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Climate Change and Hollywood – What’s the link?

March 3, 2016

The Revenant

It’s Oscars week in Hollywood! The main issue the Oscars grappled with this year is race and the lack of diversity in Oscar nominations, thus the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag (and well-founded). However, another issue lurked beneath the glossy post-produced films. Six-times nominated and first-time Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio (finally!) gave a shoutout to climate change in his Oscar acceptance speech:

Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship to the natural world — the world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production had to move to the southernmost tip of this planet just to be able to find snow.

Climate change is real, it is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.

We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous peoples of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who will be most affected by this, for our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.

I thank you all for this amazing award tonight. Let us not take this planet for granted; I do not take this night for granted.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Oscar Acceptance Speech

The Revenant (2015), a film about the legendary fur trapper Hugh Glass, features snowy landscapes and takes place, for the most part, out in nature. The decision to shoot only in natural lighting meant the cast and crew would be surrounded by the elements throughout the production. And while it seems the wonders of CGI today knows no bounds, the crew instead shot on-location surrounded by snow. But snow itself proved elusive, with weather predictions turning… well, unpredictable. The cast and crew had to shift from Canada to Argentina just to be where the snow was, even resorting to snowmakers (machines which churn out manmade snow). They had to compete with Tarantino’s latest film The Hateful Eight (2015) for the snowmakers, as it also features snowy landscapes, except it one-upped them by including a blizzard (although The Revenant does have a vicious bear… we’ll call it even).


The Hateful Eight

Since its inception, film has had a close relationship with realism. For what is the camera but a means of recording reality (and existence)? This is what some film theorists (ahem, Siegfried Kracauer) would say. Italian neorealist films such as De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief (1948) took realism as a gold standard, shooting on-location on busy streets, often with curious passers-by gazing into the lens of the camera.

That is to say, film production crews are in a unique position. Many times, they will see and feel the first-hand effects of climate change as they travel around to scout locations. By necessity of the script, a lot of film production depends on weather and climate. Judging from the problems encountered by The Revenant and The Hateful Eight’s crew, scriptwriters will likely have to be more discerning when choosing to include snowy landscapes in the future.

For more details and further reading, check out Vanity Fair’s article on ‘How Extreme Weather is Melting Hollywood’s Winter Shoots‘.


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