A surprisingly good interview, and better questions than I expected, with typically frank answers from Robert Stone. Here are a few snippets:
The disaster has definitely made this film an even more topical work, which actually is probably good for drawing people to see it. Do you see it as sort of benefit?
Sure. The grim joke among documentary filmmakers is that the worse things get for your character the better things get for your movie. If your central character dies or gets shot or run over by a bus, as sad as that may be, it’s drama for your movie. In my case nothing worse could have happened to nuclear energy, if you consider that my central character, than what happened to Fukushima. But it did provide a level of drama and story that I think does make the issue more relevant, more on people’s minds.
When you say this was a difficult film to embark on as a documentarian, do you mean because the angle of the film is so against what the popular belief and consensus is on the subject?
If I had decided particularly after Fukushima to make an anti-nuclear film, given my background I could have gotten funding in a heartbeat. I probably could have done a dozen anti-nuclear films. But this film, nobody wanted to touch it. None of the sources of funding that I normally approach — PBS and places like that — wanted to go near it. They didn’t want to do a film that was pro-nuclear. They didn’t want to do a film that profiled people who changed their minds. The whole approach to it ran counter to what was the established thinking in that world.
But I was determined. I wanted creative control over this film. I wasn’t going to change my way to do it. I knew the story of conversion was the way to tell the story, that the same people who are anti-nuclear become pro-nuclear. That was the hook. Rather than having pro-nuclear people and anti-nuclear people, which certain television people had pushed on me.
Nuclear is simply a means to an end. Nobody thinks… and I certainly don’t; I don’t give a damn about nuclear power; I’d be happy to power the world on algae if that would work. In that sense it’s not a pro-nuclear film, it’s a film that’s offering a viable solution to the climate crisis and is in fact a really hopeful environmental documentary, which is a rare thing these days
One of the most amazing screenings I had was at Mountain Film in Telluride, which is an environmental film festival. All the leaders in the environmental movement were there. Wind power people and solar people… There was a big environmental conference going on. There were about ten anti-hydro-fracking movies there. It was an activist, environmental film festival. There were 650 people packed to the gills, and they watched the film and it was like 98% that the people in that auditorium were won over. People were coming up to me saying they completely changed their mind. People who’d been against nuclear their whole life.
Now that you’ve seemingly made one of the most challenging docs of all time, what’s next? Or are sticking to this film and devoting your energy to its message for a while?
I do not know what I want to know next for a movie. This is probably the movie that’s going to be on my obituary. It’s probably the most important film I will ever make. It’s more than a movie for me. This really is about something way bigger than anything I’ve ever been involved in. And the people I’ve met along the way are some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met.
My mission is to get as many people from the United States and around the world to see this movie and to start talking about this and to truly try to make a difference. As long as I can keep doing that, I’m going to keep doing that. I’m having a great time showing this film around. And I feel like I’m actually making a difference and maybe making a little small dent in the universe, which, who could ask for more than that?
It is just possible that his film could make a “dent in the universe”.