Study from Good Energy and USC’s Media Impact Lab reveals just 2.8% of 37,000+ scripts from the past five years include key climate change terminology
Los Angeles, CA – Today, Good Energy, with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, launched “Good Energy – A Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change” – a first-of-its-kind resource to increase the visibility of the climate crisis in scripted television and film. Created by screenwriters and climate experts for the creative community, the Playbook is now the industry’s go-to guide to incorporating climate into any storyline or genre.
The data on climate change is clear: we have a limited and narrowing window of time to prevent the worst impacts of global warming. International bodies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been sounding the alarm for years, providing robust scientific data to communicate the urgent need for climate action from all of society. But data alone is not enough to spur the swift and drastic action needed to solve this crisis. We have the tools and technology to drive the clean energy revolution; what we lack is the imagination to envision a new, sustainable future.
Accurate and relatable storytelling about climate impacts and solutions can grow public support and motivate decisionmakers. Recognizing the ability for relevant and relatable stories to inspire widespread action, the Good Energy Playbook includes an array of raw material, from climate psychology, solutions, and the latest science, to profiles of characters on the frontlines of the climate crisis and underreported climate events like scorpion attacks and blood snow, to provide writers a menu of possibilities for how climate change can show up on screen.
“There’s nothing more dramatic and important than the climate crisis. Yet, we hardly ever see it on screen. The launch of ‘Good Energy: A Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change’ marks a monumental milestone to help inform and inspire great portrayals of climate change in television and film,” said Anna Jane Joyner, Founder & Director of Good Energy. “In real life, climate change is all around us, so if your story takes place today or in the near future, climate is already a part of the world of your story and characters’ lives. The Playbook introduces a climate lens that helps writers to discover how to portray it in ways that are entertaining, relevant, and authentic.”
In creating the Playbook, Good Energy consulted with over a hundred TV and film writers, creatives, and producers in Hollywood and around the country, as well as climate scientists, climate psychologists, activists, and other partners who provided guidance from their respective areas of expertise. The Playbook also features notable voices including Zazie Beetz, Scott Z. Burns, Rosario Dawson, Lyn and Norman Lear, Adam McKay, Mark Ruffalo, David Rysdahl, and Sarah Treem. In addition to Bloomberg Philanthropies, Good Energy was generously supported by 1 Earth Fund, CAA Foundation, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Sierra Club, The Center for Cultural Power, and the Walton Family Foundation.
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 the first-ever research landscape of climate stories in TV and film over the past five years. As part of this research, 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, principal at Bloomberg Associates, Academy Museum board member, and former Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment. “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. Bloomberg Philanthropies has long been committed to fighting the climate crisis, from driving the transition to clean energy and supporting climate action in cities, to preserving ocean ecosystems, and we recognize the undeniable power of storytelling to drive climate action.”
“Our lives are driven by stories. Storytelling allows us to empathize with one another, see new perspectives, and remember we’re all connected,” said Antha Williams, who leads Climate and Environment Programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “The science is in and the data is clear that we must mobilize to solve the climate crisis. But data alone isn’t enough and there’s never been a greater need for powerful, diverse climate storytelling. The Playbook will be an invaluable resource for writers and creatives to bring these stories to life, both to communicate the urgency of climate action and inspire courage in the face of this crisis.”
“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 director Adam 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.”
Good Energy was launched in 2019 by climate communications expert and story consultant Anna Jane 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 evocative climate storylines and mentions in their content. Throughout 2022, Good Energy and their partners will host workshops and programming to bring the Playbook to writers rooms and creatives across the industry.
Bloomberg Philanthropies has been long committed to telling the story of climate change and communicating its human impacts, particularly on fossil-fuel dependent communities and vulnerable populations. Mike Bloomberg co-authored the bestselling book Climate of Hope with environmentalist and former Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, which makes the case for bottom-up climate action from cities, states, and businesses. Bloomberg Philanthropies also released two feature-length documentaries that explore these topics: From the Ashes, which focuses on the economic, health, and environmental impacts of the coal industry; and Paris to Pittsburgh, which showcases the stories of local leaders who continued to make climate progress even as the federal government stepped back under the Trump administration.
About Good Energy:
Good Energy is a nonprofit story consultancy for the age of climate change. Launched in 2019, Good Energy’s team of experts and storytellers provide the entertainment industry with tools and support for portraying the climate crisis in scripted television and film, so that the stories we love reflect the world we live in now. By bridging the gap between climate experts, screenwriters, and industry leaders, including through our foundational online resource, “Good Energy: A Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change,” we inspire and support stories that help us face the climate crisis with creativity and courage. For more information, visit www.goodenergystories.com.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 941 cities and 173 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.66 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.