Just 2.8% of film and TV scripts from 2016 to 2020 include key climate change terminology, according to a new study of 37,453 film and TV scripts from 2016-20. The nonprofit Good Energy is hoping to change that.
On Tuesday, the organization released a playbook to provide screenwriters, industry executives, actors and creatives with ways to work ideas about climate and global warming into their storytelling.
"Good Energy: A Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change" was created with feedback from more than 100 film and TV writers, and includes suggestions of how to incorporate the topic without going all-in on a disaster storyline.
2021’s Don’t Look Up – which starred Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio as astronomers warning mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy Earth – was nominated for four Oscars, but Good Energy makes the case that any film or TV show can work climate change into its script in a variety of both overt and nuanced ways.
The playbook includes resources on character profiles and psychology, as well as a cheat sheet with 16 ideas to keep in mind while incorporating climate stories – or just mentions – into scripts. For example, the playbook suggests zeroing into one aspect of the story – like focusing on indigenous communities – or simply incorporating a character’s choice to upcycle with vintage fashion.
Good Energy was launched in 2019 by Anna Jane Joyner, a climate communications and story consultant, to bridge the gap between climate experts, creatives and leaders across the entertainment industry.
The organization partnered with USC’s Media Impact Lab at the Norman Lear Center to commission its analysis of climate stories in TV and film over the past five years. In 37,453 scripts from 2016 to 2020, USC found that only 1,046 (2.8%) of the scripts included any climate change keywords – including "climate change," "fracking" and "global warming." Within those scripts, there were only 1,772 mentions of climate change keywords. Additional findings are to be released in the coming weeks.