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Action Guide

Action on Screen

While the reality of climate change should be enough to scare people into action, we know it’s not. No matter the genre, from scripted to documentary to animation - climate stories are one of the most impactful ways for a producer to support climate action beyond the set.

On-screen content that normalizes sustainable choices can gradually shift public perception and expectations. Simple background details, like solar panels on homes, wind turbines in landscapes, or characters choosing vegetarian meals, can subtly suggest that these choices are commonplace and practical. Over time, this can help shift societal norms toward greater acceptance and adoption of sustainable practices.

Engage your production teams, from writers to set design, costume, props, storyboard artists and editors on the importance of putting sustainable behaviours on screen in whatever ways work best for your genre, script and team.

On Screen Strategies

  • Nudges / ‘Planet Placement’ are small subtle eco-positive elements embedded within the narrative, setting, world or characters that can influence behaviours by normalizing eco-friendly practices and/or making them appear aspirational and positive. It’s a way of supporting pro-environmental practices by showing the world we want to create and modeling practices on-screen without ‘telling’ audiences what they should do.  Examples: eliminating plastic water bottles on screen; showing solar panels on buildings, characters driving EV’s, cycling to work, etc.
  • Climate news & issues can be worked into the storylines in background, on the radio, in a side conversation or as an overarching scene-setting theme. Examples: climate-related disasters like storms, droughts, floods, food & water shortages, climate-refugees…the list is endless. 
  • Climate storylines are climate elements woven into the storyline to highlight environmental issues and solutions in an engaging and relatable way. These storylines don't need to be heavy-handed or didactic; even light-hearted comedies or dramas can weave in moments that advocate for environmental stewardship or acknowledge the changing climate.
  • Showcase the beauty of nature to foster a deeper appreciation for the environment and stir emotions to take action to protect it. This emotional connection can be a powerful driver of behaviour change. 
  • Make the science relatable. Fostering public awareness of climate science is more critical than ever. The public needs science literacy to understand the messages they consume and to be able to embrace what the science is telling us and take action in their lives. 
  • Work with editors to ensure that the hard work done to get climate change on our screens doesn’t end up on the cutting room floor. Ensure editors know that these elements are a priority. 
“We tackled a lot of on-set changes before focusing attention on the writer’s room. We thought the writers would be resistant to external influences on what should or shouldn’t be worked into the show. We were totally wrong - when we presented them with CBC’s Scripted Green Storytelling checklist, they were immediately open-minded to the ideas and started brainstorming a variety of small changes. On this show, many conversations (and conflicts) take place over bringing the garbage out. We could easily swap this for recycling or compost, or even create a conflict over someone not recycling properly.”
Angelica Siegel
Fear Thy Neighbour, Season 8,
Cream Productions

Animation-Specific Action on Screen

Animation, with its boundless creative potential, offers an expansive canvas for crafting stories that embody sustainability. Cartoons allow for the creation of diverse worlds and characters that can convey powerful environmental messages in a visually engaging and imaginative way. What’s more, animation is one of the primary mediums we have to speak to children and families.  Children will be inheriting a world with deep issues, and we have a responsibility to help them prepare by understanding the issues, giving them tools to deal with the anxiety and solve problems, and instill in them new behaviours that will help drive a more sustainable future.
  • Foster Imaginative Environmental Narratives: Encourage the development of animated stories that creatively integrate sustainability themes. This could include fantastical worlds that operate on eco-friendly principles or characters whose lifestyles and choices are aligned with environmental conservation.
  • Maximize the Impact of Visual Storytelling:: Leverage the visual power of animation to depict environmental concepts that might be challenging to represent in live-action. Animated content can visually demonstrate the impact of environmental actions and the beauty of a sustainable world in a way that is easily understandable and visually striking.
  • Leverage New Technologies: Use the latest animation technologies to create more immersive and interactive experiences. This could include virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) experiences that allow viewers to explore sustainable worlds or understand environmental concepts in a more interactive manner.
Use the resources below to facilitate a conversation with your writing, production and animation teams on where they can consider climate action on screen. See also Producer’s Role - Content Development section.