Paramount and Participant Media celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Oscar-winning landmark documentary An Inconvenient Truth last night with a party at SmogShoppe that featured its star, former Vice President Al Gore. The several other notable guests including its director Davis Guggenheim, Norman Lear, Ed Begley Jr., Frances Fisher and other like-minded defenders of environmental causes. The movie opened May 24, 2006.
Participant founder Jeff Skoll made opening remarks by recounting how his then-nascent company set out to make a film version of what was really just a slide show Gore was taking around the country in an effort to get people to hear his impassioned message about the dangers of global warming and climate change. Most notably, he said, one of their shoots where Gore was doing his presentation for a group of insurance adjusters in a Southern city had to be postponed. That city was New Orleans, and the reason was a hurricane by the name of Katrina. Skoll says that was a turning point for the film. Upon completion, it debuted at Sundance, where the company thought it just might make a little ripple. “Participant came into that Sundance with two documentaries. One we thought would likely go to air on PBS, and the other might be a global phenomenon. The World According to Sesame Street was the one we thought would be the phenomenon, but it went instead to PBS. And An Inconvenient Truth was picked up by our friends at Paramount and has done all the things it has done,” said Skoll, who has built his company on making films that can inspire and get people involved, something they pioneered with Truth. He then introduced Gore, who praised Skoll. “He has done something no one else has done: to make entertaining media with very powerful messages that are designed to change the world for the better,” he said before noting Guggenheim was the irreplaceable creative force that shaped the movie.
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“I thought it was a terrible idea to try and make a slide show into a movie. I was deeply affected by whoever it was who first said with very thick sarcasm, ‘Al Gore doing a slideshow? What part of that doesn’t scream blockbuster?'” he laughed. Gore said Guggenheim has a disarming interview style that forced him to peel back the layers of his psyche and made him understand his motivations and the issues of the film even better than he had before. “You could go into psychiatry if you wanted to give up directing, Davis,” the ex-veep said, going on note the contributions of the film’s producers including Lesley Chilcott, Lawrence Bender, Scott Z. Burns and Laurie David — all but David were there last night — along with then-President of Participant Ricky Strauss (now marketing wizard at Disney) and Participant documentary head Diane Weyermann. He also noted the distribution and marketing efforts of Paramount’s team including Megan Colligan, who was on hand as well.
Gore talked proudly about the recent Paris agreement in which 197 nations sign landmark accords regarding climate change. He said it was a major turning point, even though he says it’s not time to celebrate quite yet because there is so much more to do. This 10-year anniversary notes how far the movement has come. “We had a sense of mission and it came together and it made one hell of a difference,” Gore told the packed crowd. “But for all the joy that I feel on this 10th anniversary, I will not celebrate because obviously the hard part still lies ahead of us. We are way behind on the scoreboard where the climate crisis is concerned. But the momentum has shifted.”
Afterward I asked Gore what he thought about the criticism about the Paris agreement from presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, who said it should be re-negotiated. Gore didn’t want to comment on the record. As for the power that movies can have, he said he was enlightened on that. “I found it out. I didn’t know it at the time,” he told me, while noting surprise when I said An Inconvenient Truth remains the only documentary to win more than one Oscar (in addition to Documentary Feature it also won for Melissa Etheridge’s song “I Need to Wake Up”). Asked if there might be a sequel? “Never say never,” Gore smiled.
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