This inquiry was sent to Mr. Sirota in early January of 2022, only one month after the movie Don’t Look Up was released. Although I’m fully aware of how busy people are and how the fast pace of life is out of hand…but, how delusional was I to think that Mr. Sirota would have time for a nobody like me – especially with such a lengthy inquiry – when he was caught up in all the hoopla around that blockbuster movie? But – that’s how naive the protagonist in the film I envision is – he thinks that just by saying he’s a fish biologist,…that that should mean something to everyone, or anyone. The reality is, however, that that’s not the case!
This E-mail correspondence was sent that day after I sent the much longer one below to point out just how the climate is drastically changing up here in Alaska:
Yesterday I sent you a long-winded e-mail explaining a vision I have for a full-length feature film about climate change and other impending environmental calamities.
What was I asking for? Someone to help me write a treatment, one that weaves the complexities of life and those impending calamities into an entertaining and behavior-changing message.
I just read an article where Dharna Noor quoted you as saying, “We’re diagnosing the problem with the system … but putting the movie into that same system,”
My intent with the film I’m pitching would do its best – where possible – to not follow that same system.
If you never follow up with me on these e-mails, please just check this out! If this doesn’t get people’s attention, nothing will; something vastly different has got to wake the masses up…and soon.
The following was actually in the E-mail body, while what is below was an attached word document.
It’s December 26, and it’s 44-degrees and raining in my remote village of Aniak in southwest Alaska! Alarmingly, meltdowns like this have been a common occurrence over the last ten or so years. A very real and urgent message must get out!
I initially planned on incorporating this infomation in the body of this e-mail, but decided to include my thoughts in the attached word document. I think that’ll be easier for you to digest…at least, I hope so.
I’m an Alaska fish biologist who has been trying to get an environmental message out in either a book or film for what seems like eons…even before climate change was on anyone’s radar. When I started considering a film, I’ve always known it would be a different message, not unlike Don’t Look Up.
It was for that reason that a lot of my colleagues thought – and still do think – that I’m crazy. Time will tell.
I’ve included one picture that should demonstrate how zany my life can be [it was an Aniak Halfbreed picture], and how humor could be incorporated into this dire message. However, you can be the judge of that.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
(This was in the attached word document)
I just watched Don’t Look Up, and as an Alaska fish biologist gravely concerned for the future of many of the world’s fish populations & ecosystems – as well as mankind – have a few thoughts and a request I’d like to pass on.
I’ve had a vision for nearly twenty-years for an environmentally-minded film that would be similar, in some ways, to Don’t Look Up, but different in many others. For starters, it would be more realistic; consequently, the audience would be able to genuinely relate to the protagonist’s internal and external struggles, more so than Dr. Mindy’s. This vision is more than just that, it stems from actual life experiences – some quirky and convoluted that involve some zany, almost unbelievable humor.
For the last six years, I’ve been on a relentless quest to find a talented writer to help me craft a treatment in which I can showcase my vision. Frustratingly, after contacting numerous successful screenwriters, I still haven’t found anyone willing to take a little extra time from their busy schedules to understand my vision…not even if I pay them for their time.
Why, because most Hollywood types want a 1-sentence logline to pique their interest…and I can’t do that given the complexities involved with this impending existential crisis…most of which are psychologically related. One thread, or subplot, would be environmental grief…or solastalgia, and would need further explanation.
Considering that depression and psychology are integral themes, I hope this short quote by Joseph Campbell encapsulates how this protagonist’s story fits Campbell’s monomyth/Hero’s Journey quite nicely – it’s the lesson he learns over and over again: “We’re not our journey to save the world but to save ourselves…in doing that you save the world.”
Given the seriousness of those topics, it’s also difficult to explain how humor and satire would be integral components like they are in Don’t Look Up.
The best way I can explain this vision of mine, is to bring up Robert Altman’s name. In some ways, this film would take an Altmanesque approach, mostly for what, according to this review, Altman was able to do: “Altman captured the sheer cacophony of everyday life, and the unspoken harmony amidst the apparent chaos of the world. Watching an Altman film is like watching a microcosm of the world flash before your eyes, and for once, the world makes sense.”
When it’s all said and done, that’s the storyline. This film involves an unknown and unassuming biologist’s quest to convince a Hollywood producer/director how his personal story, if told correctly in a full-length feature film, can get a bigger environmental message out than Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring or Al Gore’s documentary Inconvenient Truth.
In some ways, I’m like Dr. Randall Mindy who was trying to convince the powers to be that there was a looming existential crisis. I’m trying to convince a Hollywood producer/director that “my story”, if told correctly, can get a powerful, big picture message out.
That would be the storyline of this film: After many failed attempts to entice countless Hollywood types to take the time to understand the potentiality of his personal story, a biologist convinces a down-and-out director to visit him in “bush” Alaska. They spend a week sitting by a campfire along a remote, pristine Alaska river, while brown bears regularly traipse by in search of their next marine-derived-nutrient-laden salmon meal as eagles soar overhead with the same goal in mind.
Their discussions are varied, including many topics broached in Don’t Look Up. They’ll flash back to actual human absurdities, questioning our species’ moniker – Homo sapiens, which means “the wise ones”. For example, not only the ubiquitous outlandish Trumpscapades, but countless other occurrences contributing to the reality that we have chillingly entered The Twilight Zone on many fronts. During these discussions, actual video clips showing inane human behavior will appear to drive home the take home message that we humans – individually and collectively – must get in charge of ourselves psychologically, before it’s too late.
The biologist explains how all the energy that animals expend is merely for existence, while the vast majority of energy expended by us humans is simply for pleasure…that includes physical and mental energy, as well as fossil fuel energy that we’re addicted to.
Since human dysfunction will be a major theme, our biologist will disclose how even he isn’t exempt from that vexing human trait. He often reflects back to what an old U.S. Forest Service crony once told him, “You got to know sin to preach against sin.”
The protagonist will divulge how he has attention deficit disorder, and although a frustrating hindrance, it provides him unique insights into the many human foibles that are leading us down the path of destruction (not unlike the profound insights that autism provides Greta Thunberg).
For instance, he’ll reference this quote from Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood: “the sense of growing panic, the feeling that gibberish is being passed off as coherent conversation, the fear that the world is engaged in meaningless discourse masquerading as meaningful exchange— these are the blurry states individuals with ADD negotiate every day.”
They’ll talk about how meaningless discourse masquerading as meaningful exchange is an all-too-common reality, not just something that only those with his cognitive impairment perceive as happening. And, how mankind’s inability to communicate effectively, will likely lead to our downfall.
It’s through the biologist’s effort to convey to the director why there is potential for “his story” – if told correctly, to get the most powerful environmental message out that mankind will ever hear, that the real most powerful message that mankind has ever heard is conveyed to the audience…which, hopefully – ultimately – involves the masses and engenders a societal shift towards true sustainability of our species.
The happy ending comes to both the biologist and director: the biologist getting the message out that he’s perversely driven to do, and the forlorn director is transformed enough to not only successfully relaunch his stalled career…but, his focus on environmental causes helps transform Hollywood’s model at making more environmentally-conscious movies.
I’m no screenwriter, and would let the professionals produce the film as they see fit, but I see the ending scene as the biologist about to bid the director farewell at the dilapidated terminal just as the director is about the board the tiny plane, and the biologist sheepishly asking, “Do you think there’s a story to be told here?”. The director, with hesitation in his voice, says, “No – I think there’s more than one story to be told here. Let’s keep in touch.”
Am I delusional? Maybe, but I think a series will probably be necessary to continue to convey the realities of life as they unfold with time – and help Homo sapiens maintain our psychological composure – as the ever-accelerating fast pace of life and life’s complexities only further confound our lives.
Here’s a link for a video I made explaining, only partially, what the movie I envision would involve…it’s one of my many pitches for help. Keep in mind, that this video does not in any way show how humor could be intermixed. However, I could easily do that if you’d give me a few hours of your precious time.
So, similar to Don’t Look Up, this film that I envision would point out what this review aptly does: As both the film and the human species cut to credits, we are left with a prescient warning: about the hubris of billionaires, the corruption of politicians, a myopic American culture that gives rise to both, and a nation that is woefully unprepared to lead the world in the face of any existential risk, whether the threat be climate change, or a careening comet a pandemic, or escalating loss of biological diversity.
It would ask this big picture question: Are Homo sapiens (i.e., “the wise ones”) capable of coming together in a concerted way before it’s too late?
Do you have any contacts that you could share this with that might help me craft the elusive compelling treatment that I’m unable to write on my own? I mentioned how the protagonist would have a cognitive impairment. Well, since the protagonist and I are pretty much one in the same, I have at least one impairment that doesn’t allow me to succinctly convey my thoughts in writing…or, verbally for that matter.
I hope you understand this, but that is part of this story that I’m pitching. That’s why the protagonist has had such of difficult time getting the ear of anyone…including some of his friends and fellow biologists. However, he knows that he’ll hit pay dirt when that one person says, “Tell me more.”
And maybe, just maybe, that’ll be the title of the movie.