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Brian Hill on Climate of Change

The director discusses why making this doc reaffirmed his belief in the basic decency of human beings. Check it out on DVD, iTunes, and Netflix Instant.

Note: This interview initially ran as part of our 2010 Tribeca Film coverage. Climate of Change is now available on DVD, on iTunes and on Netflix Instant!


Tribeca: Tell us about Climate of Change.


Brian Hill: Climate of Change is an environmental film with a difference. From the start, I decided that I didn't want scientists, environmental experts, or politicians in the film. Nor did I want a film warning us of the dire consequences of human activity and impending world disaster. I wanted to make a film that showed ordinary people around the world taking small actions that would have a difference.In many ways, I wanted to highlight a different mindset, a different way of relating to the world around us, and a different way of living. I was concerned to have different kinds of people, hence the range from children in India to a professional woman in London. And because I use poetry a lot in my films, I wanted to have a poetic narration, something that would make people think about the images they were seeing.


Tribeca: What inspired you?


Brian Hill: Like lots of people, I have concerns about the environment and felt I should be making a film.What really inspired me was, when we started our research, coming across regular people who were just putting time and effort into making a difference. They weren't doing it for personal gain but were simply contributing to a world community.


Cimate of Change


Tribeca: What do you want audiences to take away?


Brian Hill: I'd like audiences to leave the cinema feeling as though they can make some kind of difference in their own life. I'd like them to take away a feeling of how beautiful and diverse and fascinating the world is and how that world is worth preserving. And I'd like an audience to perhaps think about their patterns of consumption and whether they might change those and be happier.


Tribeca: What was the craziest thing that happened while you were filming?


Brian Hill: There were many strange and crazy things that happened on the shoot. Within an hour of landing in Svalbard [Norway], which is a very remote and sparsely populated place (the most northerly inhabited place on Earth), we were involved in a car crash with a coal truck. Luckily, nobody was injured. In Papua, New Guinea, we were filming a hunting trip and saw one of the characters we were filming dive from his boat and grab a huge deer that was swimming across the lake, wrestle it underwater, and drown it. Perhaps the craziest and saddest thing was watching a mountain being blown up in West Virginia, just so that a coal company could extract coal cheaply and for maximum profit.


The biggest thing I learned (or had re-affirmed) is that most people are essentially decent and want to do the right thing. I also learned that we don't need to rely on governments and corporations to make the world a better place. We can do it ourselves by acting together.


Tribeca: What would your advice be to aspiring filmmakers?


Brian Hill: My advice would be to try and find your own voice. By all means, learn from other people and watch as many films as possible, but try to find your own unique way of telling a story. And don't take the easiest route; it's not usually the best one.


Tribeca: What are your hopes for showing Climate of Change via Tribeca Film?


Brian Hill: I think New York audiences are sophisticated and receptive, and I would hope that Climate of Change would do well there. Not everyone will like the poetic narration [by Academy Award® winner Tilda Swinton], but I hope enough people will find enough to like in the film.


Tribeca: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker, alive or dead, who would it be?


Brian Hill: I think it would be François Truffaut. If he were indisposed, it might have to be Kathryn Bigelow.


Cimate of Change

Tribeca: What piece of art (book/film/music/what-have-you) are you currently recommending to your friends most often?


Brian Hill: Mostly at the moment I am telling people to read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. And even though it has disappeared from theatres now, I am strongly advising people to watch Fishtank, directed by Andrea Arnold. And for everyone in New York, I would recommend going to see the play Jerusalem when it arrives on Broadway soon. Powerhouse performance from Mark Rylance.


Tribeca: What would your biopic be called?


Brian Hill: I think my biopic would have to be called The View From the Hill.


Tribeca: What makes your film a must-see?


Brian Hill: The gorgeous cinematography, a score by Nitin Sawhney, the beautiful cadence of Tilda Swinton reading the narration. And the smartest, most articulate 13-year-old kids you will ever see, from Patna in India.


Check out Climate of Change, now on DVD, on iTunes and on Netflix Instant!


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