Joshua Gill reports on a Q&A with How to Change the World executive producer Stewart Le Marechal…
What initially started the idea for the film?
Stewart Le Marechal: Jerry kind of just stumbled onto the story of Greenpeace actually. He was in Amsterdam working with some archive footage for another film, when he saw this guy in the corner of the room looking at these images of steam boats and wandered over to ask what they were. He said that Greenpeace were bringing all their archive footage from around the world to this one place to figure out what to throw out and what to keep. That initially sparked the interest, and just off that we proceeded to watch a few hours of footage. We then spent a little of our own money converting the 16mm films and Jerry took that away to play around with and put some scenes together. It was at that same time that Jerry also began reading Bob Hunter’s books, overtime forming what the story was going to be.
At what point did you and Jerry realise there was a story with these individuals and personalities?
SLM: It was fairly early. It was a gradual process; from just reading the books you understand that Bob is a very humorous and insightful guy, and so It really felt that the focus was going to be him and he would somehow tell the story. At that point we weren’t really sure how we were going to figure that one out, but it just felt that was what it was about. We gradually did some research interviews and found Bobby and his wife, those were the first that we talked too. When making the film we realised the three people that we had to have were Patrick Moore, Paul Watson and Bobby.
How much archive material were you working with and how were you able to build a narrative from that?
SLM: So in the archive in Amsterdam there were fifteen hundred cans of film and 50 hours of audio on quarter-inch tape, and I think what was kind of amazing was that a lot of this stuff had not been looked at for forty years. The images on their own were kind of amazing, but when Jerry found the audio to go along with it he got really excited. What he really loved were the moments before filming, where they were mucking around, and I think that’s where we began to find all the characters.
How were you able to convince Patrick Moore to be interviewed?
SLM: Jerry and Al are very easy and genuine people to talk to. They approached each interviewee and were able to outline what they wanted to accomplish with the film. There were two things for Patrick, I mean everyone loves Bob and even though they’re at different ends of the spectrum, they all have a genuine love for Bob and kind of wanted to honour him through the documentary, but also I think they all wanted their own voice in what was happening. With everyone saying something, Paul just wanted to have his voice too. He was genuinely worried that there might be a real hatchet job on him, but I think it’s a fair telling of his journey and where he started and where he ended up, and I think it’s for the audience to make of that what they will.
In Bob’s prophetic words with the idea of a picture launching a movement, do you or the other film makers have any goals or hopes that this will spark another resurgence of action?
SLM: I guess so yeah. I think that Jerry’s starting point was to tell the story of this organisation and the people behind it and the struggles they went through, from 12 out of their head people to this organisation and I think that was the original point. But if it does inspire someone then hey that’s terrific and brilliant.
What were the most important editorial decisions you had to make as a team and were there parts of the archive or interviews that didn’t make it into the film?
SLM: I think it’s mostly about how to be fair to everyone, because there’s a lot of feeling towards/against people in the film. It was important to be as fair as we possibly could, to enable those speaking a fair hearing to allow the audience to decide what they thought about those characters. I mean if it were a fiction film, yeah you could take sides and you could probably portray Patrick as more of a villain, but we didn’t want to do that. I also think with things like the seal footage, compared to what exists that’s mild, there’s some horrendous but also powerful stuff that we questioned whether we should include in the film and whether it would have been a step too far, in the end we felt what we included was probably enough.
Have Greenpeace reevaluated the importance of their archive footage? You mentioned previously that they were sorting through what to throw and what to keep.
SLM: Not necessarily I don’t think. With their current expeditions to the Arctic it seems like everything they do is very much in the now. I don’t think it’s significantly changed. I think maybe they’re a bit more careful to the point where they might want to create some kind of history for themselves later in the future but no I don’t think things have changed all that much.
From the film I still didn’t get a clear reason for why Patrick changed his views. From when you were interviewing him is there any explanation or understanding for why he changed?
SLM: That’s a good question. I don’t think I can tell you exactly, and I think it was such a turn-around for him that it might be an element of him turning into a corporate businessman and he’s kind of followed that and that’s what’s lead him to his beliefs now. I mean it’s a really weird one! I think it’s a complicated one and it’s difficult to tell from the interviews as well, but it’s very clear what a lot of the other people think of him.
How were you able to maintain editorial control over the film when dealing with such a large organisation?
SLM: Editorial control from Greenpeace was very straightforward, they let us make whatever we wanted to make and held zero editorial control at all. In terms of the partners we worked with and those that supported us, they were very supportive of Jerry’s vision, and you know he’s made a lot of great documentaries so they just wanted to support his vision for the film.