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Damon Gameau

Damon Gameau, Writer, director, filmmaker


In Short ...

What will the planet look like in 2040? If you ask most climate-change experts, the prognosis is pretty grim. Most documentaries that look at the effects of global warming paint a pretty horrifying picture – doom and gloom is everywhere, and it seems as if it’s too late to reverse our current trajectory. A brand-new documentary is putting a positive spin on things, showing how not all is lost. 2040 is described as hybrid documentary that looks to the future, but is most vitally important to us today. The film, created by award-winning director Damon Gameau (last seen in That Sugar Film), is taking a unique approach to solutions-based thinking, researching ideas and operations that are looking to make a positive change right now. Across climate, economics, technology, society, agriculture and sustainability, Damon helps map out a path towards an ecologically sustainable and equitable future, but we can only get there if we act now and act together. We spoke with Damon about the film, its inspirations and his advice on what we can do to help the cause.

The last time you spoke with us at The Weekend Edition, you were in the midst of promoting That Sugar Film. At what point did you decide to shift from the impacts of sugary diets to the planet’s future?
I actually started to see that the two topics were quite intertwined. The disconnection from what is in our food, where it comes from and the power of vested interests was having a deleterious impact on our health but similarly, a disconnection from nature, where our resources come from and the power of vested interests is also destroying the planet.  

Many documentaries on climate change (and the state of the world in general) point towards terrifying statistics to jump-start desperate and fear-charged action. What inspired you to take a more aspirational and solutions-based approach with 2040?
That diagnosis of our current state is important but recent neuroscience says it can be a limitation to taking action. Too much fear and alarm can shut down the problem solving and creative thinking parts of our brain. We become overwhelmed. I wanted to contribute a different narrative. One that shows that there are solutions to our problems and lots of people who are already passionately acting on them.

We love the idea of ‘fact-based dreaming’! What was the impetus behind incorporating this philosophy into 2040’sconceptual footing?
I think that recently we have lost the ability to imagine and visualise on a large scale. Our leaders often talk about protecting us and ‘building walls’ rather than dreaming, discussing and visioning a future we want. When we don’t do that, we inhabit someone else’s future. That said, I didn’t want to the film to be utopian and fanciful. Everything I show my daughter in the future already exists today. It’s an extrapolation of the wonderful solutions we already have.

You speak to a variety of amazing individuals about their work and ideas about changing the future for the better. Were there any particular criteria behind your choices for documentary-worthy projects?
We spent eight months in research and the basic criteria was that there could be no silver-bullet solutions. No quick fixes like giant carbon-sucking machines on the edge of our cities. While these may play a role, we tried to find solutions with cascading benefits that would benefit communities, income inequalities, biodiversity, health and other factors. In fact, all of the solutions we found would be worth doing even if there was no problem with the climate.

Throughout the making of the film, what was one initiative or invention that blew you away with its potential?
I was most shocked with the impacts of empowering women and girls. I don’t think many people have linked climate change and resource sustainability with empowering girls. I also love the seaweed solution. It’s so simple, clean and free of vested interests. We are currently crowdfunding the first seaweed platform in Tasmania so people can help out straight away after seeing the film. The Intrepid Foundationare match-funding every dollar we raise.   

In the film you also consult with almost 100 children about what changes they’d like to see occur by the year 2040. What was the most humbling and revelatory result of this process?
I was constantly humbled by how articulate and authentic they were. I also felt upset by what they are dealing with and how emotional some of them are about it. That said, I felt hope in knowing what these children will achieve when they get access to power and influence.

The film looks at some amazing ideas for tackling large-scale issues, but what would you say is the easiest change that one could enact on a personal level to help the cause?
We have developed a personalised action plan on our website. If you go to it and hit the ‘activate your plan’ button, you will be asked questions about your interests and we will direct you to six things you can do right now to help as an individual or in your community

Much like That Sugar Film’s inspiration, a lot of the motivational drive behind 2040 comes indirectly from your four-year old daughter and her future wellbeing. What is it about parenthood that generates so much introspection and thought on the future for you?
Like many parents I do feel concern for the future and the world we are leaving for our children. I genuinely believe it can be different and that a lot of people want it to be different. We just haven’t found a way to properly come together yet and bring it to life. I think film can play a crucial role in articulating those shared values. 

Like That Sugar Film, 2040 utilises some creative animations and effects to boost its visual component. How would you say weaving these elements into the work improves its impact and overall adoption of the film’s message?
Well, in the case of 2040, I don’t think we can move into a new and better world if we can’t see it first, so the visuals were really key in this film and the designer Luke Bubb and the team at Cumulus VFX did an extraordinary job. I also think documentaries can sometimes be quite dry and reverent and they don’t need to be. There are lots of different ways to tell a story and engage people.

Ideally, what do you hope audiences take away from their viewing of 2040?
That there is hope, there are things we can do but we all have to get involved. We all have to find our agency and step up. Robert Swan said: ‘the greatest threat to the planet is the belief that someone else will save it.’ There is no-one else. Now is the time join the Regeneration.

Catch 2040 when it is released officially on Thursday May 23. Read up all about the film and what you can do to help enact change on the website now.

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