climate change comedy



Look out there, there are no horses saddled for a ride, jack rabbits have lost their hop, coyotes want to call it quits—


We wiggle out of this mess and I’m going to take you bar hoping, pub crawling, and after-hours dirty dancing— 


Brubaker, no one ever says no to you—


Papermaster, I don’t think a double wide in Barstow would put an end to your suffering


I don’t want to move to Barstow. 

It’s all in the games we play

Putting the finishing touches on a script is always about punching up the lines. In most instances it is a process of consolidation, writing shorter and sharper lines. 

I’ve got some important information that still needs to be put into the script, but it needs to be hidden. I know that may seem an odd approach, but some of this information is antithesis of entertaining.

I have a list of specific pieces of information by my judgement will make the actions taken by the lead character more coherent. As irrational as his actions may be my job is to be sure you understand his motives and what has moved him to take such drastic measures.

Once a script is completed, after you’ve got the whole story built, then you can go back and repair, replace and rebuild. It is easier to do in my view since now you know the scale of the thing. 

Maybe you think you can get it done in two pages, then after you try it turns out you needed four to do the job right. Four pages in movie-think equals about four minutes. That’s a long time and my job is to create a scene that holds up.

Figure a feature film script will run about 120 pages, that should work out to be a two-hour movie. The longest single scene in this script runs 6.5 pages and gives us the longest look at the central character, something I feel helps bring us closer into the world as he sees things. 

Scenes from a climate change comedy

Once you’ve got a good premise for a story you break it down into separate scenes. Then, you sequence the scenes, in this story I’ve added scenes not in the original plan, changed the sequence of scenes, and in some scenes have completely changed the content and purpose. You try something if that doesn’t work try something else. That’s how that happens.

You don’t always move scenes with dialogue, sometimes you’ll do it with what your audience can see. You can overwhelm an audience with dialogue. One way to help an audience along is by resting their ears, and in this case, you’ll want to engage their eyes. 

Comedy demands attention to timing. You time the pace of a scene. The dialogue between characters is constructed with a specific attention to rhythm. In this script some scenes are not funny at all, they are there to move the story along, what is funny is seen in contrast to the not funny, and that’s good. It gives a film depth and emotional texture.

Long fiction prose is a much different animal than screenwriting. The writing challenge is entirely different. Unlike a novel you are going to propel a story by action. It’s all about what someone says and what they do. So good crisp dialogue is a must. 

Creating characters that you can hang a story together with is vital. Figuring out what actions they are going to take, and especially what actions they are forced to take, those reversals are key. 

Last thing I have been working on is what do I do with the not nice guys in this story. Some characters’ lives will go on to be much improved, some will suffer, even in comedy, especially a climate change comedy there are going to be winners and losers. Playing the fateful omnipotent creator of this story you have the privilege of making some decisions on what fate the future holds. 

In so many ways building a script is the most curious thing. You create this imaginary world and then you as the author get to set these characters loose on one another. This clashing brings us to some kind of final resolution, and sometimes this tells us something about the world. 

This is just the first screenplay, I am busy planning a second climate change comedy, only this time instead of using the crisis on the Colorado River as the focus of the story I am going to use the eroding cliffs along the West Coast to build another lesson in the complex climate crisis humanity is facing.

Do I think I can make a nightclub crashing into the Pacific Ocean an entertainment, something with funny characters doing funny things only to one day find they are all going to take the ride of their lives when the club they are in slides off its foundation and falls into the ocean? 

How can that be funny, why would you even try. These are the times we now live in, it is the truth of our existence, we are all in this mess together. Every new more powerful wildfire, hurricane, drought, heatwave and flood is a warning. None of us wants to spend our time worried about the climate crisis, we are in a race against the clock to decarbonize our global energy system, and we are desperate to pick up the pace, to do more and to do it sooner. 

The fierce urgency of our predicament is getting very clear for all of us to see. Our Polar ice caps are shrinking, oceans are warming, weather is becoming less predictable, storms more powerful, whole communities of plants and animals are going extinct, and a vast chunk of our coastal cities around the world are threatened by sea level rise.

It isn’t the final word on the matter, but circumstances are such that using comedy to help get out the message, to help release some of our anxiety, to help people answer the call and act, science and scientists have their role to play and so too do artists. 

A climate change comedy is the response to the ever more revealing emergency. My job is to dramatize the great era, the Anthropocene, and I want our existential crisis to be funny, I want humanity to win, and I want the story to have a glorious life extending ending. I hope that’s not asking too much— 

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