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Follow the Data Podcast: Telling Climate Stories Through Film & TV

Photo Credit: Apple TV+

The climate crisis is one of the biggest stories of our time. And Hollywood is one of the most powerful storytellers in the world. Yet our film and TV screens aren’t reflecting the reality of climate change.

Enter Extrapolations, an eight-episode series that recently premiered on Apple TV+. Written by Scott Z. Burns – whose 2011 film Contagion became eerily real during the pandemic – the ambitious show explores how climate change could affect every aspect of our lives, from religion to politics to business and our social lives, over more than 30 years.

Environmental challenges pose unique challenges to screenwriters. Global warming is a long-term, high-stakes process – there are existential stakes, and the reality is that it’s more often there is no single catastrophic event for characters to react to so much as a series of them.

The USC Norman Lear Center, in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies partners Rare and Good Energy, will measure the impact of Extrapolations in the first quantitative study of a climate storyline in nearly two decades.

On this episode, Katherine Oliver sits down with Scott Z. Burns, the showrunner, director, writer and executive producer of Extrapolations, and Anna Jane Joyner, the founder & director of Good Energy, a nonprofit consulting firm that works with screenwriters like Scott to portray the climate crisis in film & tv scripts in entertaining and artful ways. They discuss keeping viewers engaged while telling stories about climate change, and what they hope viewers take away from Extrapolations.

You can listen to the podcast and past episodes in the following ways:

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