James Cameron’s documentary series about climate change has been nominated for two Emmy awards – and now the show that almost didn’t happen is gearing up for a possible second season.
“The Emmy Award nominations will help us with our second season,” said Cameron about ‘Years of Living Dangerously’ in an interview with Fortune magazine. “It will raise the show’s stature.”
The nine-part series premiered this spring featuring engaged celebrities like Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Harrison Ford, Jessica Alba, Michael C. Hall, Ian Somerhalder, Olivia Munn and Arnold Schwarzenegger investigating stories of civilians dealing with climate change. The concept came about to try to attract more attention to the show that wasn’t getting any backing from the industry while in development.
“Look at all the other environmental shows on TV, there aren’t any,” said Cameron. “They’re almost impossible to get funded. I’ve been trying to get environmentally themed programming funded for years. It’s just nobody wants to make it because they know that people don’t tune in. So the question was how can we do something that is so compelling that we actually generate some viewership.”
Executive producers Joel Bach and David Gelber came up with the idea, which Cameron didn’t love at first, thinking it would cheapen the message. After seeing how dedicated the chosen celebs were, he quickly changed his mind. Despite the star-studded cast, however, the ratings weren’t stellar.
“We weren’t happy with the ratings numbers that we got. We had hoped for more, but we had been braced for less because historically people tend to not tune into something that’s environmentally themed or climate change related,” explained Cameron. “It’s just something they don’t want to know about. It’s part of the whole denial process that we’re all in as a society that we really have to face up to.”
While people weren’t eager to pay attention to ‘Years of Living Dangerously,’ critics sang its praises and the series was nominated for two Emmy awards: Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series and Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming.
The accolades are already bringing the show more attention. Showtime will re-air all episodes this fall and season one will be available on iTunes, Amazon and on DVD starting September 7.
The show’s episodes are also being edited so teachers can use them in classrooms for middle school, high school and college after many instructors requested it on their website.
“We’ve been inundated with requests to get this into the schools,” said Bach. “It’s great for kids because we’re not just shoving facts down their throats.”
Bach and Gelber both worked on CBS’ ’60 Minutes’ and after running into so many feature-worthy stories that couldn’t be used on the show without turning it into an environmental one, decided to leave their jobs to make ‘Years of Living Dangerously.’
“They come out of investigative journalism at 60 Minutes with an incredible pedigree and they believe strongly in this issue,” explained Cameron, who was approached by the duo to direct the series. “This is the biggest problem our civilization is facing, and they just felt that they needed to quit their day job and go do this. I respect that kind of passion. I also happen to agree with them that this is an enormous problem that we’re facing.”
People who have been directly affected by climate change or have a strong position on the topic can submit their stories through the show’s website to possibly be featured in its second season.
Meanwhile, Cameron is working on making the ‘Avatar’ sequels and his concern for the environment is evident is those green sets. The Manhattan Beach Studios will use solar power and despite the huge number of computers that are needed to make Pandora happen on screen, the studio will be making enough energy to sell back some of it.