Film Screening: Burning Injustice

January 28 , 9:30 am 11:00 am EST

Burning Injustice is a powerful short documentary from The Story of Stuff Project that follows the inspiring journey of Latino activists, John Mataka and Bianca Lopez of Valley Improvement Projects, as they lead a tireless effort to permanently close one of the last trash incinerators in California. The film exposes the devastating health consequences of incinerator pollution in California’s Central Valley, and amplifies activists’ calls for environmental justice and a safer future for their community. Doors open at 12:30 pm (Pacific Time), film starts at 1pm, State Theatre of Modesto, 1307 J St., Modesto, CA 95354. Get tickets.

1307 J St.
Modesto, California 95354 United States
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In the Northern Hemisphere, colder weather, longer nights, and time with family can often mean more opportunities to stream your favorite films and binge new or beloved TV shows. And if you’re anything like us, you can’t help but notice when a character you love has an emotional support water bottle, or when a beloved science fiction show knows enough about the harm of microplastics to make them a key storyline. But how can you mark it when you do spot these moments? With our new Reusables on Screen Form, you can help us celebrate reusable and refillable wins on film and TV.

“Plastic is Forever” is the slogan plastered across the promotional posters for the new Mean Girls movie musical. And while the writers of this movie certainly are referencing the pivotal mean girl group of the movie, referred to as “The Plastics,” the double meaning isn’t lost on us. 

Those of us at Plastic Pollution Coalition and Flip the Script on Plastics like to think this slogan means Tina Fey and the producers of the film understand, on some level, the toxic nature of plastics, and that, loaded with that understanding, the movie just might contain a tangible lack of single-use plastics replaced with more sustainable, environmentally friendly reusable alternatives.

In fact, since launching our Flip the Script on Plastics initiative in 2021, we have noticed more and more reusables popping up in our favorite TV shows and movies. This year alone we found significant reusable water bottle placement in Sex Education (Netflix), Shrinking (AppleTV+), and the movie Theater Camp. But we are certain there are more sightings that we simply have not had time yet to catch and reflect, which is why we need you as a part of our community’s help.

The Reusables on Screen Form

Mean Girls, Paramount Pictures

Introducing our new tool, the Reusables on Screen Form. A quick and easy way for you to let us know where you see reusables, refillables, or language about plastic pollution reflected in popular culture, so that we can highlight these wins, thereby  showing Hollywood that ditching plastic isn’t so hard after all.
The process is simple: If you catch a reusable feature in a TV show or movie, be them brand spanking new, or 20+ years old, open our form and let us know. Give us as much information as you can, but don’t feel bad if you didn’t catch the exact time or episode it happened in, even the title will go a long way.

What About Single-Use Plastics on Screen?

Jury Duty, Amazon Prime

We are still watching out for single-use plastics that show up on our screens, but at Plastic Pollution Coalition, we prefer to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. And, unfortunately, the amount of plastics on screen can at times be so high it’s impossible to count. We’re hoping that one day the same goes for reusables, and the more we identify these wins on screen, the more we can encourage the entertainment industry to keep up the good work and highlight even more reusables. 

If you spot reusables on screen and submit it with our form, don’t forget to drop your social media handles if you are willing; we would love to celebrate you as well as the plastic-free moments! If we choose to highlight the reusables you found, we’ll tag you in our posts and let you join us in our joy that another piece of media is working to Flip the Script on Plastics. So go ahead, bookmark the form, and get watching!

Learn More & Get Involved

Sex Education, Netflix

Learn more about Flip the Script on Plastics, including additional resources and latest news on how we’re helping Hollywood eliminate single-use plastics from sets and storylines. To get involved with our initiative, contact Amelia@PlasticPollutionCoalition.org

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Plastic Pollution Coalition has been working with the Norman Lear Center for the past three years, beginning with a report in 2021 that helped launch Flip the Script on Plastics, created by the Media Impact Project. We later partnered with the University of Southern California (USC) Norman Lear Media Center’s Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S) to work with studios and TV writers, providing the facts about plastic pollution and helping them to incorporate plastic-aware storytelling into their scripts.

On Wednesday, December 6, 2023, just hours after Norman Lear’s passing, television writers, producers, show runners, and stars gathered at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills for the HH&S Sentinel Awards. The Awards honor TV writers who carry on Lear’s legacy of creating television that takes on important issues and accurately represents modern society, and this year’s event was especially poignant as attendees celebrated Norman Lear’s life.

As a core program of the USC’s Annenberg Norman Lear Center, HH&S provides the entertainment industry with accurate and up-to-date information for storylines including topics of health, safety, and security, to the impacts of plastic, pollution and climate change.

Pictured: Writer Scott Z Burns, Plastic Pollution Coalition Executive Advisory Board Member Asher Jay, Plastic Pollution Coalition CEO & Co-Founder Dianna Cohen, Musician & Plastic Pollution Coalition Notable Member Ben Harper at the 2023 Sentinel Awards

During the award ceremony, 11 shows were honored for their accurate and moving storylines, including Superman & Lois (CW) honored for their multi-episode, emotional depiction of breast cancer; Fleishman is in Trouble (FX) for their depiction of maternal health; and Extrapolations (AppleTV+), which was honored for their depiction of a probable future world plagued by the repercussions of the climate crisis. 

Grammy award–winning musician, Plastic Pollution Coalition notable member, and Extrapolations cast member Ben Harper presented the award to creator and showrunner Scott Z Burns, who participated in our September 2022 webinar “Crafting Hollywood Storylines That Flip the Script on Plastics.” After Scott Z Burns accepted his award, Ben Harper treated the audiences to a moving performance of his song “Excuse Me Mr.”

Shortly after Harper’s performance, actors Peyton List and Sarah Yarkin, stars of School Spirits (Netflix) and judges of our PPC Plastic Kills! short film contest, took to the stage to share Plastic Pollution Coalition’s mission and present the winning short horror comedy film Blastic.

Pictured: Plastic Kills! judges & School Spirits co-stars Peyton List and Sarah Yarkin at the 2023 Sentinel Awards

The evening was filled with moving speeches, with writers and actors recounting the myriad of ways that Norman Lear had impacted their lives—from host Larry Wilmore and presenter Debby Allen making their first television appearances on Lear’s shows, to writers who grew up glued to their televisions dreaming of one day writing stories as impactful as those Norman had penned. Everyone collectively agreed, Norman Lear had impeccable taste and timing, up to his very last moment.

A Conversation with Hollywood, Health & Society Director Kate Folb

Ahead of the awards, we spoke with HH&S Director Kate Folb to learn about the history and highlights of the awards, and how working with Plastic Pollution Coalition and our Flip the Script on Plastics initiative has affected the Sentinel Awards and Hollywood, Health & Society at large.

To start, please tell us how your career brought you to Hollywood, Health & Society?

Kate Folb: Well, I started my career in TV and music production, later went to work for the Scott Newman Foundation working with TV and film on depictions of alcohol and other drug abuse, then moved to The Media Project—a partnership of Advocates for Youth and the Kaiser Family Foundation—to work with depictions of reproductive health. When the AIDS crisis happened, this became a full court press to encourage depictions of safe sex, normalize condoms, and dispel myths about the disease, which were rampant at the time.

Later, I founded my own consulting firm Nightingale Entertainment, which consulted with Planned Parenthood, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and others on celebrity engagement and accurate depictions of a variety of health topics. 

And THEN, I came to Hollywood, Health & Society. In fact, I was working at The Media Project in 2001 when HH&S was first established, and I thought to myself, “I’m going to work there one day.”

How have you seen the work HH&S has done reflected in Hollywood?

Kate Folb:  I’m always so pleased when we see our work reflected in shows. In the over 20 years we’ve been working with writers we’ve held over 4,500 consultations leading to over 2,000 aired storylines on dozens of networks, cable, and streaming channels.

What has been your favorite part of working with Plastic Pollution Coalition over the last two years?

Kate Folb: I have loved learning from Dianna Cohen, Amelia Hanson, and the rest of the team at Plastic Pollution Coalition. We’ve had some good fun working together—even during the Hollywood strikes. Our Plastic Kills! short film contest was a blast, and the Toxic Tour we hosted together made a profound impact on participants as well as our staff. 

Pictured: PPC Staff Amelia Hanson & Dianna Cohen, Blastic Creators Adam Wademan & Aaron Beal, Actor & PPC Notable member Sarah Yarkin, HH&S Director Kate Folb at the 2023 Sentinel Awards

Why do you think the Sentinel Awards are so important?

Kate Folb: The Sentinel Awards honor not only good entertainment, but entertainment that does good. These shows help inform audiences of important issues and model healthy behaviors. We’ve seen the impact these shows have on audiences’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors through our research. I’m always amazed at the power of storytelling. So we want to highlight the good work writers are doing to not only entertain, but to inform and inspire healthy choices.

What’s your most memorable Sentinel Award moment from the past?

Kate Folb: Oh wow, there are many! Just to name a few: Sam Levinson giving a heartfelt speech about his own personal battles that made everyone in the room cry, Ava Duvernay talking about how she uses art as activism, having NASA astronaut Dr. Yvonne Cagle present an award for climate change, last year’s dance-a-thon with Li’l Mike and Funny Bone of Reservation Dogs, and of course every year that Norman Lear has been able to be with us! 

How have the Sentinel Awards changed since their formation?

Kate Folb: 

Funny you should ask. We played a video at the awards this year on the “History of the Sentinel Awards” that showed its humble beginnings in the multipurpose room at the Writers Guild with a handful of people, to the red carpet gala it has become—last year at the TV Academy, and this year, appropriately, at the Writers Guild Theater.

How have the Sentinel Awards changed since working with Plastic Pollution Coalition?

Kate Folb:

We had already begun to refuse using plastic utensils, plates, and other items at our receptions, but Plastic Pollution Coalition helped us take it up another notch. Thanks to them, we have redesigned our award sculpture to a beautiful plastic-free bronze statuette that will be debuted at this year’s event.

This year’s (plastic-free) Sentinel Award

What do you think TV writers still need to understand about plastic and plastic pollution?

Kate: With plastic and TV there are two levels of action needed: 1) eliminating plastic on set, and 2) eliminating plastic on camera. Writers and showrunners can help with both. But helping to get rid of plastic off camera, and showing characters using reusable products instead, will go a long way in changing behavior among TV and movie viewers.  

What are you most excited about for this year’s Sentinel Awards?

Kate: We’re so excited to be honoring the creatives behind these shows and so grateful the strikes are over and we can really party! Having the awards at the Writers Guild Theater seems the appropriate venue to shine a big light on the good work these writers do and have done—even in the most difficult times. 

As Plastic Pollution Coalition and Hollywood, Health & Society look ahead to 2024, with the Hollywood strikes resolved and the entertainment industry ready to get back to work, both groups are ready to bring writers and creatives the best facts and inspiration to help shift society and popular culture away from its toxic throwaway habits and Flip the Script on Plastics.

Learn More & Get Involved

Learn more about Flip the Script on Plastics, including additional resources and latest news on how we’re helping Hollywood eliminate single-use plastics from sets and storylines. If you’re a member of the entertainment industry, consider signing our Flip the Script on Plastics Pledge, and contact Amelia@PlasticPollutionCoalition.org to get more involved.

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There’s no entry fee. Deadline for submissions is August 1, 2022.

Are you a TV writer who wants to share positive, inspiring visions of a better future for people and nature on screen? Do you envision a world free of plastic pollution? Well, now’s your opportunity to inspire change by entering the Blue Sky Scriptwriting Competition!

Instead of the typical dystopian hellscape of a scorched earth, polluted by plastics, plagued by injustice, and wrecked by war, can you envision a new utopia?

If our efforts to create a more just, equitable, sustainable world free of plastic pollution are successful, what will the world look like 25 to 50 years from now? At Plastic Pollution Coalition, we are doing all we can to make that world a reality. We know that because life imitates art, we need a culture shift in the arts and entertainment to help give rise to the systems change we need now. 

What brave actions will get us there? What new stories could we tell? What problems might humans face in the future—and how will they overcome the challenges we currently face? Now’s your chance to show the world!

About the Contest

We’re calling on TV writers to show us how they can Flip the Script on Plastics for a new, brighter future that could be featured on the screen.

Plastic Pollution Coalition’s friends at Hollywood, Health and Society are now accepting submissions for their Blue Sky Scriptwriting Contest.

In partnership with the Future of Life Institute and the Writers Guild of America East, Hollywood Health and Society is offering fellowship grants for television scripts that focus storylines in a world set between the years 2045 and 2100. They are looking for stories set in a future that people would aspire to live and thrive in, to help encourage us to make the changes we need now to get there.

Five fellowships of $7,500 each and one grand prize of $20,000 will be awarded. Selected writers will also receive mentorships and expert consultations for script revisions.

Writing to Inspire a Better Future

It can sometimes be challenging to envision a brighter future like the one described here while living in a world so often dominated by doom and gloom. But the research, innovations, policies and grassroot efforts necessary to change things already exist. People leading positive changes are showing us that it is possible to create a better world. And since we are human, there will still be plenty of drama and comedy to go around—showing us that entertainment and depicting an inspiring new reality can go hand in hand.

Writers may tell whatever stories they want to in a pilot script for a TV show set in this “Blue Sky” future. The only requirement is to show audiences how society has gotten there, along the way. 

How to Enter

To enter the contest, writers must submit the following materials:

  • 30- or 60-minute pilot episode script set in a “Blue Sky” future. 
    • Your script can be a comedy or a drama.
  • Logline 
    • One sentence description of the story and premise.
  • Brief treatment 
    • Include a description of key characters and how the premise unfolds over a few episodes.

The material must embrace the world we need by incorporating themes of:

  • Racial equity,
  • Climate change mitigation or adaptation,
  • Advancements toward peace, and
  • Beneficial use of artificial intelligence (A.I.).

For additional rules, terms and more information, and to submit an entry, visit the Blue Sky Scriptwriting Fellowship website.

There’s no entry fee. The deadline for submissions is August 1, 2022. 

The winning writers will be announced in October of 2022 at the annual Sentinel Awards. The grand prize of $20,000 will be awarded in early 2023.

This contest is sponsored in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

If you are an active member of the entertainment industry, we also ask that you take a moment to sign our Flip the Script on Plastics Pledge to show your support of our initiative.

First-Ever Analysis of Single-Use Plastics Portrayed in Popular TV Sets the Stage to ‘Flip the Script’ on Unnecessary Waste 

November 2, 2021, Hollywood, CA – A new report by the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center sets the stage to “flip the script” on how single-use plastics are portrayed in film, television, and media. The first-ever analysis of the portrayal and prevalence of single-use plastics and reusable alternatives in popular scripted television shows found them awash with plastic pollution, modeling a behavior contradictory to the industry’s oft-purported values. The report, launched today at Web Summit 2021, concludes with recommendations including a call for content creators to minimize depictions of single-use plastics and instead consciously model the use of package-free or reusable items. 

Commissioned by Plastic Pollution Coalition, with support from the Break Free From Plastic movement and Plastic Solutions Fund, the research closely examined 32 popular television shows from the 2019-2020 season. Key findings include: 

  • Single-use plastics were common on scripted TV, with an average of 28 single-use plastic items per episode. Single-use items appeared in every single episode
  • 93% of single-use plastic items were not disposed of on screen, contributing to the false narrative of “magically disappearing trash”—the idea that plastic items simply go away on their own, without acknowledging their harm to people and the planet
  • When disposal was shown, the items were highly likely to be littered (80% of disposed items).
  • Only 8 episodes (13% of the sample) included any dialogue about plastic or related issues.
  • Single-use plastics are the primary source of plastic pollution on the planet, with Americans alone discarding more than 30 million tons of plastic a year. With 99% of plastics made from fossil fuels, the climate and environmental justice implications are significant. The report suggests that instead of portraying the unfortunate reality of excessive plastic use, films and TV shows could help change society’s throwaway culture by modeling life with less single-use plastic

“We are shaped and formed by what we watch. Media has the power to reimagine the world and blaze a trail to a regenerative, reusable, refillable, healthy, thriving plastic-free world for all living beings, if only we commit and act now,” says Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO, Plastic Pollution Coalition. 

In tandem with the report’s findings, Plastic Pollution Coalition has launched a multiyear initiative to “Flip the Script on Plastics.”Putting into practice the old adage that life imitates art, Plastic Pollution Coalition intends to change behaviors in homes and workplaces across the globe by building a coalition of actors, writers, and showrunners in the entertainment industry committed to modeling the systemic change needed to solve the plastic pollution crisis. Plastic Pollution Coalition is engaging the entertainment industry in both on- and off-screen efforts; some notable members of Plastic Pollution Coalition include Sergio Arau, Yareli Arizmendi, Ed Begley, Jr., Jack Bender, Jeff Bridges, Fran Drescher, Jeff Franklin, Jake Kasdan, Mandy Moore, Kyra Sedgwick, and Alfre Woodard, among others. 

Dana Weinstein, M.A., Project Specialist at USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center: “Decades of research show that scripted entertainment plays a powerful role in shaping our social norms, attitudes, and behavior on a wide variety of health and social issues. Thus, entertainment can be a highly effective medium for modeling sustainable practices and systems.” 

Jack Bender, television producer and director on Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Lost, and Mr. Mercedes: “It has been many years since we all laughed at the punchline ‘Plastics’ in ‘The Graduate.’ But now it’s no longer funny as we have learned how it is strangling our planet. Movies and TV shows tell stories and model behaviors that have the power to deeply influence popular culture. Through storytelling and on set, this initiative can help transform and measurably reduce the use of single-use plastic in the entertainment industry. I am honored to be a part of this work.” 

Mandy Moore, actress, singer, and songwriter: “Showing the world we need, where fruits and vegetables are free of packaging and other foods and beverages are served in non-toxic, non-plastic reusable materials, is critical. This initiative is an exciting way to shift the popular culture about the role plastic plays in our lives.” 

Ed Begley, Jr., Emmy award–winning actor and environmental activist: “Helping audiences to stop seeing plastic pollution as normal is critical as the world seeks to move away from fossil fuels—of which single-use plastics are made. This initiative couldn’t be more timely as people are realizing the injustice and inequity of plastic pollution and the climate crisis, and world leaders are being pushed to act.” 

Fran Drescher, actress, U.S. Public Diplomacy Envoy, founder of Cancer Schmancer, and president of the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA): “As President of SAG-AFTRA and President of Cancer Schmancer, I am excited about Plastic Pollution Coalition’s Flip the Script initiative; I am creating a seminal Green Council to clean up Hollywood and reduce our industry’s carbon footprint. We must be forward thinking and always consider innovations’ long-term impacts on the health of the planet.” 

Download the full report here

About Plastic Pollution Coalition: Plastic Pollution Coalition is a growing global alliance of more than 1,200 organizations, businesses, and thought leaders in 75 countries working toward a more just, equitable world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals, waterways, oceans, and the environment. 

About the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center: The Norman Lear Center is a nonpartisan research and public policy center that studies the social, political, economic and cultural impact of entertainment on the world. It is based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.           

SPANISH – Lea el informe completo en español.
PORTUGUESE – Leia o relatório completo em português.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jen Fela, Director of Communications, jen@plasticpollutioncoalition.org

By Joanclair Richter

For years, the entertainment industry has built a model of disposable infrastructure: sets are thrown out, plastic water bottles are used for moments between takes only to be tossed (often not even recycled), and eating arrangements are often “disposable.”

Money is tight, decisions are made quickly, and each set is essentially a temporary office: an environment literally cut-out for single-use plastic. So how does one reduce plastic in these fast-paced, budget driven environments?

From commercial and film sets to more corporate settings and film festivals, MovieMind Green increases sustainability throughout the entertainment industry. A central piece of that is reducing the use of single-use plastic (SUP). Because let’s face it, SUP is destroying our oceans and beyond!

Starting in pre-production (reducing waste from happening in the first place), a green set can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of a production overall. Plus, environmental choices are often an investment rather than a cost. In other words, when a production company begins to implement these practices, the financial gains are sky high.

Where do we start?

  1. It all starts with communication. Telling people what to do, or showing up on set as the “green police” is simply ineffective. When people feel that they are part of something, the camaraderie and excitement begins. When the options are obviously laid out and therefore easy to make QUICKLY, why not make the environmentally friendly choice? So signage is key – clear, concise, to the points, not preachy. When people know that they are helping to protect their planet with the choices they are making at work – generally, it’s a win-win. In other words, set up an invitation to take part, connect and be a team player rather than a mandate and a police force.

  2. Water is a human right. Yes, we need it. No, we don’t need it in plastic. Plastic water bottles are a concept that can be gone over a million times and never understood. If a set has taken the time to supply their cast and crew with reusables stainless steel water bottles and water stations, but there is still a case of single-use water bottles being bought in a bind, it isn’t working! Plus, as Director Josh Soskin’s point goes: a set with no plastic water bottles is prettier. So I’ve given you an answer: but an answer that requires research and potentially a bigger budget. Research? Call MovieMind Green. Budget? Cheaper. The budget line savings potential for switching to reusables and water stations is 51 percent (Green Production Guide).

  3. Everybody’s got to eat! On a set, often meals are taken to-go. Maybe shooting is still going on and the director can’t get away for lunch. There are compostables for that situation, sure. And the price difference there is negligible and the options are extensive. (Note: industrial composting is necessary for some of these compostable products.) BUT EVEN MORE – take a second to dream with us of a set where each person has their own plate and set of utensils they bring with them. Set up dishwashing stations and make it a team effort. And that won’t be a dream for long because it IS THE SOLUTION. In the meantime, most catering companies can supply reusable plates and utensils. The savings is on the environment, as we divert waste from the landfill. What about craftie? That station where people can fill up on coffee or grab a snack. Snacks are a nightmare. Chip bags are generally not recyclable. Buy in bulk. Get a giant bin of pretzels – put out a bowl and tongs.

  4. Waste Preventing plastic from arriving on set = less plastic to haul away = smaller waste bill. This is a huge win for the bottom line and the environment.

  5. On Screen Talking about what goes on screen can be touchy – solution? If you can start the conversation without offending anyone creatively, do! Be very careful to not get involved in the story. Can the character carry a stainless steel water bottle rather than a plastic bottle in the shot? The moving image and the entertainment industry has an incredible impact on the way every person sees their own life and their own choices.

People ask why MovieMind Green’s work focuses on the entertainment industry. Beyond love for the medium, we appreciate the audience size, the breadth and the reach that movies have to all parts of the world. Between all the languages and demographics – a message in this industry is priceless. The questions now is whether this industry that has such an influence can show a clean and green method from office to production, both on and off the screen.

Joanclair Richter is the founder and president of MovieMind Green, a Plastic Pollution Coalition member business.

Learn more about Plastic Pollution Coalition’s Plastic Free Events guide. 

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