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RealClimate: “Don’t Look Up”

My journey in climate communications started when I met with Justin Lancaster at Roger Revelle’s office about 30 years ago, I think it was between `89 and `91.

This was when S. Fred Singer was full bore on mucking up the message in congressional testimony while being funded by Exxon.

My review of the film: ‘Don’t Look Up’ is a typical preaching to the choir movie. The climate community will praise it. The liberal democrats will praise it. It may even move the needle a bit towards recognition of the problem. It will of course stir more discussion. And it will likely inspire a large portion of the right wing to solidify their views that climate change is a hoax.

Fact Check: As a high end production, it’s a bad movie with a great message. The director broke up the storyline too much with fanciful interjection. The stereotypes are all recognizable but sometimes too obvious (comedy, drama, dramadie). On the plus side, they used some strong concepts. I think a recut and some new segue scenes would help the film but not save it.

The film won’t deeply penetrate the base views of those that are being used to prevent significant action. Not to mention that Russian propaganda machines are at work fomenting disinformation to keep countries around the world at war with each other by creating societal friction.

I have a movie I’ve been wanting to produce for 20 years that will help get the conservatives on board. But in 20 years I have not been able to get any interest in making that movie. So it just sits.

You can see the expressions and frustrations of climate scientists with the message of ‘Don’t Look Up’. They’ve all experienced the maddening frustration of communication penetration. Imagine sitting on a movie for 20 years that will get the conservatives on board, watch millions poured into communications that simply don’t work, and getting zero in support for a truly worthwhile project.

OSS Foundation needs support to make this movie. If anyone out there knows anyone that can fund a production that will actually get conservatives on board with the problems and the solution set, please contact me at https://ossfoundation.us/

And by the way we even need money to update the web site.

I started working in Hollywood back in 1979. I’ve done probably around 2000 projects in the trenches of production development. I’ve worked in radio, tv, record and concert production and feature film. When I was a kid I helped take care of the horses on Larry Butlers ranch near Fallbrook, where Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson would come visit. Larry was from old Hollywood. I’m not only experienced in production, I ran studios. One of which was one of the top 10 studios in Hollywood.

I did a short film for the National Academies of Science called ‘Climate Change: Lines of Evidence’. Which would have been much better if they understood production and communications better, and a proper budget would have helped. For that movie I was awarded the Distinguished Communications Award. I was told between the movie and brochure I helped them with I had done the best communications they had ever put out. I was also told I am the only person to receive the award that was not a member of the academy.

NAS asked me to make a second movie. I told them I can’t afford to make another movie for them. They said they will get me more money and better contracts and encouraged me to keep working.

You see, all told, they were paying me about five dollars an hour to do this work. I put in 3400 hours of production work on the projects they asked me to help with. My wife also put in a few hundred hours, and I was able to get others to volunteer in helping with the production. Funny thing is they brought me in on the tail end of having just spent 20 million on climate communications that did effectively nothing to slow the rise of CO2.

Side Note: I’ve watched the climate communications community sing the praises of all the progress being made now for 30 years. During that period I’ve watched CO2 continue to rise while climate scientists and UN representatives have told me what great progress is being made. Hope and wishes are not getting this job done. And atmospheric CO2 is still rising.

If they had asked Disney to do it, which NOAA did after my project, it would have cost a few million as they would have charged 1000 to 2500 per production hour (depending on the level of production). Even a low end budget would have come to around 1.6 million for the work. NOAA did give Disney, I think it was a 20 million budget. That also did nothing to stop CO2 rise.

Well they (NAS) promised more contracts and money and asked me to start on the next movie. But I could not finish it. After 2 and a half years, I was getting close to personal bankruptcy. I told them I had to stop working on the production. We scheduled a meeting to discuss this with Greg Symmes and Kevin Hale at NAS.

The contract they originally gave me (and all subsequent contracts) said they would provide me a script (apparently because this is required as the material must come from them). Nancy Huddleston was in charge of this and is the one I worked with through out the project. Mind you, Nancy, as soon as the fist contract was signed asked me to just make a movie. No script. She sent me a bunch of NAS publications and said go for it.

From day one, NAS was in breach of contract. The first thing Nancy asked me to do in each case, was for me to help her create the script. So we would bounce ideas, she would do a lot of write up, that was often wrong, I would correct. This happened over and over again. I estimate as many as 2000 times.

So, in the beginning, I roughed out a movie. Nancy, having now experience with movies and storyboarding, rejected it. Then we started attacking the project. After a year and a half we put out a move that was not too far off from the original idea I had presented. Just before the deadlines release date Nancy asked me to cut a certain sequence a certain way. The deadlines was set. NAS already announced the release presentation date.

I knew there was not even enough time to tell Nancy I can’t cut it that way because it would not communicate anything to anyone. So I cut it the correct way.

Just prior to release Nancy reviewed the movie and told me I did not do it her way, but that it was too late now so we released it with my final cut.

Side Note: When we finally released the first movie Nancy told me she knows I was mostly responsible for the script, but in the credits her name had to be first, because otherwise it won’t look right, and she would look bad.

This is only one example of the problem (there were hundreds of similar issues): On day one I told Nancy that NAS was doing this all wrong. This is a top priority communication that needed more budget and higher level involvement. Nancy was not a climate scientist.

The NAS Phone Call:

We scheduled a phone call with NAS to discuss the issues at hand. Ralph Keeling asked to be on the NAS call with Greg and Kevin, myself and my co-producer Monika (my wife, who had donated countless hours to the production).

Greg Symmes responded:

—–
John-

Because the purpose of this call, as we understand it, is to discuss a contract dispute between you and the Academy, Kevin and I need to speak to you directly without others on the call who are not parties to the dispute. It is therefore not appropriate for Dr. Keeling or your wife to join the call.

Kevin and I look forward to speaking with you later today.

Greg
—–

Ralph asked me what I thought that meant. I said ‘they just want to fire me’.

On that call with NAS, after I outlined how they had been in breach of contract during the entire production and had already broken multiple additional promises. Greg informed me that NAS would not sue me for not completing the second movie that had brought me personally to the brink of bankruptcy. And there is more to this story, but I’ll no go there because it gets pretty wild.

The frustration level was so high I ended up having a Transient Ischemic Attack (mini stroke).

All in all, NAS treated me exactly like Donald Trump treats his contractors.

– Take the product
– Don’t pay for the product
– Make promises that won’t be kept
– Claim I broke the contract and did not deliver
– Threaten to sue me.
– And drive me toward bankruptcy so I could not afford to proceed.

The most ironic part was when Nancy Huddleston had the audacity to say to me “You know, it’s an honor to work for the NAS”.

Too that I say: ‘Spoken like a true Trump.’

So for all you frustrated climate scientists and communicators out there that are bummed they can’t get the right wing to listen, try to understanding my frustration when I can’t get the liberal left wing and the National Academies of Sciences on board with communications that will ACTUALLY WORK for the target audience in convincing the right wing.

I’ve even had others in the climate community actively try to prevent my work.

And if that wasn’t enough to be frustrated about. I have a measured IQ of 163. That’s higher than the estimated IQ’s of Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein. And I have not raised one single penny for my OSS Foundation work, which as successfully reached 1.8 million climate skeptics.

Having a high IQ is not the end all be all though. It only really means one is good a puzzles. But give a high IQ person enough relevant information is the scope of a problem and that is indeed a powerful tool.

So I say again. If anyone out there actually wants to see meaningful progress in climate communications help OSS find the money it needs to get the communications done that need to be done to get the right wing on board so we can all get the policies we need.

Will this ever happen? I don’t know. So, yeah, I feel the frustration.

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