Climate Change

"The Great Warming" filmmakers aim to influence Americans at polls this year

As the midterm elections rapidly approach, the environment is one of many issues being debated among candidates -- and Hollywood is having a say as well. Filmmakers Karen Coshof and Michael Taylor are set to release their new global warming film, "The Great Warming," just weeks prior to the midterm elections. During today's OnPoint, Coshof and Taylor discuss how their film may sway Americans as they vote during this year's midterm elections. They talk about how their film differs from previously released global warming films. Coshof and Taylor also address whether making global warming a mainstream cause will have a positive or negative affect on the issue.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today are Karen Coshof, producer of the film "The Great Warming," and Michael Taylor, writer and director of the film. Thanks for joining me.

Karen Coshof: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: Michael, "The Great Warming" is a film that deals with the topic of global warming. It's set for wide release in October. Talk about the film. Talk about how it differs from other global warming pictures.

Michael Taylor: Well, I think the thing that we tried to do is to make it as anecdotal and as related to real people around the world as humanly possible, as opposed to simply putting scientists against a wall of books in the background and having us tell us about how serious the situation was. We went out and showed it, because global warming is already happening. It's not a myth. It's not something that's happening in the future.

Monica Trauzzi: So, "An Inconvenient Truth" is a film that was very popular among the mainstream. Do you think this will have that same effect?

Michael Taylor: I think so. Karen will talk to that I know for sure, but I think this may have an even broader appeal simply because I think what Mr. Gore did was talk about the science and the impacts. We're looking a little bit beyond that at some of the solutions. And, as I say, we shot all over the world. I mean we shot in Bangladesh and Mongolia and China and all across the United States, of course, and in Europe. So there's a bit more of a cinematic feel to it, and I think that will appeal to a broad audience.

Monica Trauzzi: Karen, what are some of the solutions and recommendations that you make? How can people take what you say in the movie and apply it to their lives?

Karen Coshof: There is so much that individuals and communities and church congregations and synagogues can do that it's almost mind-boggling. And I think the failure, to date, has been to not provide people with a sense of hope and empowerment. I call it abolish the ostrich. Do you know when somebody gives you bad news all the time what you want to do? You stick your head in the sand. We've got to pull them out with an audible pop and start saying, like listen, there is lots that can be done. On our web site, for example, there's a long list of things you can do, from the very simplest things you've heard over and over again - which is change your light bulbs, but that actually does have a major effect to, you know, turn down your thermostat to change your vehicles. For heaven's sake, do that. Because, you know, we drove down here from Montreal on the I-95. Oh, that was horrible. But it seemed to us that every vehicle was an SUV or some huge gas guzzler. I mean this is nonsense. There's so much that can be done. And there are organizations doing things and there are interesting technological advances that are being made. Maybe Michael can speak to one or two of those. So I believe that if we act, but we have to act fast, that we can really create change. And the operative word here is fast.

Monica Trauzzi: Some people are questioning the timing of the release date. It's set for October, which is right before the midterm elections. Are you hoping to sway Americans at the polls?

Karen Coshof: Absolutely. I mean there is no mistake about that. Why shouldn't this come out about a week before the election? We want people to get involved. And I should point out, as Michael knows, that this is not just a film. There's no point in just throwing a film out there and hoping that people, A, will watch it and, B, will do something. What "The Great Warming" is, is actually a call to action. And we have created an initiative, which we're calling "The Great Warming Call to Action," which has brought together a remarkable and very diverse coalition of groups that include conservative Christian organizations, liberal enviros, they're all together. Because the message that we're saying, that we want to convey to America, is this is the over arching issue.

Monica Trauzzi: And I wanted to talk about that a little more, because there seems to be a connection between religion and the issue of climate change. How did that come to be?

Michael Taylor: Well, it actually started, it was not our intention, ever, to, because it just simply wasn't on our radar to involve the religious community or any other community similar to that. But about a year ago there was an article in the New York Times about how the evangelical community was starting to make noises about becoming increasingly concerned about what was going on with the atmosphere and their water and their air, etc. And so we thought, well, that might be an interesting addition to the film, because it was still kind of being reassembled at that point. And we did a number of stories on it and that particular story, which only forms I guess, what, five or six minutes of the entire show, somehow clicked and caught people's interest. And they said, oh, yes, that's critical. It's important that the religious component of the United States get involved in this issue. And it kind of snowballed from there. We were a little surprised, I mean ...

Monica Trauzzi: So now it's been set up in a way where someone will go see the movie, there might be a sermon of some sort that follows that could deal with that topic, and then they also receive voter guides.

Karen Coshof: Oh, there's a whole bunch of stuff.

Michael Taylor: We should say there's kind of two sets of audiences. There is an audience that we're trying to reach through virtually all the churches in North America. And then there's a theatrical release. And the theatrical release, coming up very shortly, will be released in theaters, the same as any other motion picture. So there certainly won't be any sermons there, but there may well be if it's shown in a church. You know, if the local pastor or rabbi or whoever it may be wants to make comments about it, then that's likely to happen.

Karen Coshof: Actually, there is a whole program. I think that's what you're referring to, The Call to Action, as we're calling it, and we now have the web site up. At you can join the Call to Action. There is a statement signed by the most amazing people. When you read the names on the statement it's just fabulous, including one that just touches my heart. There's the name of the person, it says age 1, by his mother.

Michael Taylor: So he signed for it by his mother.

Karen Coshof: But you know Wilson is a signatory. You know, there are major names on this. And then all of the organizations that are part of the coalition are saying to people, OK, in the five weeks leading up to the release of the film here are some things. We're going to try and get sermons done, and we have a Sunday school guide that you can download from the web site. You can learn more about this subject. You can send away and you get a brochure about the subject, full of color, illustrated, lots of pictures. You know, you can do something in your community. You can act in a number of ways. And then, as Michael so rightly put it, this is also a movie. It's a movie.

Michael Taylor: Right.

Karen Coshof: So it's beautiful to look at and, hey guys, our narrators are Keanu Reeves and Alanis Morissette. How cool is that?

Monica Trauzzi: I just wanted to touch on the voter guides a bit. Can you tell me what's included in them?

Karen Coshof: Haven't seen them yet.

Monica Trauzzi: OK.

Karen Coshof: They were offered by one of our partners. What we do have on the Web site right now is the Get on Board part. We have Learn, and you can download a fact sheet and you can send away for a book. We have Do Something, and it says, go on, you know you can do it. And there's a list of all kinds of things that people can do. And then there's Challenge, and there are five questions to ask your political candidates about climate change. It doesn't matter if they're Democrat or Republican. And very shortly there will be a list online with the name and phone number of every congressman and women in the state, so you can challenge them. We want the people to get involved.

Monica Trauzzi: Are you working with legislators at all discussing the solutions that you are talking about in the film?

Michael Taylor: No. That really isn't up to us as filmmakers, and particularly since our origins are Canadian we don't feel it's appropriate for us to interfere in that particular way. But I'm sure that some of our coalition members are pressuring their friends in Congress and in the Senate and in various state legislatures.

Monica Trauzzi: Should policymakers be the ones to enforce change or should it come from the people?

Michael Taylor: If I can just say, my feeling is that what's going to happen is that there will be, there's really two levels of changes. One is change at the very top of the spectrum, at the federal level. And I know, all over the world, that's really difficult, but that's the kind of change that may involve big structural changes in the kind of renewable energies that are used. But I think an awful lot of the change is going to happen at the grassroots level and kind of work its way up. And corporations are going to see that people are voting with their pocketbooks and their commercial choices. And legislators at all levels are going to see that people are voting for political leaders who are kind of tuned into this issue.

Monica Trauzzi: Are people going to vote that way, especially this year, the 2006 midterm elections? Are people focusing more on the war in Iraq and the immigration issue? Is this really prevalent in their minds?

Michael Taylor: I don't know, but I would think that a lot of voters don't vote on one issue. And my understanding, from what I've been reading, is that an awful lot of the congressional races, despite the fact that war in Iraq may make high with Americans, that an awful lot of the local races are dependent on the local issues. Whether it's things that have to be done in the district or something that the Congress person has done themselves. So I think that there probably will be local issues, and climate change is one of those local issues.

Karen Coshof: On that note, there's no doubt that this administration wants to focus America on the war. Having said that, our web site has been up for quite some time and the avalanche of e-mails from Americans, from every state and Democrat and Republican, saying that we care about this issue. What can we do about this issue? How can we make this an issue on a political agenda? And the fact that it's been adopted so eagerly and enthusiastically by churches, and when churches adopt something, they do something, they don't just watch a movie, they do something, tells us that this is an issue that's going to have some impact.

Monica Trauzzi: Final question, we're almost out of time. Do you think that by bringing global warming into the mainstream it's becoming a part of pop culture? Are people going to get tired of it and eventually just, you know, consider it for a couple of years and then move on to the next issue when another big issue comes up?

Karen Coshof: No.

Michael Taylor: There is no bigger issue and if people ignore it, it will start tapping them on the shoulder and saying, I'm here and you're in real trouble. Because I think there are some very, very serious things that we're seeing, right now, that are happening all over the planet that are very loud warning signals. People aren't going to be able to ignore it.

Monica Trauzzi: OK. We'll end it on that note. Karen, Michael, thanks for joining me.

Michael Taylor: Thanks for having us.

Karen Coshof: Thanks for having us.

Monica Trauzzi: This is OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Thanks for watching.

[End of Audio]



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