Film as an EA outreach tool

post by jayquigley · 2016-08-28T14:42:14.935Z · EA · GW · Legacy · 12 comments

The Cowspiracy Conference is in Berkeley, California on September 17. I encourage people to sign up and attend. (And if somehow you haven't yet seen Cowspiracy (website, trailer), by all means check out the compelling environmental documentary on Netflix, or the companion book, The Sustainability Secret (Amazon)!)

This brings up the issue that the role that film could play in promoting EA causes more generally. I'd love to have people's thoughts on any or all of the following issues, and/or similar issues:

  1. Existing plans to make films on EA or high-impact topics
  2. Existing EA or semi-EA films people should watch, screen, or promote
  3. EA-related films that should exist
    1. candidate topics
    2. candidate titles
    3. candidate pitches
    4. etc.
  4. Promotion & audience engagement
  5. Effectiveness issues
    1. cost
    2. cost-effectiveness
    3. expected impact
    4. room for funding
    5. tractability
    6. talent needs


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by casebash · 2016-08-28T16:40:32.051Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

There has been some criticism of the accuracy of Cowspiracy's facts - ie. 15% of emissions instead of 51% of emissions as claimed. I think it is important to be aware of this, because if Cowspiracy is used as an outreach tool, then it might damage our credibility (especially given that the name makes it sound like a conspiracy theory).

Replies from: jayquigley
comment by jayquigley · 2016-08-28T17:14:01.599Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The larger point---that film can be a compelling vehicle for important ideas---stands regardless whether Cowspiracy was fully accurate or unbiased in its selection of figures.

That said, I agree that we should be cautious about endorsing Cowspiracy in particular, since certain key numbers on which it rests its arguments and emphases are disputed (good discussion and links on wikipedia). That said, it's a bit unfortunate if discussion surrounding the film centers only around fact checking--e.g., 15% vs. 51%--when in most any case there is an important, oft-overlooked environmental rationale for a shift toward cutting livestock out of the world's food system.

comment by kierangreig · 2016-08-28T19:48:15.162Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

IIRC in conversation at EA Global the maker of Speciesism said the total cost of that film was <$100,000 US. I believe he said he was in the process of making another animal advocacy documentary but I am not sure.

Probably also worh noting that:

  • There’s preliminary evidence (p.23-25) that documentaries could be one of the most effective diet change interventions.

  • I think Faunalytics is currently considering some type of evaluation of the effect of a documentary on diet.

  • There’s could already be an adequate supply of animal advocacy (excluding WAS) documentaries. It’s could be better to instead direct resources to promoting existing documentaries rather than funding additional documentaries.

Daniel Irving is currently making a documentary about EA. Little unsure of the specifics involved, but he has interviewed a number of EAs.

comment by Daniel_Irving · 2016-09-05T19:30:29.661Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Bit late to the party but here's the EA film facebook group

I think there's a lot of unappreciated potential for short form online video as EA outreach. Most people who are interested in film don't get into it thinking they want to make a large amount of 2 or 3 minute blurbs online, and yet many of those get the same amount of views as the most popular documentaries do. For example there's no simple video with graphics that explains EA in 3-4 minutes. This seems to be a mistake to me, as there's an entire audience of people that don't want to read 10 pages about EA, and don't want to watch a keynote, but would be interested in a 3-4 minute video, and potentially from there would follow up with the keynote or more reading. There's no popular charity that doesn't have at least one of these videos (see: the life you can save's simple video) for this very reason.

So I still see documentaries as very important, as they're an official and respected way to get a message out. It means a lot more to say that a film about EA was awarded x award at x festival than to say that a video got a million views, and it would get more press and generate more quality discussion, but I don't think we should underestimate short form video as we have simply for its ease in comparison and tractability. I would rather we got one really solid general EA documentary out there and then focused on short form video. As for specific cause areas I agree that animal advocacy is pretty saturated with EA aligned films, though global poverty less so and x risk not much if at all. So films there could either be the global poverty film that advocates for people not to buy fair trade, for example, or anything tactfully done on ex risk.

Replies from: None, accolade
comment by [deleted] · 2017-10-27T17:28:19.716Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think there's a lot of unappreciated potential for short form online video as EA outreach.

Agree. There are a lot of videos of EA talks online, but very little professional-looking, short, engaging video designed specifically to introduce EA; I'm surprised that I haven't found more videos like the Poker Shark video. I'm vaguely considering trying a YouTube series introducing EA Concepts (talking at camera, lots of graphs, I can employ my sister to help as she's a filmmaker) and would love someone to beat me to it.

Robert Miles' videos on AI safety should get a mention here too.

comment by accolade · 2016-12-31T16:16:41.848Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

the global poverty film that advocates for people not to buy fair trade

Since you say "the": Does that exist already? Do you remember the name or how to find it? (A quick googling of mine came up empty.)

comment by Jross · 2016-08-29T12:26:40.647Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Cowspiracy seemed to have caused a lot of dietary shifts in individuals, but I'm a bit worried that the environmentalist perspective might cause vegans as a group to shift even more towards ecosystem conservation, which might be bad for wild animals. Even excluding WAS, the film's environmental messaging can often lead to people cutting out/back on beef consumption and instead eating more chickens, which is probably more harmful.

comment by Moss · 2016-11-01T15:42:49.414Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hello - I'm a documentary filmmaker and so extremely interested in this post and in getting your thoughts on what you would like to see in a feature documentary about EA. Who would be the most compelling characters and case studies to show the impact that EA can have? What kind of unfolding narrative/story could the film follow as it happened?

I think a film on this subject would really touch a nerve with a lot of people - and if done in the right way could raise the profile of the movement and certainly help raise a debate about it.

Great potential for outreach as well.

There are many institutions/ funding bodies that would be potentially interested in funding a film with such a subject {I've already spoken with a few of them to gauge their interest} but having strong central characters and a narrative drive is pretty key to actually making it more than a campaign film, and turn it into something which could screen to a much wider audience.

Would love to hear further thoughts you guys might have.

comment by AviNorowitz (AviN) · 2016-08-30T02:13:35.894Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I worry that messages that suggests beef is particularly harmful to the environment are likely to increase farm animal suffering by causing people to replace their beef consumption with chicken, pork, and fish.

Replies from: AviN
comment by AviNorowitz (AviN) · 2016-08-30T02:27:13.697Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Some evidence to support this view: "With intended behavior, we see clear and significant differences between the different options. Respondents were significantly more likely to replace beef with chicken/fish/pork (a) than they were any of the other mitigation options (bc). As expected, they were significantly less likely to refrain from eating meat completely (c) than all other options."


The full paper is paywalled, but I'd be happy to share the PDF with anyone who's interested. Just send me a message.

comment by jayquigley · 2016-08-28T15:15:04.018Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

2) People should definitely watch and try to screen the film Unlocking the Cage (website, trailer), which documents the ongoing fight in the US for legal personhood for primates.

3.1) AI safety and existential risk are obvious topics on which stimulating documentaries could be impactful.

4) My impression is that Cowspiracy was independently screened scores of times across the world, especially privately by the vegan and animal rights communities. I'd love to know more details. The trailer currently has 1.1 million views.

5.1) Cost: If a documentary mostly involves interviewing experts, the costs would be relatively low, even below five figures USD. Cowspiracy set a goal of $54,000 for its Indiegogo campaign, and ended up with over twice that (see brief article on its crowdfunding strategy).