Eco-activist Craig Rosebraugh is the first to admit he took “a sizable gamble” by titling his first film so provocatively—Greedy Lying Bastards.
The hard-hitting documentary is a sophisticated, four-years-in-the-making look at the deviousness of climate change deniers using archival footage and new interviews. It was intended to be “a bit more in your face” than most docs, Rosebraugh admits.
Now showing across the country in more than 30 cities, it appears that despite the provocative title, audiences are ready for climate change films at cineplexes. (See also James Balog’s Chasing Ice, which continues to screen across the country thanks to phenomenal footage of glaciers in retreat and great word of mouth.)
Both filmmaker and his eco-audience have been encouraged by mainstream reviews. “A single-minded attack … may just be the feel-good documentary of the year,” wrote the New York Times. “Sober—and sobering,” according to the Washington Post.
The documentary is the most detailed telling of climate deniers’ efforts yet, focused on the organizations and individuals who attempt to deflect from the truth about climate change by spending big money and telling outright lies. Who are the bad guys? ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, the Koch brothers, electric companies…and more. The film also raises the question time and again: Where are our political leaders on climate change?
Rosebraugh is not a stranger to the camera, though much of his experience has been on the other side of the lens as a spokesperson for environmental and human rights issues going back two decades. Over the years he’s also been grilled by inquisitors from the FBI and the ATF, primarily during his time as spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front in the days soon after the group admitted burning down a mountaintop ski resort in Vail, Colorado, in the name of preserving a lynx habitat.
A New York Times Magazine profile in 1998 said: “Rosebraugh stood out in Portland, if he stood out at all, as the guy who was always getting arrested at anti-vivisection events or locking himself to a door of the corporate headquarters of a hospital group to protest experiments being done on cats.”
Rosenbraugh's first film was aided by an experienced team, including editor and cowriter Patrick Gambuti, Jr. and archival producer Marianna Yarovskaya, who worked on the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Activist and actress Daryl Hannah joined three years into the process as executive producer. TakePart found Rosebraugh at home in Los Angeles.
TakePart: As a first-time filmmaker, what inspired you to take on climate change deniers? Was there a trigger, a moment when you realized you had to make this film?
Craig Rosebraugh: There wasn’t one moment, but cumulative. I’d been watching the debate over climate change for a couple decades. As we got late into the 2000s, leading up to the convention in Copenhagen in 2009, I wondered about a project linking the truth that climate change was real and a parallel universe, especially in the United States, of people refusing to listen to the science. Why with the science so sound were politicians refusing to act?
One thing that amazed me was how much I learned during the four years we worked on the film. The very deceptive campaigns by energy companies have really done a great job at convincing people that climate change is not real.
The film was funded by two independent, private financiers, who wish to stay anonymous. It is their first project in the film industry but their motivation is concern about the issue.
Of all the greedy, lying bastards you discovered during the making of the film, who are the greediest, most prevaricating?
Christopher Monckton is the one that far and above makes a mockery of himself. Yet despite being debunked time and time again by the scientific community, any time anyone invites him to come and deliver his lies, he continues to show up.
In terms of money, it’s hard to beat the Koch brothers. Their influence is everywhere, with their base in oil, oil transportation, oil refining, large cattle ranches, textiles, fertilizers and on and on. Their power is undeniable.
A big question raised in the film is why the media continues to allow climate deniers equal time, when the science is clearly against them. “Doubt is way easier to sell” is a great line in the film.
Fox is far and away the extreme example. They’ll have a known holocaust denier debating a holocaust survivor. Or a tobacco industry representative still arguing that smoking isn’t linked to cancer.
The challenge is how do we get the media to stop presenting the issue as if it were a debate, when the debate is already over. I think it’s up to our lawmakers to make a hefty stand, especially the Republican Party. As long as they continue to publicly question the science of climate change, so will the media.
On our website, Expose the Bastards, we’re calling for a Congressional investigation into the deception and lies regarding climate since much like what Congressman Henry Waxman did with the tobacco industry. And it should include an investigation into the media’s role.
Big energy has a reputation for aggressively refuting films about climate change and other environmental issues. You’re up against the wealthiest, most powerful industry in the world. Has their been any industry kickback yet?
Not yet. My gut is that they’re waiting to see how well the film does. If they go after it, it’s only going to create more publicity. Months ago Monckton threatened a lawsuit, but we’ve not heard anymore since.
We’re seeing audiences turn out for films about climate change. Do you think movies about environmental issues can make a difference?
Yes, I think they can. An Inconvenient Truth shifted public opinion in a huge way. And industry responded to it too, especially the Koch brothers, who really started pouring money into climate change denying after that.
Our film is very activist-oriented. We came up with the title after we’d been working on the film for two years, basically as a promotional device, to see if we could generate interest.
We admittedly took a gamble with the title, the way the film is presented, using my writing and narration, to be a bit more in your face. The style may piss some people off, but we really wanted to reach a wide audience, including the people who were behind the Occupy movement, people who want to see change and are tired of big corporations running things.
We’ll see in the next couple months if the gamble was worth it.
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A six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, Jon Bowermaster has spent the past two decades circling the world’s ocean, studying both its health and the lives of the people who depend on it. He is the author of 11 books (his most recent, OCEANS, Threats to Our Seas and What You Can Do to Turn the Tide, was published by Participant Media) and producer of a dozen documentary films. His blog—Notes From Sea Level—reports daily on issues impacting the ocean and us. Follow Jon on Facebook. @jonbowermaster | Email Jon | TakePart.com