Billed as “a guide to incorporating climate into any storyline or genre,” the Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change is meant to “provide screenwriters, industry executives, actors, and creatives with a groundbreaking and robust resource to help illustrate ways in which climate can be weaved into TV and movies.”
Among those are resources on climate psychology, potential solutions and the latest science as well as “fascinating profiles of characters on the frontline of the climate crisis” and unique climate impact examples “like scorpion attacks and blood snow.
“There’s nothing more dramatic and important than the climate crisis. Yet, we hardly ever see it on screen,” said Anna Jane Joyner, Founder & Director of Good Energy in a statement.
The effort is meant to “communicate the urgency of climate action and inspire courage in the face of this crisis,” according to Antha Williams, who leads Climate and Environment Programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Adam McKay’s Oscar-nominated Don’t Look Up was a touchstone for the effort, and the director said it was climate data that inspired the film.
“Climate change is the biggest story in 66 million years. After reading the 2018 IPCC Report, I couldn’t sleep for two nights. I had the sickening realization that we have to take care of this, that it is happening right now, not in 80 years,” said McKay. “Climate change is terrifying and sad and absurd. And it’s okay to have all these complicated feelings. That’s where my drive came from to make Don’t Look Up. We’ve seen how the film has created more conversation and protests to demand that governments look up. Nonetheless, that is just one movie and we have so much more to do.”
The creation of The Playbook involved consultation with more than 100 TV and film writers, creatives and producers in Hollywood and across the country. In addition, Bloomberg Philanthropies, CAA Foundation, Sierra Club, Walton Family Foundation, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, The Center for Cultural Power, and 1 Earth Fund partnered with Good Energy on the development. The Playbook also features quotes about the importance of shaping these narratives from Zazie Beetz, Scott Z. Burns, Rosario Dawson, Lyn and Norman Lear, McKay, Mark Ruffalo, David Rysdahl and Sarah Treem.
To establish a baseline for climate change representation in TV and film, Good Energy partnered with USC’s Media Impact Lab at the Norman Lear Center to commission a first-ever analysis of climate stories in TV and film over the past five years. The effort also included an audience survey to gauge popular interest in climate stories and characters.
USC analyzed 37,453 scripts from 2016-2020 and found that only 1,046 (2.8%) of the scripts included any climate change keywords – and within those scripts, there were only 1,772 mentions of those climate change keywords. A more in-depth breakdown of the findings is set to be released in the coming weeks.
“2.8% is a staggeringly low number for climate to be mentioned in today’s film and TV. Our goal should be to bridge the gap between the world we live in and the modern world we see on TV,” said Katherine Oliver of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “We are proud to support Good Energy as they work with the entertainment community to inspire with ideas on how to weave in more climate stories for the screen….and we recognize the undeniable power of storytelling to drive climate action.”
The non-profit Good Energy was launched in 2019 by climate communications and story consultant Joyner to bridge the gap between climate experts, creatives, and leaders from throughout the entertainment industry. In addition to the Playbook, Good Energy’s team of experts and story specialists consult with industry creatives and screenwriters to craft climate storylines and mentions in their content.
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