Lights, camera, climate change

It can be hard to get motivated about a threat when the consequences don’t seem real or, when it comes to climate change, read a bit like a Jake Gyllenhaal sci-fi movie. But Marblehead residents John Livermore and Kelley O’Malley are aiming to change that by bringing the urgency of the issue home to Marblehead and the world with The Moviement Project.

The pair, with an assist from daughter, Alix Livermore, has written a screenplay that “will vividly illustrate both the personal and societal consequences of climate inaction and will reveal a vision of the world we must create,” Livermore said. The story centers on a family living in a charming, New England, seaside community when the threshold that is the irreversible tipping point of climate change is crossed. Livermore said the story will take viewers on a journey that will give them a much clearer and more relatable picture of what life will be like when that happens, and he is hopeful that it will spur them to act.  
Why a fictional movie

Livermore has spent his entire career in the sustainability field and admits he’s struggled with getting people to take the kinds of actions needed to make real change.
“I came up with the idea for The Moviement Project because I couldn’t come up with a better way to reach people,” he said. “We want to generate an unstoppable wave of people-powered climate action.”
Livermore is a fan of documentaries. He even made one after retrofitting his Gloucester home and creating a completely sustainable house that generated more power than it used. You can read about it here.

“I said I’m going to do a movie to show everyone how it happened … then everyone will see it and run out and do it to their own homes – but it didn’t quite work out that way,” he said, with a rueful smile.
The problem with documentaries is that even brilliant ones can present a certain problem. Livermore said a good documentary will give all the facts in all kinds of compelling ways but in the end, it can still leave people feeling overwhelmed and helpless when it comes to translating what they’ve seen into real life.
The plan is to aim for both the head and the heart. While the movie is fictional, it is also grounded in empirical data and at the end it gives viewers a way to act, he said.

Livermore said he read a study that shows that over 70% of people care about the climate change movement but fewer than 20% actually ever take any action regarding it.

“The Moviement is designed to bridge that gap,” he said.

Kelley O’Malley and John Livermore are working on a screenplay set in a small seaside town, which they hope will make a global impact on climate change. CURRENT PHOTO / CHRIS STEVENS

At the end of the film viewers will be directed to The Empowerment Website, which will launch in conjunction with the movie. Livermore said, there people will find three concrete things they can do to combat climate change.

And it turns out one of the ways people can make the biggest impact in their carbon footprint reduction is not only environmentally savvy but financially smart as well. Livermore said big business also needs to be held responsible when it comes to fighting climate change and one way to do that is to divest from companies that invest in fossil fuels and then reinvest in clean energy. And the good news, Livermore said, is studies have shown that in the last few years green stocks have outperformed brown stocks (oil, gas and coal). “People are starting to understand,” he said, adding, “It’s nice that the good thing to do is also the best thing to do financially.”

Keeping it local

While the goal is for the film to have a global impact, Livermore wants to keep its creation as local as possible.

“I really think we can do this in Marblehead. We feel it’s really a special town with incredible people” he said. “We would like to put Marblehead on the map, first in freedom and in climate change.”
The creative team starts at home. Along with Livermore, O’Malley and daughter Alix, son Jack Devlin is also pitching in. As a production advisor, Livermore said Jack is doing a tremendous amount of reading and research for the project. Rounding out the team is Marblehead resident Anca van Assendelft, who has signed on as executive director.

Livermore said ideally, he would like to start filming in town next summer but there are still a few things that need to get done, like finishing the screenplay, and raising roughly $50 million to finance it. He and O’Malley are working on the second draft and have enlisted environmentalist, author and founder of, Bill McKibben and “a couple of Hollywood writers,” to vet the final script.
When it comes to the price tag, Livermore said he is undaunted.
“Because the project is not like any other movie out there,” he said. “It will benefit everyone.”

‘Investing in the future’

Still, he is realistic about raising the $50 million and The Moviement website has a donation button he hopes people will click on. 

“It’s an urgent climate situation that we need to deal with,” he said. “We need to take action now and we need a new approach.”

Part of that approach is also about giving back. Livermore said once the bills are paid, any proceeds from the movie will go to fund companies that are moving the needle on climate change. And if anyone is still hesitant about whether to donate, Livermore offered a reminder.

“You’re not just investing in a project,” he said. “You’re investing in the future altogether.”

Chris Stevens
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