- The 2023 NAB Show assembled a panel of Hollywood insiders driving investments in green business, amplifiers raising public awareness, and fighters on the front lines of reducing carbon emissions for “Changing the Climate in Hollywood.”
- Moderated by Lydia Pilcher, film & TV producer-director-writer at Cine Mosaic, the panel featured Kimberly Burnick, director of sustainable production & content at NBCUniversal; Rachel Kropa, managing director of nonprofit + science at the FootPrint Coalition; and John Rego, vice president of sustainability at Sony Pictures Entertainment.
- Panelists emphasized the importance of integrating climate narratives into storytelling, and the potential of the M&E industry to influence cultural norms around climate change.
- The panelists also discussed the environmental impact of production processes, particularly the overuse of diesel generators, and the need for cleaner energy sources.
Watch the full NAB Show 2023 session, “Changing the Climate in Hollywood” above.
In the epic saga of climate change, Hollywood has a starring role to play. Not just in the stories it tells, but in the actions it takes. But is Hollywood doing enough to battle the climate crisis? From reducing reliance on diesel generators to incorporating climate themes into its narratives, the industry has a unique opportunity to lead by example and inspire a global audience to do the same. The question remains: How is Hollywood wielding its enormous power to change cultural norms around this existential global threat?
A recent session at the 2023 NAB Show tackled this critical issue head-on, assembling Hollywood insiders driving investments in green business, amplifiers raising public awareness, and fighters on the front lines of reducing carbon emissions to discuss their mandate to normalize climate action within the Media & Entertainment industry and propel the movement towards embracing sustainability.
The panel discussion, “Changing the Climate in Hollywood,” was moderated by Lydia Pilcher, film & TV producer-director-writer at Cine Mosaic, and featured Kimberly Burnick, director of sustainable production & content at NBCUniversal; Rachel Kropa, managing director of nonprofit + science at the FootPrint Coalition; and John Rego, vice president of sustainability at Sony Pictures Entertainment. Watch the full session in the video at the top of the page.
Emphasizing the importance of integrating climate narratives into storytelling and the potential of the industry to influence cultural norms around climate change, the panelists also discussed the environmental impact of production processes, particularly the overuse of diesel generators, and the need for cleaner energy sources.
“Climate storytelling,” however, may not mean what you think it does.
“When we use the term climate storytelling, people think that it’s a movie about climate catastrophe, or it’s a big climate-themed movie plot, which is not necessarily the case,” said Pilcher, who also co-chairs the Directors Guild’s sustainable future committee and helps lead a joint working group with the Writers and Producers Guilds on climate storytelling. “We’re talking about a spectrum,” she continued, “where climate can be a part of the story, even if it’s just a conversation between two actors, or a job that somebody has, or a backstory from a climate-related event.”
“We have built a program that essentially embeds sustainability into our existing creative processes,” Burnick said, recounting NBCU’s efforts to incorporate climate storytelling into the studio’s film and television projects with its GreenerLight program. Announced earlier this year, the initiative mandates that every greenlight package across the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group will include a sustainability plan, ensuring that sustainability is built into the planning process from the beginning including script development, locations, and set needs, as well as on-screen behaviors.
“The door has opened to start talking about what we are seeing on-screen,” Burnick said. “As a media company, our biggest impact is our audience,” she continued, pointing to behavioral shifts the studio has observed such as reductions in drunk driving incidents following designated driver storylines in a popular series. “There’s this realization that we also have a responsibility as storytellers to do the same thing around climate.”
Kropa touted new technologies that help monitor and regulate power usage. “The advent of the type of compute that we have now, it’s able to figure out a motor that can modulate on the spectrum of usage,” she said. “So maybe a diesel generator, you would be able to say ‘I only need this much power today to run this set of things,’ and the computer can decide to put it at that level. So it’s only using exactly what you need.”
The panelists stressed the importance of high-level support within studios and the role of process innovation in addition to technological innovation. They also addressed the challenge of portraying climate change in media without it coming across as propaganda, suggesting a focus on health and safety issues and making climate a normalized part of the conversation.
“Most innovation happens through incremental steps, and half of innovation is process innovation. It’s not actually the devices we see down there. It’s how things are applied,” Rego said. “One of the things that we’ve worked with for so long around how to introduce sustainable production, and how to introduce sustainability in anything our companies do, is also very much driven by process. And I think that really needs to be highlighted.”
Bringing in new technology, he underscored, won’t necessarily solve the environmental crisis. “It is teaching people and talking about behaviors and nudging people in the right way of putting something into place, like a power plan” that addresses power sources and how much power a given production actually needs.
Turning to practical applications, Kropa described various initiatives at FootPrint Coalition aimed at normalizing conversations and behaviors surrounding sustainability. “We have climate investors, climate entrepreneurs, people who make anything from clean beauty products to mushroom leather,” she said. “We also have a show coming out that does eco-modifications of classic cars. There’s a ton of things in there that are material changes, but also energy-type changes.”