Q & A with Robert Stone

1. Who’s voice is doing the talking in your film? Do you want this documentary to represent your personal experiences or are you trying to be objective?

“Most, but not all, of the people in the film were once anti-nuke and have changed their minds completely about it.  It is told entirely through the voice of those who are in the film – no narration.  The film has a clear point of view and the people in it have undergone a similar intellectual metamorphosis on this issue as I have, so there’s an element of it representing my personal experience.  It’s certainly not going to be a standard reportage documentary that looks at both sides like a pissing contest.  It has a clear point of view.”

2. Who are some of the people you have chosen to speak in your documentary and are they answering the same question or are they more instrumental in telling your story?

“Stewart Brand, Patrick Moore, Richard Rhodes, Gwyneth Cravens…. to name just a few.  The film is in part about their own personal journey with this issue so it’s not just a dry look at a subject matter.  It’s a film about how this subject has defined the world view of so many of us and how that world view has evolved over time, particularly in light of climate change.”

3. With regard to fund raising. In Canada we have government funded organizations such as Telefilm that assist in funding film makers. Does the US have the same?

“Canada is a more enlightened country in this regard.  We’re more Darwinian here in the US.  It’s very tough fundraising given that the organized left hates nuclear power and the organized right hates the science climate change.  This film is an attempted to bridge through the voices of people who see nuclear power as the only viable solution to mitigating a climate catastrophe.”

4. With an increase in dependence on the internet for spreading the word are you finding it effective?

“I’m not finding the internet to be a particularly effective means of fundraising.  Malcolm Gladwell had a very interesting piece in The New Yorker about this the other day.  He found that of the millions of people who have signed up on-line to protest the genocide in Darfour, the average contribution was just 9 cents.  I’m actually seeking out high income individuals who believe in this subject and are willing to make a tax-deductable contribution.”

5. Most scientists and engineers and now politicians are slowly waking up to how renewables, especially wind and solar, are simply not enough to reduce carbon emissions.  Do you see them as a waste of money and  land use or do you see them as a parallel technology?  What do you think?

“I think everything needs to be on the table.  Nuclear is obviously good at powering cities with clean baseload electricity.  Solar is great for putting on your home or for remote sites.  A few wind turbines in every town would be a nice idea too, especially for peak electrical generation.  I just don’t think wind and solar necessarily lend themselves to large industrial scale farming like what is being proposed.  We’ll never be able to build enough nuclear plants quickly enough to meet demand without burning more and more fossil fuels so I think we’ll need a host of solutions, some perhaps have yet to be invented.”

6. Michael Moore is considered by many to be a film maker who manipulates his viewers by distorting the facts. Sounds like a definition of propaganda. Do you like Michael Moore’s approach?

“I like Michael Moore’s films and he’s an old friend too.  I don’t think he distorts facts as much as he’s simply very selective in using them to prove a point.  Of course his films are propaganda.  All documentaries are propaganda to one degree or another in that they express a point of view.  He’s perhaps more blatant about it.   But he makes very different films from me.  He has an entirely different approach and sees the world in very black and white terms.  I’m far too interested in the gray areas to buy into a particular ideology.”

7. What do you think of “The China Syndrome” and how it influenced a generation?

“Just goes to show you that the only formula for success in the film business is timing.  It had a huge influence but fear-mongering usually does, whether it’s from the Left or the Right.  People are easily manipulated by fear.”

8. James Cameron’s films are mostly a warning against abuse of the environment and poorly planned use of technology. He recently made the comparison of the issue of the Tar Sands in Alberta to what happens in Avatar. But nuclear energy is quite a different use of a very advanced technology that will provide a way of reducing green house gas emissions and providing energy. Cameron is a good story teller but is the message that we should learn to live with less a practical message when we can actually meet energy needs?

“People tend to understand the world around them in terms of story. We don’t understand things in the abstract. They need to be framed. So whoever frames a subject in the most compelling way as a story tends to influence the thinking of the widest number of people. But I don’t think anyone is changing their point of view, let alone their lifestyle just because they saw Avatar. It’s just Hollywood entertainment in the end. Whether he’s advocating using less energy or not is hardly going to make a difference in the real world because it takes place in the realm of fantasy.”

9. I noticed that you will not accept donations from Nuclear Energy companies and that makes total sense. Have you ever had a corporation wanting to make a donation that wanted some control of your films content?

“Nope.”

10. Bill Gates just made a film called Waiting for Superman which is a case for improving education in America? Our society has become troubled by survival. Inflation is a reality we take for granted. Children and teachers are not reading great literature. What role does film have in the schools and online schools for children
and teachers?

“Documentaries can play a big role in shaping curriculum and educating students. I grew up watching loads of of documentaries at school about environmental issues as a kid and it left a huge impression. The generation before me saw loads of films about nuclear war and that left a big impression on them. So of course what children are taught and exposed to can influence their world view as adults. In this day and age film is perhaps a more powerful medium than books in this regard. I think today’s young people are far less prone to fear nuclear power because they understand technology and regard it as their friend. They’re not paralyzed with cold war fears of nuclear Armageddon. But this is why I’m so fascinated by adults who have changed their minds on this issue. They’ve broken free of the ideological prism through which we grow up seeing the world. There’s great hope in that, and an opportunity to bridge the political differences that are tearing the US apart and find some common ground.”

Pamdora’s Promise Production Team:  See  http://robertstoneproductions.com

Robert Stone: Producer / Director – An Oscar and Emmy nominated director and a two-time Sundance Grand Jury Prize finalist.  He is one of America’s most acclaimed documentarians, known best for “Radio Bikini”, Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst”, “Oswald’s Ghost”, and “Earth Days”.

Michael Giacchino: Composer – Oscar winning composer for “Up”, he has also scored such films as “Star Trek”, “The Incredibles”, “Ratatouille”, Robert Stone’s “Earth Days” and the television series “Lost”.  He is one of the most sought after film composers in Hollywood and was recently profiled in The New Yorker magazine.

Doug Abel A.C.E.: Editor – “The Fog of War” (Oscar winner for Best Feature Documentary), “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster”, “Smash His Camera”, and the environmental documentary “Everything’s Cool”.

Howard Shack: Cinematographer – A long-time collaborator with Robert Stone and one of the top cinematographers for National Geographic.  He has also shot a number of other independent documentaries, including the Sundance Award winner “Scouts Honor” and the Emmy Award nominee “Sentenced Home”.


Pandora’s Promise is currently in the early stages of production. Funding is ongoing. $675,000 is needed to complete the film, of which nearly $500,000 is committed once we raise the remaining $175,000. Donations are fully tax-deductable through the Human Arts Association in New York, a not-for-profit 501C3 foundation supporting documentary filmmakers since 1976

You can contribute online at http://robertstoneproductions.com

One comment

  • Hartmut Luecke
    May 9, 2013 - 4:10 am | Permalink

    I am the pesky German that was not (entirely) convinced at UC Irvine. Here is the IEEE link I was referring to:

    http://m.spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/green-tech/solar/german-renewables-reach-25-percent

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