Researchers from the University of Southern California analyzed 37,453 scripts from 2016 to 2020 for 36 climate keywords such as “climate crisis” and “deforestation”. They found that only 2.8%, or 1,046 scripts, contained a mention of the keywords. In contrast, the word “dog” was mentioned 13 times more than the 36 climate words combined, according to the researchers.
Katherine Oliver, a director of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which helped fund the playbook’s release, told a Good Energy launch event that 2.8% is an “incredibly low number.”
“Our goal should be to bridge the gap between the world we live in and the modern world we see on TV,” Oliver said.
Good Energy founder Anna Jane Joyner said the playbook was written following consultation with more than 100 screenwriters and producers, as well as climate experts and psychologists. Climate data is featured in the guide, along with suggestions on how to shape characters, storylines, and present climate solutions on screen.
“If your characters are clinging to the bow of a ship a la The Perfect Storm, why not include a subplot about how these monster storms happen every year due to man-made global warming?” suggests a passage.
“Climate talks can be personal, dramatic or even funny,” reads another.
Humor and satire are used in Netflix’s Oscar-nominated “Don’t Look Up,” which stars Leonardo Dicaprio and Jennifer Lawrence in a story satirizing climate change denial. Writer-director Adam McKay was among those consulted for the playbook.
“We saw how the film created more conversations and protests to demand that governments look up,” McKay said in a statement. “Nevertheless, it’s just a movie and we have so much more to do.”
“Don’t Look Up” was released a year after the data used in the study, which also measured audience awareness of climate-focused films. The study surveyed 2,000 people and found that the films “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012” were mentioned the most, according to the study. Almost half of respondents said they wanted to see more fictional stories highlighting climate issues.
“It’s the role of a lifetime in Hollywood,” Joyner said. “We have to talk about it in our stories so we can talk about it in real life. We have to consider an end other than the apocalypse.”
Joyner launched the Good Energy playbook Tuesday night at a rally at the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in front of a mix of creators and Hollywood supporters, including Bill Nye, actor Kendrick Sampson from screenwriter “Insecure” and “Contagion by HBO Scott Z. Burns.
Make sure those most affected
Playbook contributors also called on content creators to create stories around minority and indigenous populations.
“These are the people who are most affected and hurt by the climate crisis,” said Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr., president and CEO of Hip Hop Caucus and senior adviser to Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The playbook isn’t shy about suggesting potential villains for storylines. In a section titled “The Why”, the fossil fuel industry is a target.
“They portrayed themselves as heroes and undermined key players, policies and government action at all levels,” writes one contributor in an essay titled “Greenhouse Gaslighting.”
The American Petroleum Institute, a trade organization representing major oil companies, pushed back in a statement to CNN. Citing rising energy costs and the volatility of war, “we must both reduce emissions and ensure access to affordable and reliable energy,” API spokeswoman Bethany said. Williams. “This is exactly what our industry has focused on for decades. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.”
Proponents of the playbook call it just the beginning and say it’s up to Hollywood to adapt scripts that reflect the dire situation the world is currently facing in real life.
“If we do a scene on the roof, let there be solar panels on the roof. Or if we do scenes where we can model healthy eating, then let’s have a filtration system and not a bottle,” said Gloria. Calderón Kellett, co-showrunner of “One Day at a Time” and “How I Met Your Mother”.
Joyner closed Tuesday’s event with a final shout-out to Hollywood screenwriters: “The most important thing you can do for the climate is write a damn good story,” she said.