For a time, “Chasing Coral” director Jeff Orlowski was worried he wouldn’t actually be able to capture the climax of his film.
Thanks to technical malfunctions and other mishaps, which are documented in the film, he and his team weren’t able to capture the coral bleaching they set out to record. After a showing of the movie at the International Documentary Association’s annual screening series, he told IndieWire Special Projects Editor Steve Greene that he expected to finish it an entire year before he actually completed it.
“We weren’t capturing the bleaching and the cameras didn’t work,” he said in a post-film Q&A. “We knew that, unfortunately for the planet, more opportunities were coming up, that the bleaching was only scheduled to continue, and that’s what gave us hope that we could actually get it done in the end. That was probably the biggest challenge. We didn’t know if we were going to capture our climax or not.”
The other challenge, which he learned with his last film about climate change, “Chasing Ice,” was how to record and visualize climate change.
“Especially in a country where we have so much climate skepticism, how do you make a convincing and compelling argument for people who might not understand what’s going on? And I understand why people are skeptical,” he said. “There is a lot of misinformation out there. There’s a lot of confusing information out there. I studied all of that. I read up on it to understand what the skeptical arguments are, and this film, one of the biggest things I think was how we tried to structure it with those thoughts in mind.”
While most of the news about climate change is distressing to take in, Orlowski and his team also worked to balance the heartbreak with hope.
“The film could have been a lot more depressing. We held back the punches, honestly,” he confessed — but he’s incredibly hopeful at heart. “I am optimistic,” he added. “I’m very, very confident we’re going to solve global warming. We have no choice other than to solve it. There is not one single tipping point; there are many, many different tipping points and we’ve already lost a bunch — but there are far more we can protect and save and that’s what gives me hope, is what’s left for us to save.”
Watch clips from the Q&A below:
“Chasing Coral” is available to stream on Netflix.
The IDA Documentary Screening Series brings some of the year’s most acclaimed documentary films to the IDA community and members of industry guilds and organizations. Films selected for the Series receive exclusive access to an audience of tastemakers and doc lovers during the important Awards campaigning season from September through November. For more information about the series, and a complete schedule, visit IDA.