Hollywood missing the drama in climate change, group says

Ben - June 8, 2022

Donations, demonstrations, and other forms of engagement are among Hollywood’s responses to climate warming. However, it seems to be losing out on a close-by approach.

According to a recent analysis of 37,453 film and TV screenplays from 2016 to 2020, just 2.8 percent of screen fiction relates to climate change-related phrases. On Tuesday, a roadmap for reversing this trend was revealed.

According to Anna Jane Joyner, editor-in-chief of the playbook and founder of Good Energy, a nonprofit consultancy, “Good Energy: A Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change” was produced with input from more than 100 film and television writers.

“One of the biggest challenges we ran across was authors equating climate concerns with catastrophe novels,” she said in an interview. “The basic goal of the playbook is to broaden that menu of possibilities….to a broader range of how it may manifest in our everyday lives.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies, Sierra Club, and the Walton Family Foundation are among those that contributed to the playbook initiative.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda, Don Cheadle, and Shailene Woodley are among the celebrities who have sounded the climate alarm. DiCaprio also appeared in “Don’t Look Up,” an Oscar-nominated film from 2021 in which a comet rushing toward an unconcerned Earth serves as a metaphor for the dangers of climate change complacency.

The playbook, on the other hand, asks authors and industry leaders to examine a number of less-direct techniques, with examples and resources given, according to Joyner.

“We characterize it as a continuum,” she added, “anything from presenting the effect with solutions in the backdrop,” such as solar panels in a building’s exterior picture. Scenes with casual comments of climate change may also be helpful.

“It validates for the audience that it’s OK to speak about in your day-to-day life if you’re already linked to a character in a tale and it honestly comes up in discussion for the character,” Joyner said.

Dorothy Fortenberry, a TV writer (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and playwright, believes that the business has to extend its perspective on who it writes about, not simply what it writes about.

“Climate change is hurting folks who aren’t particularly the people that Hollywood likes to create tales about right now.” Farmers in Bangladesh, Peru, and Kentucky are all affected, according to Fortenberry. “There would be chances to smoothly integrate climate into tales about various types of people if we wrote stories about diverse kinds of people.”

Joyner, who has worked on climate-change communications in different industries and communities for 15 years, finds the entertainment industry’s reluctance to utilize its narrative talents more effectively on the problem predictable.

Because of the lack of reaction in the first decade, Joyner described it as “screaming into the nothingness.” However, she claims that there is evidence of growing awareness among Americans, even those in Hollywood, about climate change.

“We’ve all had a sort of awakening,” she said. She noted that there are a lot of documentaries and news shows addressing climate change, and expressed hope that fiction writers would continue to make progress.

The Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism received funding from Good Energy to analyze the screenplay.

Researchers looked for references to 36 key terms and phrases, such as “climate change,” “fracking,” and “global warming,” in TV episodes and movies aired in the United States as part of the study, which has yet to be disclosed in its entirety.