Documentary director Jeff Orlowski has made significant impact awareness around climate change with his films CHASING ICE and CHASING CORAL. Hear how he uses emotional entry points to get audiences to connect to environmental topics.
Key Insights

  • Documentary filmmaking is often a reconciliation between cinéma vérité, a purely authentic "fly on the wall" approach to storytelling, and a more pre-planned shooting style. As the director, it's your role to distinguish which approach best tells the story.
  • Think about the specific emotion you can use to engage your audience. In Chasing Coral, Jeff decided to use “awe” as the key emotion to focus on what happens to coral as a result of climate change. 
  • Once you've established the emotional reaction you'd like from the audience, every aspect of the film should support this connection - from cinematic style choices, to the voice of your experts and the characters highlighted in the film. 
  • Manipulating time is a great way to enhance the emotional impact of your story - speeding up or slowing down footage and imagery in key areas adds a level of nuance to your film that can significantly affect the emotional journey of your audience. 
  • With an interest in activism and social impact, a project doesn’t have to be global to have impact - your local, untold story is a great subject to be explored through your unique perspective.  
  • Documentary films can give voice to some of the biggest social issues of our time. By building emotion in your storytelling, your film can be a catalyst for change.

Jeff Orlowski is the director, producer and cinematographer of the award-winning films Chasing Coraland Chasing Ice.Chasing Coral received the US Documentary Audience Award at Sundance in 2017. Chasing Ice received the Documentary Cinematography award at Sundance in 2012 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Both films were shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, screened at Congress and the United Nations, and have garnered awards and accolades from film festivals around the globe. Jeff founded Exposure Labs, a production company dedicated to impact through film. His latest film, The Social Dilemma, premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2020. more...

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