade and a half have been bombarded by movies based on climate change:
The AP reports sets out why it is necessary for Hollywood to do better and think as one, even as “Waves of celebrities have been sounding the climate alarm, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda, Don Cheadle, and Shailene Woodley.
“DiCaprio also starred in Don’t Look Up, the 2021 Oscar-nominated film in which a comet hurtling toward an indifferent Earth is a metaphor for the peril of climate-change apathy.”
But the Hollywood climate playbook is asking writers and industry executives to consider a variety of less-dire approaches, Joyner said, with examples and resources included.
“We describe it as a spectrum, everything from showing the impact with solutions in the background,” such as including solar panels in an exterior shot of a building, she said. Casual mentions of climate change in scenes also can be effective.
“If you’re already attached to a character in a story and it authentically comes up in conversation for the character, it validates for the audience that it’s OK to talk about in your day-to-day lives,” Joyner said.
Dorothy Fortenberry, a TV writer (The Handmaid’s Tale) and playwright, said the industry needs to broaden its view of who it writes about, not just what.
“Climate change is something that right now is affecting people who aren’t necessarily the people that Hollywood tends to write stories about. It’s affecting farmers in Bangladesh, farmers in Peru, farmers in Kentucky,” Fortenberry said. “If we told stories about different kinds of people, there would be opportunities to seamlessly weave climate in.”
Good Energy funded the script analysis by the Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
As part of the study that’s yet to be released in full, researchers checked for references to 36 keywords and phrases including “climate change,” “fracking” and “global warming” in TV episodes and movies released in the U.S. market.
This is not the first time Hollywood has been told to embrace climate activism.
In 2019 Variety reported Hollywood was wrestling with the way it portrays climate change as the industry sought a more activist role.
“How can we exist on a planet and oversee its destruction — a destruction that threatens our very existence — and seem to be so passive in the face of it? So it’s really a question about people,” filmmaker Brett Story told the trade magazine.
Story’s documentary The Hottest August, released later that year, spoke with people about how they feel about the future while broaching ways and means for those who live outside Hollywood to mend their ways.
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