Hollywood misses the drama in climate change, says group

Hollywood’s response to climate change includes donations, protests and other activism. But it apparently lacks an approach close to home.

Hollywood’s response to climate change includes donations, protests and other activism. but it apparently lacks an approach close to home.

According to a new study of 37,453 movie and TV scripts from 2016-20, only one sliver of screen fiction, 2.8%, refers to words related to climate change. A blueprint was released on Tuesday for ways to change that.

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“Good Energy: A Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change” was created with feedback from more than 100 film and TV writers, said Anna Jane Joyner, editor of the playbook and founder of Good Energy, a nonprofit.

“A major hurdle we encountered was writers associating climate stories with apocalypse stories,” she said in an interview. “The main purpose of the playbook is to expand that menu of possibilities… to a wider range of how it would appear in our real life.”

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Among those who have funded the playbook project are Bloomberg Philanthropies, Sierra Club, and the Walton Family Foundation.

Waves of celebrities are 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 danger of climate change apathy.

But the playbook asks writers and industry executives to consider some less serious approaches, Joyner said, adding examples and resources.

“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. Occasional mentions of climate change in scenes can also be effective.

“If you’re already attached to a character in a story and it comes up authentically in conversation for the character, it confirms to the audience that it’s okay to talk about in your day-to-day life,” Joyner said.

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Dorothy Fortenberry, a TV writer (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and playwright, said the industry needs to broaden its view about who she’s writing, not just what.

“Climate change is something that is currently affecting people who are not necessarily the people Hollywood is writing stories about. It affects farmers in Bangladesh, farmers in Peru, farmers in Kentucky,” Fortenberry said. “If we were to tell stories about different kinds of people, there would be opportunities to seamlessly weave climate into them.”

Joyner, who has spent 15 years communicating about climate change across industries and communities, finds it unsurprising that the entertainment industry is failing to use its storytelling power more effectively on this issue.

For the first decade, it felt like “yelling into the void” because of the lack of response, Joyner said. But there is evidence of growing concern among Americans about climate change, she said, including those in Hollywood.

“We’ve all gone through some kind of awakening,” she said. There are a number of documentaries and news programs on climate change, she said, expressing optimism that fiction makers will make steady progress.

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Good Energy funded the script analysis through the Media Impact Project of the Norman Lear Center at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.

As part of the study yet to be fully released, researchers looked for references to 36 key words and phrases, including “climate change,” “fracking,” and “global warming” in TV episodes and movies released in the U.S. market. .

Arun Agarwal
I am Arun Agarwal, a passionate blogger and gamer. I love to share my thoughts on games and technology through blog posts. I’m also an avid reader of books about history, philosophy, science-fiction, and other genres as well as an anime fan. I like reading books that give me new perspectives or help me think differently about the world around us.