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ENVIRONMENTALISM AND HOLLYWOOD

Hollywood films today contain many environmentalist messages – some explicit, some subliminal, but all intentional. Driving this trend are activist environmental organizations that work behind-the-scenes to lobby screenwriters, producers, and directors to inject all manner of “eco-messaging” into their storylines. One such group, the Los Angeles-based Environmental Media Association (EMA), identifies the specific environmental issues a given film should address and the positions it should take on those issues. Toward that end, the organization makes suggestions vis a vis story content and character dialog -- always with an eye toward embedding green propaganda into the final product. “We regularly network with writers, directors and producers, helping shape plotlines that seamlessly incorporate environmental messages,” says the EMA website. EMA president Debbie Levin adds, “I will literally go out and pitch storylines all year long.”

According to Levin, many powerful studio executives and movie stars are associated with her organization and abide faithfully by its recommendations. “Most television networks are represented on our board,” she says, “We have a very powerful board.” Citing one very tangible manifestation of EMA's influence, Levin notes that her group “helped launch the Toyota Prius” and has “gotten hybrids on screen in hundreds of films.” Similarly, EMA has also worked to persuade film and television writers to include scenes where characters act in any number of environmentally-conscious ways: taking reusable canvas bags to the grocery store; turning off lights when leaving a room; donating old household items to charities or shelters; not drinking from plastic or styrofoam cups; or wearing t-shirts with environmental slogans. Sometimes the eco-message may consist of the presence of a blue and green recycling bin on a movie set depicting a kitchen or yard.

To offer producers and scriptwriters the maximum possible incentive to incorporate eco-messaging into their movies, EMA publicly honors celebrities and films that most effectively convey "green" lessons; gives its Green Seal Awards to ad agencies, talent scouts, and production companies that promote environmental themes “behind the scenes”; and gets the attention of agents and managers by promising to publicize young celebrities who agree to dispense environmentalist jargon to child and teen audiences. “No group,” Al Gore says of EMA, “has had a larger impact [than EMA] on the thinking Americans bring to the environment, on the way we, as a nation, converse with the problems that beset the environment.”

Another key “eco-messaging” organization is Participant Media, whose motto is “changing the world, one story at a time.” Founded in 2004 by former eBay president Jeffrey Skoll, this company produced An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s film on global warming.

News Corporation
, controlled by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has candidly declared its aim to inculcate its viewing audience with environmentalist orthodoxy. News Corp promotes not only uncontroversial ideals such as energy conservation and pollution reduction, but also the scientifically dubious theory that human industrial activity and energy usage causes climate change. On the videos and programs it produces, News Corp urges viewers to minimize their so-called “carbon footprint.” When News Corp executives and producers are in need of scientific expertise, they often consult with Harvard University earth and planetary sciences professor Dan Schrag, who believes that “burning fossil fuel is raising atmospheric carbon dioxide to levels not seen on Earth for more than 30 million years.” Schrag also predicts that places like Florida and the Gulf Coast may someday be inundated by cataclysmically rising sea levels caused by the melting of “half the Greenland Ice Sheet.”

Another organization exhorting movie producers to incorporate environmental themes into their storylines is Reel Green Productions, whose founder, Lauren Selman, predicts that eco-messaging in Hollywood films will “transform and become the norm ... Characters will live the lifestyle.”


Source: "Greening Hollywood," by Joseph A. D’Agostino (October 2008)
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RESOURCE:

Greening Hollywood
 By Joseph A. D’Agostino
October 2008

 

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