Filmmaker John Boswell tells us about his previous work, his views on climate change, and on creating the remix for Elementa
Please tell us about the work you’ve been involved with that covers climate change.
I’ve recently been involved in a couple of projects regarding climate change – the first is a Symphony of Science music video I released last year called “Our Biggest Challenge,” which introduces basic facts about climate change and is designed to inspire viewers to take action. A couple months ago I had the pleasure of working with Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project as a part of their 24 Hours of Climate Reality initiative. The resulting music video features Mr. Gore passionately “singing” about the dangers of global warming and our species’ environmentally destructive habits.
Is climate change and environmental policy important to you?
Environmental policy is going to be instrumental in deciding the fate of our nation and others as we progress through the 21st century, in my opinion. Downplaying the threat of climate change would be a blunder with potentially devastating consequences, and unfortunately, this mindset seems to be almost the norm amongst the nations that should be working the hardest to slow their environmental impact. At the risk of sounding alarmist, it may even be too late to avoid major upheaval, to my understanding, but every bit helps and the sooner we act, the better.
What were your aims in creating this remix with Elementa?
It was very interesting learning about the concept of the Anthropocene and developing the video with Elementa. The concept itself conveys a sense of responsibility for humans to take care of their planet and preserve the biological diversity that we inherited as a species. The aim of the video was to place the idea of the Anthropocene in context, by demonstrating how the planet has changed since the introduction of agriculture and heavy industry, and evoke a visceral reaction to the impact we have had through powerful visuals and music. Ideally the video will inspire viewers to learn more about the Anthropocene and more closely consider their personal impact and role in the story.
What was your overall vision for the film?
The overall vision for the film can be summed up well in one word: “Grand”. These are large scale concepts being dealt with, and so the audiovisual representation had to be equally grand in scope to convey the sense of importance and the severity of our impact. Implied in this vision is both the good and the bad side of human propagation – we have constructed beautiful works of art and become the most advanced species ever, which is worth celebrating, but we have also been harbingers of environmental catastrophes which threaten precious biological diversity and threaten our own existence. Toward this end, it was natural to use a large amount of aerial photography and crescendoing music to convey the epic scale of our influence on the planet, for better or worse.
Please tell us a little bit about your creative process.
I typically begin with the musical portion first, to establish the core emotion of the video. For this particular piece I wanted the music to feel like a mix between ominous and inspiring, which I associate with the concept of the Anthropocene. After finishing a rough draft of the soundtrack with scratch visuals as my guide, I hand select visuals that most powerfully impact the viewer while still telling a story. There is a feedback process at this point between the music and the visuals, when I tweak each one to complement the other until there is a natural flow to them both and the piece is complete.
Why do you think that film is a useful media when introducing topics surrounding the science of the Anthropocene?
Film is still the best way to elicit an emotional reaction from a viewer, because it combines both visual and auditory stimulation. Watching powerful imagery of humanity’s impact on the environment and hearing music that was designed to accompany it is a potent combination. In this case, the use of wording to convey the ideas was almost not necessary at all, given the emotional impact of seeing what humans have done to their environments, good and bad, in concert with a soundtrack that enforces those feelings. Appealing to that side of human nature is key in getting people interested in a subject and inspired enough to learn more and act.