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How to get green on the big and small screens?
Emily Gertz, 5 Aug 05

Chris Schults likes to write about ways of infusing mainstream entertainment with green ideas. Today he's come up with an idea I really admire for plugging renewable energy content into mass media:

For any script writers out there, here's a suggestion: Have your main character be a solar panel or windmill tech. No need to go on about why solar or wind power is a good thing. Just show it in action as a back story. Something like: So-and-so was a well-liked solar panel technician in a quiet, small town.

Everything was great in the world, until so-and-so's best friend was murdered.


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Looks like a lot of folks are trying to get science into TV and movies:

Pentagon's New Goal: Put Science Into Scripts
Published: August 4, 2005

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 3 - Tucked away in the Hollywood hills, an elite group of scientists from across the country and from a grab bag of disciplines - rocket science, nanotechnology, genetics, even veterinary medicine - has gathered this week to plot a solution to what officials call one of the nation's most vexing long-term national security problems.

Their work is being financed by the Air Force and the Army, but the Manhattan Project it ain't: the 15 scientists are being taught how to write and sell screenplays.

Posted by: Stefan Jones on 5 Aug 05

Interesting. They seem to assume that it's easier to teach a scientist how to write a saleable script than to teach a screenwriter how to think like a scientist.

Boy, are they in for a surprise...

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 5 Aug 05

Well, authors like Vernor Vinge certainly prove that scientists can be great, and at least decently saleable, storytellers and novelists...

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 5 Aug 05

Oh, agreed -- but screenwriting is an entirely different beast, one that even excellent novelists and storytellers are often ill-equipped to handle.

I'm not saying that the Scientists as Screenwriters plan is doomed to failure, only that the task they've chosen is much harder than most people might recognize.

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 5 Aug 05

The problem with putting green on the screen is alot of times the green guy winds up looking like a total douche.

Posted by: wintermane on 6 Aug 05

Yeah, what was I thinking? Vince Vaughn as the handsome, muscular, capable undercover Greenpeace activist in Jurassic Park 2 -- he was a real pantywaist!

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 6 Aug 05

There were two interesting, but ultimately frustrating, representations of a reliable Old School Green character (aka The Hippie Who is Ultimately Too Disconnected From The Real World and Is Therefore Annoying) recently -

- THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE, the latest film by Rebecca Miller, which came out earlier this year and will be on DVD shortly. The main characters, played by Daniel Day Lewis and Camilla Belle, are the last remnants of a 70s eco-commune - their home is half buried in a hillside, they grow all their own food, they are off the power grid. They even make regular nighttime visits to a nearby McMansion development site, to trash the half-built homes and threaten the developer. Unfortunately, in the end the film decides they are too old school and out-of-touch.

- One of the final episodes of 30 DAYS, the F/X tv show from Morgan Spurlock (of SUPERSIZE ME fame), two New York City "fossil fuel addicts" live in the Dancing Rabbit Eco Village for a month. This show is a bit fairer on the eco villagers, but several of them are portrayed as too sensitive/neurotic, over the top, etc, in their greeness.

In both cases, the screen time given to the Green Ideas was probably worth sacrificing Old School Greeners on the hippie-bashing altar.

Posted by: Prog Grrl on 6 Aug 05

Uh in case you hadnt noticed most greens come across as out of touch for a reason... they are. It doesnt take much for NORMAL people to just ignore an actor or a character or well anything as.. clueless wonkery by a so called expert whose only realy expertise is being a wacko git.

Posted by: wintermane on 6 Aug 05

If you look at "Law and Order," you will see that there are at least a couple of episodes in which greens are portrayed as suspects and criminals, destroying property as well as people. There's one episode I recall in which the guy who's always picking up trash and riding his bicycle is a prime suspect in a murder.

I would like to see do it yourself solar shows available on TV, video, DVD, and the Net. A south-facing window is already a solar collector. Why not do a half hour show on PBS or a segment on a national morning news show that teaches people how to maximize the solar from one window? You know, just in case we have real heating problems this winter.

Yes, have the friend of the protagonist be a solar or wind installer rather than a plumber or electrician but let's also go directly for the roots by giving people the do it yourself directions so that they can make the transition to a solar economy themselves.

The sticker I made for my backpack (already sporting two solar powered LED lights) reads
Solar is Civil Defense.

How about producing something that is an ecologically sane answer to duck and cover?

What's the solar show you'd like to live your life in?

Posted by: gmoke on 6 Aug 05

Of course that's a good idea -- but will someone not already into solar really tune in to the PBS documentary?

I like Chris' idea for getting green content into pure entertainment programming -- not preaching the green gospel, but by just showing it as a regular old part of people's lives -- "hey honey, be sure to be home by four p.m., the guy's coming over to install the new solar panel."

Or maybe something more overt, but still entertainment, not education. I've heard two or three news stories in the past year on how a lot of young students say they want to be forensic scientists after watching CSI (and, being a bit surprised when they learn what such work actually entails in the real world, but whatevah).

So what if a show centered on, say, a team of crack environmental investigators going up against mysterious corrupt powers to uncover the truth? Dramatic shot of a kid in bed wheezing from asthma, the investigators get called in, discover midnight negatives (illegal nighttime smokestack emissions) from the nearby incinerator... or someone's mysterious illness revealed as a consequence of illegal dumping that ends up contaminating the water table?

Think "The X-Files" meets "The China Syndrome."

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 6 Aug 05

"Scully Brokovitch"

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 7 Aug 05

I think I smell a spec script.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 7 Aug 05

That sounds alot like captain planet...

Posted by: wintermane on 7 Aug 05



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