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Making of the awesome “I’m a climate scientist” video

There’s a great new video on YouTube, ”I’m a climate scientist.” It uses gangsta-rap flavor to bring home the point that a lot of people talking about climate change are not actual climate scientists. Here’s the video, which contains some expletives:

If you are at work, or don’t like the word “F##k,” try out this clean version. Here’s the story…

The 2-minute video was produced by professional entertainers, for the Australian TV show “Hungry Beast,” which blends current affairs and comedy. The show’s target audience is younger people, and digital, politics, and climate change are all regular themes in the show.

The idea: According to comedian Dan Ilic, who had the initial idea, wrote the lyrics, directed the shoot, and performed in the video, the genesis came from watching another show on the (Australian) ABC, “Q & A.” Mr. Ilic watched a panel show on climate change. However during the debate all of the presenters prefaced everything they said by saying, “I’m not a climate scientist but… the debate continued by people who were less than informed on the facts of climate change. It made me so angry that the most important issue of humanity was being reduced to hearsay and name calling.” It was 3 weeks from the start of the idea to airing the skit.

Planning: Mr. Ilic emailed a few climate groups in Australia 2 weeks before filming, and a few scientists were interested. Dr. Roger Jones (Victoria University) was the most senior scientist to get involved. Dr. Jones did student comedy in his younger days, and also wanted to support the video project by lending the credibility of a “professor.” He had some other senior colleagues would have also participated, but couldn’t make the video shoot. As Mr. Ilic wrote the first drafts of the lyric, he worked closely with Dr. Jones and Dr. Katrin Meissner (University of New South Wales) who fact checked the lyrics, and provided Mr. Ilic with material to mine for lyrics. A week before shooting, Mr. Ilic visited Dr. Meissner’s office to further fact check. She did not give input from an artistic point of view, which she says was “probably a good thing.” They also had a few chats/emails with other participants as they planned ideas for the song.

Production: The video was shot at a few locations. The main shot of the lab-coated scientists was filmed in the Sydney TV studio one morning. They shot other footage that week. Mr. Ilic was in Melbourne the week before to attend the Logies (Australia’s Emmys) and while there, he shot two scientists in Melbourne. Other shots were done by his production team, such as the cheerleaders (who received a modest donation), and bits like the burning globe or Mr. Ilic performing. The budget was modest. ABC is analogous to BBC, but the budgets are more like PBS. The only paid people were the production staff. Dr. Linda Beaumont (feedbacks) was shot in front of a green screen.

Post production: All post production was completed by Nick Mcdougall at the production company using Final Cut Pro. Duncan Elms did the After Effects and grading work. Mr. Ilic recorded the song which was produced outside of the company with Brendan Woithe from Colony No Fi. Mr. Woithe normally works in commercials and did this fun project for a very reduced fee to help out.

Distribution: The overall marketing plan was to broadcast it on (Australian) ABC, release it on YouTube the night of the show, and be cool enough that it would go viral. They have over 300k views of the video in the last 2 weeks.

Impact and next steps?

Does a rap song have any greater impact than volumes of data and evidence? Dr. Meissner says, she “personally believe that we have to keep talking (and if nobody listens, I am also happy to start screaming) about our results.” But she cautions that that there’s no formula for reaching deniers and doesn’t know whether rap songs or focusing on evidence is best for the people who are neutral about climate change.

According to Dr. Jason Evans, one of the scientists in the video, “The video isn’t really meant to convince anyone about climate change. It is a fun way to point out how silly it is that so much media time about climate change is given to people who don’t know climate science (and often admit it openly). I can’t think of another area of science where the opinions of people who know little about it seem to be given as much credence as the scientists who actually study the system in question.”

Mr. Ilic says, “I have been making this kind of content for along time for many progressive groups, and sometimes just because I get angry with the world I live in. I find that most of the time you’re preaching to the choir, but if you make it entertaining enough, even the atheists will sit up and take notice.”

Dr. Jones says he is “contemplating more guerrilla-type actions but not sure what works (a repeat wouldn’t).” But he also realizes that when dealing with humor, it’s best to rely on professionals. He says, “if left to us it would have been too nerdy and naff. There have been conversations between science and artists talking about getting together to communicate more broadly. I am attracted to both low and high art and think we could do a lot more. As Mike Hulme says, climate change is a lot bigger than just the science. It affects all of us, even via negativity.”

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