Documentary filmmaker discusses climate change film, tips for aspiring filmmakers

January 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

Filmmaker Peter Byck presented in the Cronkite School’s First Amendment Forum on Tuesday as a part of the Must See Monday series. He spoke about making documentaries and specifically about his own climate change film. (Windsor Smith/DD)

Filmmaker Peter Byck participated Tuesday in the Cronkite School’s Must See Monday speaker series to talk about his documentary about climate change and the chemistry, physics, economics and politics surrounding it.

“Carbon warms up Venus and, as far as I know, there are no Republicans or Democrats on Venus,” Byck said, who was the featured speaker at the Cronkite School for a presentation titled ‘The Making of a Documentary.’

Byck shared important tips on filmmaking in addition to several clips from “Carbon Nation,” a documentary about climate change, which he directed and produced.

Assistant Dean Mark Lodato said having Byck at the Cronkite School was an excellent resource for aspiring film students.

“It’s exciting because there are lots of students interested in film making as well as the topic,” Lodato said. “(Byck) fit well into the ASU culture and is a great storyteller.”

Byck began his presentation by stating that after learning about climate change at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006, he could not stop thinking about it.

The film has become a worldwide phenomenon, with approximately 1,000 community viewings from Antarctica to Calgary.

“We didn’t want to be moaning, blaming or preaching,” Byck said. “We wanted it to be a positive film.”

In Byck’s opinion, the secret to a successful documentary is starting out with short clips as a method of leverage for something bigger. Hours of footage filmed in the first several months became a 10-minute trailer Byck used to help get people on board and promote the documentary.

At first, Byck was not satisfied with the amount of people who made climate change about politics but then discovered that everyone can become a part of the movement.

“When I started the documentary, I thought the argument about climate change was over,” Byck said. “Then the light bulb went off and I realized that it’s just an artificial divide and it doesn’t matter what you believe, but what you’re doing to help.”

According to Byck, 90 percent of Americans want solar energy and 70 percent approve of wind energy.

Journalism junior Sarah Stecko said that the presentation was not what she expected.

“I thought it would be controversial, but I like that he made it about chemistry and physics, not politics,” she said.

Alma Telibečirević, a Humphrey Fellow from Bosnia, said she enjoys many Must See Monday presentations but was especially excited about the interesting topic and different approach of this one.

“I don’t believe in one version of anything, and I like that (Byck) isn’t forcing anyone to either,” Telibečirević said. “He is educating people, with no pressure.”

In terms of film making, Byck’s biggest piece of advice was for people to get noticed and learn all the roles in the industry to be successful. Although he likes the creative aspect, he said that the business aspect is just as important.

“It may take five attempts for someone to even look at your work, so don’t spend too much time on just one piece,” Byck said.

Byck said a second “Carbon Nation” is in the making.

“We’re going to continue this project in lots of short pieces,” Byck said.

He said he is excited about the possibility of incorporating ASU students to create short strands for the documentary.

Although it is still in the early discussion stage, Byck believes there is potential for his next documentary to be co-branded with ASU. Tuesday marked his third visit to the university in the past year, after speaking to the School of Sustainability in October 2012.

“I’m a big Michael Crow fan,” Byck said.

The documentary will include new concepts like day-shifting, or limiting custodial hours to save electricity and allow workers to see their family, and geothermal technology that is more cost efficient, Byck said.

Contact the reporter at nbarret1@asu.edu

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