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Study: Hollywood Missing Film Moments about Climate Change

In this undated photo provided by Good Energy, the online resource “Good Energy: A Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change" is shown on a computer. (Good Energy via AP)
In this undated photo provided by Good Energy, the online resource “Good Energy: A Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change" is shown on a computer. (Good Energy via AP)
Study: Hollywood Missing Film Moments about Climate Change
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A non-profit group recently announced an effort to get movie and television writers to use climate change more often in their stories and productions.

The group, Good Energy, is a not-for-profit advising organization. It recently announced the release of “Good Energy: A Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change.”

Good Energy found although many Hollywood stars talk about the issue, climate change-related words are not used a lot in movies. The group helped financially support research of words used in American films and television shows.

Researchers looked at the words, or transcripts, used in 37,453 films and TV shows from 2016 to 2020. They found that 2.8 percent of fiction films used words related to climate change.

The transcript research was carried out by the Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Part of the study has not been released. Researchers looked for links to 36 words and phrases like “climate change” in TV shows and films released in the United States.

Anna Jane Joyner is the head writer of the “Playbook” and founder of Good Energy. She said the “Playbook” was created with advice from more than 100 film and television writers.

She said it was a problem that writers were linking climate stories with disaster. She said the main purpose of the “Playbook” is to expand the possibilities for writers to show how climate change would show up in real life.

Joyner said her group is asking writers and industry leaders to consider stories that are less disaster-related. She said they also should include examples and resources.

Joyner said the group’s website has a “spectrum,” with everything from the effects of climate change to possible answers. As an example, she said movies could include shots showing solar panels on the outside of a building. Casually talking about climate change can also be effective, she said.

Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Sierra Club and the Walton Family Foundation are among those providing financial support for the project.

Dorothy Fortenberry is a TV writer. She wrote “The Handmaid’s Tale.” She said the industry needs to write about different kinds of people not just different subjects.

“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.

She added that if writers told stories about different kinds of people, there would be chances to easily include climate change.

Joyner says she has worked on communications related to climate change in different industries for 15 years.

She said for the first 10 years, it felt like “screaming into the void” because nobody answered. But there is evidence of increasing concern among Americans about climate change, she said. That includes those in Hollywood.

“We’ve all gone through a kind of awakening,” she said. There are a number of documentaries, films based on true events, and news programs about climate change she said.

She expressed hope that fiction creators will make progress.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Lynn Elber reported this story for Voice of America. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

fiction – n. written stories about people and events that are not real; literature that tells stories which are imagined by the writer

spectrum – n. a large group of possibilities; a wide range

solar panel n. a large, flat piece of equipment that uses the sun's light or heat to create electricity

casual – adj. happening by chance: not planned or expected

tend – v. used to describe what often happens or what someone often does or is likely to do

scream – v. to say (something) in a loud and high voice because you are angry or afraid

void – n. a large empty space

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