Either we seriously tackle climate change or we wipe out most life on Earth. The future of our species and everything we have ever achieved is at stake, so it's not a tricky decision, as a filmmaker, to decide which subject to work on.
The original plan, back in 2002, was to borrow the structure of Stephen Soderbergh's movie "Traffic": six human stories on all sides of a complex international issue. “Traffic” was fiction/drugs and “Crude” (working title) was going to be documentary/oil.
I hooked up with producer John Battsek and agreed we needed a decent budget to make such an ambitious film, but that we also wanted to remain utterly independent. So we came up with a scheme we called “crowd-funding”. The complete budget of 450,000 UK pounds was raised by selling “shares” to individuals and groups – including a hockey team and a health centre – who care about climate change. Our 228 investors gave between 500 and 35,000 pounds and each own a percentage of profits of the film, as do the crew, who worked at massively reduced rates. Which leaves us in the powerful position of owning all the rights. My first two films – “McLibel” and “Drowned Out” – have together been watched by 55 million viewers worldwide, and we are planning to smash that record with Stupid.
After three years simultaneously following six different stories in six wildly-different locations - New Orleans, Nigeria, UK, The Alps, India, Jordan – we held some test screenings of the rough cut. This was May 2007. Disaster. Only people obsessed with climate change could understand all our subtle links. To everyone else it was a hodgepodge of random stories. After despairing a while, I decided to introduce a fictional character, living in 2055, when the planet has been devastated and hundreds of millions of people killed. He is trawling through “archive” footage from now, trying to work out why we didn’t stop climate change when we still had the chance. There was only ever one actor in my mind and when I googled “Pete Postlethwaite + climate change” and learnt he was setting up a wind turbine in his garden, I thought we might just have a hope of persuading him…
Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” did a fantastic job at bringing the public up-to-speed on the science of climate. “The Age of Stupid” takes the baton from Gore and examines the moral, psychological and human consequences of our current way of life.
We calculated the film’s carbon footprint by recording every journey - by foot, bicycle, motor boat, rowing boat, plane, train, car, rickshaw and helicopter - as well as all the electricity, gas, food and equipment used. It added up to 94 tonnes, which is equivalent to four Americans for a year or 185 patio heaters for a month. I definitely think our film is worth 185 patio heaters.