Partnerships to date
In 2005 I directed a two-hour documentary, Pay Dirt, about the Alberta Oil Sands, one of the largest known oil reserves left on the planet. When I began the project I knew nothing about oil sands, and as the project developed and we began researching, traveling and interviewing experts I quickly realized how little I understood about the complexity of energy as a whole, and that I was not alone in this lack of understanding. Having spent time touring and flying over the various massive oil sands projects I completely understood why there are concerns about further development of the resource, but I also saw the incredible amount of research, effort, and innovation that was being made to solve the problems. This was not a black and white issue.
Since Pay Dirt aired on the CBC in 2006, which the Globe and Mail called "a superb piece of journalism", a number of other documentaries about the oil sands have been made, raising important issues around the environmental impacts of oil sands. However, I saw a gap in the story that was not being discussed. Much of the conversations and press around oil sands argue that we need to stop developing and using oil sands and fossil fuels as quickly as possible and transition to alternative energy. The oil sands have been called the dirtiest oil on the planet, while alternative energies like wind and solar are pitched as being free, benign and sustainable. I began with a simple question: is this true?
So how do we get beyond hyperbole? People have a lot of entrenched ideas about energy and environmental impacts, and this project is going to invite the audience to come with open minds, to let go of any definitive conclusions they may have about energy and environmental impacts, acknowledge the limits of our understanding, and embrace an attitude of constant critical thinking.
Unintended Consequences began as an idea to do a feature film that examines the unintended consequences of different energy sources from oil sands, natural gas, and coal to alternative energy sources like wind, solar, and bio fuels, in order to forge an understanding of the impacts that come from our use of energy. So some of the central conflicts we intend to examine include questions like: how do we or can we reconcile our desire to maintain our standard of living at a time of population growth and increasing energy demand given the finite natural resources available to harness energy and the myriad of unintended consequences (social, political, environmental and economic) that result from our consumption of energy? How can we build a rational, pragmatic and optimistic framework from which to bring man, energy, environment, and technology into harmony?
As the project developed we realized that a one-off feature documentary was not going to allow us enough time to fully explore the issues, and in addition, with any film you always end up with a wealth of great material that cannot fit into 90 minutes. We also understood that not everyone goes to see theatrical documentaries anymore, not everyone watches documentaries on television, and that the internet was providing new opportunities for content consumption and distribution. It is also important to us to provide quality educational material to teachers and students and help them engage in the discussion that is critical to their future. So the project has expanded to take advantage of producing multiple formats of the story, and using the different formats to promote each stream, and drive audiences to consume the programs in the format they desire. The Unintended Consequences Documentary Project will include a feature length theatrical feature film, a six-part television series, and three websites a public interactive portal, an educational website for schools, and an educational website for corporations.
The goal of the Unintended Consequences Documentary Project is to challenge all sides in the global energy debate from energy companies to environmental organizations to consumers to think critically about what we think we know, our assumptions, our biases, and our emotional connections to the issue.
|ABOUT THE FILMMAKER|
Matt Palmer has been in the film industry for the past twenty years as a writer, director, and producer working in drama and documentary. He also has twelve years experience in location management on Hollywood movies and television series. His documentary experience runs the gamut stylistically including: 26 films for the NFB national web documentary GDP(www.gdp.nfb.ca), the cinema vertite styled theatrical feature documentary Letters From Litein (www.lettersfromlitein.com) about elementary school children connecting with orphans in Africa, the two hour documentary on the Alberta oil sands Pay Dirt, the docudrama on the Frank Slide On the Edge of Destruction, and the documentary series The Rig broadcast on OLN. Matt directed on the Nickelodeon childrens series Caitlins Way in 1999 and 2000, and was 2nd Unit Director on the British feature film The Claim. His award winning HD short film The Outlaws was screened across North America. He has won awards for writing and directing over the years including the Canadian New Media award for Best Online Program (as part of the NFB team), Gold Awards at Worldfest, and a Silver Hugo from the Chicago International Film Festival. Matt holds a BA in Creative Writing, and a BFA in Film Production, both from Concordia University. In 2005, Matt graduated from the UCLA Professional Screenwriting Program.
HOW WE WILL KEEP THE PROJECT BALANCED
One of the big questions we have been asked during the development of this project is how will we keep the story balanced? I was asked the same question during the making of Pay Dirt and in order to achieve balance we created an advisory committee that included various stakeholders including industry and the environment. The committee helped through script development to editing. This worked well, and Pay Dirt was recognized as being very balanced from all sides that saw it.
For Unintended Consequences we have come up with a set of editorial guidelines, and we will engage an Advisory Committee that will include representatives from esteemed Universities, energy companies, environmental experts, scientists, economists, First Nations, government, educational experts, and general public.
To date we have formed relationships with the University of Calgary Institute of Sustainable Energy, Environment, and Economy, the University of Waterloo Institute of Sustainable Environment, and the International Green Technology Institute. We will be engaging more universities as the project is funded.
The Advisory Committee will work with us from script development through to the final edits of the programs. Final editorial decision and control remains at all times with the filmmakers.
It is important to note that being balanced and fair does not mean that the project will be bland. Fair and balanced means that we ask hard questions of all sides. It will be controversial to many, challenging, and thought provoking.
WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?
All of the money raised through this campaign goes towards the overall budget of the project. This means it goes towards production expenses like salaries, equipment, travel, post-production (editing, sound, music) web content, educational content creation, marketing and distribution. Another way to think of your pledge, beyond the stated reward, is to consider it a way of creating jobs for some very talented people who dont have full-time jobs, but move from project to project.
Travel is a good example of an area of the budget that will be extensive. Energy is a global story, and in order to provide context for how energy works, we need to tell the story of how energy impacts families and societies around the world. This will include meeting families from North America, Europe, China, India, and finally what is it like for a family somewhere in Africa that has little or no access to energy?
We will be interviewing experts from around the world including politicians, scientists, economists, environmentalist experts, and other leading thinkers on the future of energy. All of these travel expenses add up when you include crew and equipment.
A major focus of our project is to create a top notch educational website for schools from elementary to university level. Creation of educational content is expensive, so we will be partnering with experts in this field. The educational website for schools will be a unique interactive portal that will give students access to video footage we create for research, and in order to create their own videos.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE EXCEDE OUR GOAL?
$250,000 is our mimimum goal. There are a few reasons for this. One is that our government financing, which is about one third of our budget, does not come until we complete the project. It means that we need to carry interim financing, likely in the form of a loan, and paying interest. The more cash we have up front, means that more of the money is going directly to fund what will be on the screen, rather than to financing charges.
Secondly, we have a secondary financing plan in order to raise money specifically for the marketing of the various project streams. We have some marketing built into the original budget, but did you know that Hollywood productions typically have at least a $20 to $30 million-dollar marketing budget? We plan to raise more money specifically for marketing so that we can control more of how the film is distributed.
The $250,000 is a small, but important portion of the overall budget.
The timeline for the project will be finalized when our financing is completed. Our goal is to launch the public website within nine months of beginning production on the feature film. The feature film will be completed within one year of beginning production, and the launch of the television series will be within 18 months. The educational websites will launch around the same time as the television series.
The size of this project is big, and the majority of funding will come through a combination of government, broadcast, and sponsorships. One of the critical elements that is going to make this project successful and have the greatest impact is by encouraging the audience to participate and engage with the material. There will be more on how we plan to do this later, but it seemed like a natural evolution of this idea to encourage and allow the audience to show their desire to see a program like this by helping to fund it through a reward system. Funding for documentaries is always a challenge and the traditional model of how to do it is changing rapidly. We believe this project is innovative and we want the funding to be innovative as well. At the core of this type of funding initiative is pre-selling the film to the audience. By pledging to help you are also helping us spread the word, and build grassroots support.
By participating in the funding of this project, you are also insuring that we are held accountable to deliver the highest quality production, that it is fair, balanced, and asks hard questions of everyone involved. Access to energy is the biggest issue facing us today, and it is critical that we have forums to discuss all ideas in order to get to realistic and pragmatic solutions for our future.
HOW WE WILL PAY IT FORWARD
Once the main components of the project are completed (feature film, tv series, web content) our job will not be done. We are actively looking for ways to pay it forward, and demonstrate our gratitude for all the support we received. Our first initiative will be to put a portion of any profits back into the educational components. We want to ensure that every school will get a chance to see and work with our material. But, it is also important that the content continues to be refreshed and updated.
Beyond the educational initiatives, as we make our journey around the world, we will look for ways of forming partnerships in projects that can provide mutual benefit. This is a different philosophy than helping.
One area that is of particular interest to me is reducing black carbon in the Third World through the alleviation of poverty. I believe this can be one of the quickest ways to reduce CO2 emissions and contribute to better lives and outcomes for millions of people.
HOW ELSE CAN YOU HELP?
We are designing this to be a unique participatory documentary project. The best way to make an impact with an issue-based project like this is to build grassroots support. Whether you work for an energy company or Greenpeace we believe it is in everyones interest to participate in this project. To do this, we have designed a multi-format approach that will ask the audience to participate, rather than just be a passive consumer of the information. So here is what you can do to help.
Tell your friends about the project by sending them a link to our fundraising page
"Liking", tweeting, and sharing the video at the top of the page
Posting a link on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site
Liking us on Facebook (Unintended Consequences Documentary Project) or following us on Twitter (Intentionalfilm)