Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Well, you won’t be reading about it in any Hollywood trade publications like Variety or the Hollywood Reporter or The Wrap because they don’t cover cli-fi.
But undetered and full of confidence, I’ve launched a “10-year Hollywood Cli-Fi movies initiative” to get the “cli-fi” term into the ears, eyes and minds of major Hollywood players. I need all the help I can get via social media and news Hollywood-based news articles to make cli-fi a genre term that everyone in Hollywood knows by 2030.
As you can see, I’m a patient man. I look at the big picture, in the long term. Wish me luck!
Cli-fi has already caught on bigtime in the book publishing world and among literary critics worldwide for novels and short story collections — as literary term. This literary effort has been successfully ongoing since 2011 and got a huge boost in 2013 when NPR did a 5-minute radio broadcast titled “It’s so hot now, it’s time for a new literary genre!.”
Now my focus for the next 10 years will be on Hollywood, and with the help of many people, cli-fi will catch on as cinema term among Hollywood producers, PR people, directors, actors, scriptwriters, talent agents, Hollywood journalists and film critics.
A few notes of interest for you to ponder and comment on in the ”comment box” below this blog post. Or get in touch with me privately by email.
Some background: A few years ago, I was talking on the phone longdistance to veteran TV producer and social activist in Hollywood, Sonny Fox, and I was asking him how scriptwriters and directors and producers in Los Angeles and other TV and film capitals around the world can make better use of their expertise and people to turn out more feature shows about climate change themes. Real movies, real TV serial dramas, written by people like Naomi Oreskes, Margaret Atwood, Megan Hunter, and Aaron Sorkin and produced by people like Marshall Herskovitz, Steve Tisch and Leonardo DiCaprio.
While Sonny is retired now at 94, he remains active as a passionate and concerned observer of where the world is headed, and he knows that runaway global warming is a serious issue.
And he knows that TV and movie producers have the means to address it.
“It’s just a question of getting the right people together and setting up some organizations to work on this issue in Hollywood,” the Brooklyn-born Fox told me. And he’s been around the block a couple of times, many times, in Hollywood and New York. He knows what the game is all about.
Could we use serial dramas — narrative TV shows — for the primary purpose of entertainment that also inspires and educates people about climate change themes through role modeling?
Sonny says we can. And we should.
There was a big wave of such interest back in the 1970s and 1980s that saw Fox, back then president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, teaming up with such figures as David Poindexter, Miguel Sabido, and Albert Bandura to basically turn the industry’s attention to teaching people about health issues and family planning through mainstream TV. They got involved with Everett Rogers and the three biggest TV networks in the U.S. to do this together with the Center for Disease Control, and their effort is still survived today by the organization Hollywood Health And Society which has a powerful advisory position to the Writer’s Guild of America.
So Sonny knows of what he speaks.
“It’s important to get TV and movie people involved in climate change discussions,” he says. “And to goad them into making TV shows and movies that go right to the heart of the matter: how will future generations fare in a world beset by dire climate situations worldwide — droughts, floods, wildfires, sea level rise, heat waves.”
Outside of Hollywood and New York, there are groups now working on these concepts and trying to organize for actions to take, creative actions with movies and TV shows. Storytelling can work wonders. Stories can capitivate the human imagination and push the emotional buttons that might result in civic action, at the voting booths and in local communities nationwide.
Now let’s segue over to a fantastic interview from with Marshall Herskovitz the TV and movie producer and writer, a Brandeis alum, and a major Hollywood climate movie activist. Listen to him here.
Marshall Herskovitz is an important Hollywood player to watch. A producer, director and screenwriter who has also served as president of the Producers Guild of America (2006 – 2010) his credits include films such as “The Last Samurai” and “Blood Diamond,” and with his creative partner, Ed Zwick, he created the groundbreaking television series “thirtysomething.” Alongside his career in the film industry, Herskovitz has devoted years to thinking about our society’s climate change problems.
“I first got into this more than 20 years ago, just by reading the science and getting really terrified. There was a big dividing line before and after ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ Before ‘Inconvenient Truth’ the issue really was that people were not aware of climate change. After ‘Inconvenient Truth,’ it became more complicated because people were aware of it, but it became much more politicized,” he told an interviewer at the ”City Atlas” website in 2015.
“So, before ‘Inconvenient Truth,’ I was trying myself to put together a large communications campaign to get people aware of it, and I ended up testifying in front of a committee in Congress. And basically what I was saying then is what I say now, which is that we are not even remotely on the right scale of what we need to be doing, and that we are all still in denial, and that, except for a small group of very vocal people, even among people who are really on board in terms of moving to combat climate change we aren’t really thinking about what we have to do. The only analogy for what we have to do is a World War Two-style mobilization.”
When asked if he thinks that Hollywood can create the narratives that needed to prod people to take action, Herskovitz said a very loud ”yes.”
”Yes, we have the professionals who could do it. We have the professionals who could create the stories. Absolutely.”
”I live in mass communications. I live or die by whether millions of people come and pay to see my product, and advertisers, the big advertising agencies, live or die by whether they get millions of people to respond, and that’s where the communications have to come from, and that costs a lot of money! Because you’re talking about television buys, and you’re talking about the kinds of marketing efforts that I’ve seen happen scores of times in my business. Where, for instance, we make a movie, nobody’s ever heard of that movie, you know? We then take 40 million advertising and PR dollars and four weeks later, 96 percent of Americans know all about it. This is a very well established discipline, advertising and marketing, it just hasn’t been applied to cli-fi movies yet..So, that’s, to me, what still needs to be done.”
”Most millennials grew up, I think, feeling like there were a lot of things in the world that were really awful that they couldn’t do anything about, and so many kids have said to me it’s so hard to see what the future’s going to be like, and there really wasn’t a belief that there was going to be a great future. And that’s upsetting. So, I wish I saw that zeal, that sense of omnipotence, that we are going to change the world, we are going to make the world do what we want it to do. I wish I saw that, because, boy that’s what we need.”
Now meet CNN producer and reporter Jen Christensen who wrote a very good piece on how cli-fi can make a difference in Hollywood. See the online link to her article here.
Her CNN piece was headlined ”Cli-fi (climate fiction) on the big screen changes minds about real climate change.”
Now recently I communicated with Hollywood documentary film director and producer Daniel Hinerfeld who also works with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Los Angeles, and he told me in an email that there’s room for cli-fi in Hollywood, too.
”Hi Danny,” he wrote. ”Cli-fi is a brilliant term. I just started perusing your website. It’s very useful and I’ll share it with a few folks. Thank you for your efforts.”
He added: “We recently hosted a panel in Los Angeles on cli-fi called ”Hollywood Takes on the Climate Crisis.” It was public discussion with four writers (two of whom are also actors), whose shows have dealt with climate change. We got a big reaction from Hollywood creative professionals — over 200 people replied to our invitation.”
The panelists included Alex Maggio, Donte Clark, Dorothy Fortenberry, Glenn Howerton and others, according to Hinerfeld.
And look! Here’s some good news about cli-fi movies and TV dramas in Australia: ”The Commons” is an 8-part cli-fi drama series that depicts a climate-ravaged Australia of the not-so-distant future. It premieres on Christmas Day 2019 in Australia with overseas distribution scheduled as well.
So: ”Dear Hollywood Producers, Directors, Writers, Actors: It’s Time To Shed Some ‘Lights! Camera! Action!’ On Climate Change Issues, Too,” I recently wrote in an online oped.
I said: “What better way to package all these dreadful and eye-opening scenes than cinema. If mainstream movies and big actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Arnold and Stallone and Meryl Streep can be cast in some good cli-fi movies in the future about climate change, the responses of our bankable Hollywood stars will go all the way from utter ignorance to asking what they can do about it. You can do a lot if you try, Hollywood movers and shakers!”
Think about it. Cli-fi movies are here to stay. Start making more of them!