Arkansans Seek To Explain Paris Climate Conference Through Camera

Dec 10, 2015

A screenshot from an episode of Climate Countdown.
Credit climatecountdown.org

Arkansas is a long way from Paris. But at least one Arkansan is there covering the climate conference, known by the shorthand, COP21.

 

Eric Mann, a Little Rock native is the producer and director of photography of a documentary web series called Climate Countdown.

 

As leaders of the world and thousands of activists have descended on the capital of France for high-stakes climate talks, Mann's production company Unreel Films, based partly in Little Rock, partly in New York, is documenting what's happening. He and Californian Kaia Rose, the creator and director, are both there now.

 

Mann and Rose work together at Unreel Films, where Rose is an editor. But Mann says with this project, he and Rose want people to understand the gravity and importance of COP21.

 

“There are friends of mine who don't know what it is," he says. "So, [we're] getting them to know it, getting Arkansans to know it, getting the U.S. To really keep their eyes and ears on it." 

 

But the Climate Countdown team is only on the periphery of discussions.

 

“You know, I'm not a diplomat. I'm not a scientist. But what I do have is a camera,” Mann says.

 

Rose says the video project, which began this year with installments leading up to the big event, is solution-based.

 

“Understanding how bad this problem is and how urgent it is, but also, we're facing a crisis and we have to do something about it," she says. "What are we doing about it?”

 

In Paris, Rose says that means talking to the multitudes who are not only involved in the negotiations, but the activists conducting art projects and forums nearby.

 

“It's kind of overwhelming actually. We're still actually finding our groove. There's so much happening every hour of every day here,” she says.

 

That's why the team also includes production manager Mikita Thompson, a Viola, Arkansas native who's doing social media, research and other paperwork from New York. She says she finds the documentary style to be illuminating.

 

“It's taking something that is so complicated and laden with acronyms, that nobody knows what they mean, if you're not part of COP delegates and puts it into this really distilled, simplified, attainable format.”

 

Thompson and Mann met at the Arkansas Repertory Theater's production of Elf last year. Thompson was the dresser, Mann an actor. Mann started Unreel Films in 2013.

 

In Climate Countdown, Mann's hand-held shots accompany Rose as she talks with Climate experts and activists. That's interspersed with overhead shots of post-its and notebook illustrations mapping out some of the loaded climate policy. Mann explains the reasoning behind the process.

 

“If we ask someone what this jargon is or what they're doing, let's put it on a Post-It, because that forces you to be very concise and very to point,” he says.

 

The project won't stop at the end of the Paris conference, which ends Friday. The production team members say they're planning for a season two of episodes not only unpacking a COP21 agreement, but also to see how effectively the policies are implemented. 

Correction: A previous version of this story said Thompson was the costume designer and dresser on the Arkansas Repertory Theater's 2014 production of Elf. She was only the dresser. Shelly Hall was the costume designer.