The recent increase in extreme weather events (and good coverage thereof!) has started to change public consciousness around climate change impacts, but perhaps not quickly enough: individual events are soon forgotten by those not directly affected, and the global connections between events are often lost or ignored. The Here Now Project is a feature-length film by Chicago-based Siskel Jacobs Productions that is meant to help change that. It weaves together in-the-moment video taken by people during their experiences with extreme weather in 2021, creating a unique visual diary of the impact climate-amplified extreme weather is already having on ordinary people around the globe.
Documentary films are a powerful tool for calling attention to the causes and consequences of climate change. However, sometimes their conventions support an antiquated understanding that climate change will happen to someone else, somewhere else, sometime in the future…and we know now that it’s happening (so to speak) to everyone, everywhere, all at once. How can popular narratives reflect that emergent concern?
Distilling a year’s worth of climate-amplified extreme weather events into a single film composed of organically diverse footage shot by regular people from around the globe creates an immersive experience that is both accessible and compulsively engaging. Since this is not a film about a single event or a particular, localized issue, it provides an evergreen way for audiences to connect with the experiences of people very different from themselves, creating a sense of borderless empathy, and in turn, common cause. Because there are no expert interviews or explicit politics, the film can draw in viewers who might disdain more conventional, hero-and-villain climate narratives. The Here Now Project allows audiences to connect the dots themselves and see the pattern that emerges, offering a new set of eyes with which to view the lived experience of climate change.
Siskel Jacobs has created Emmy-winning documentaries using a similar approach (102 Minutes That Changed America for the History Channel and Witness: Katrina for the National Geographic Channel). In early 2022, they hit upon the idea of applying this approach to the issue of climate change. As the filmmakers put it, “as with 102 Minutes, our aim was to cut against the grain of the increasingly familiar, even obligatory, approaches of more traditional climate narratives, to convey the urgency of the issue in a way that might connect with audiences skeptical of or numb to what The New York Times’ Amanda Hess called ‘the anesthetizing stream of global warming content itself.’”
With this experienced creative team at the helm, the hope is that The Here Now Project can both reach a wide audience and win critical acclaim. The filmmakers’ goal is to premiere their film with an event screening at a major film festival in either late 2023 or early 2024, followed by an international broadcast or streaming rollout. Then, the team envisions working with NGOs, advocates, experts, and others to create an impact campaign that transforms The Here Now Project into a tool to help accelerate every audience’s experiential shift and lay the groundwork for more population-level urgency around bold climate policy.
From the vantage point of 2023, the weather extremes of 2021 may not seem especially shocking. But maybe that’s the point: 2021 showed us how bad things could be, and then successive years have brought more and more challenges. As more viewers revisit the terrible impacts of just a few years ago and compare them to what’s happening around them now, this will light a fire to act with urgency before things get even worse.