Storytelling school

Hollywood Climate Summit Founders on Storytelling and Climate Awareness

The third annual Hollywood Climate Summit will take place June 23-26. This will be the first time the summit has used a hybrid model of in-person and virtual events. Co-founded by Allison Begalman and Samuel Rubin, the summit is a call to action for the entertainment community to address the climate emergency. Over the course of four action-oriented days, there will be networking and digital and interactive programming. The theme for the Hollywood Climate Summit 2022 will be Climate Storytelling. It is completely free for anyone wishing to participate in the events either in person Where on line.

The summit will work with media sponsors and local community leaders to raise climate awareness within the professional entertainment community. The summit workshops will focus on topics underrepresented in climate crisis conservations, such as racial justice and the importance of showcasing positive climate behavior in television and film. Workshops include “Climate Ambassadors Network Training” and “Creators 4 Climate: Creating Social Media Content & Building Community,” as well as an in-person networking mixer at a Culver City brewery.

There will also be an evening event called “Eco-Bash”, which will be the summit’s pride party in support of intersectionality between the LGBTQ+ community and climate justice. Programming sponsors include Netflix, NBC Universal, Earth Angel and Paramount Global, as well as several other organizations committed to addressing the climate crisis.

Co-founders Begalman and Rubin began their advocacy with Young Entertainment Activists, an organization that organizes action-oriented events for young Hollywood professionals to bring about change in the entertainment industry. Their mission was to combine networking and activism into an engaging daily habit. The organization and the community grew rapidly because people were looking for a space to come together around social issues. Ahead of the summit, Begalman and Rubin spoke to Shondaland about what they hope to accomplish at this year’s Hollywood Climate Summit.


SHARMIN RAHMAN: What is your background in entertainment? What inspired this crossover between Hollywood and climate justice?

ALLISON BEGALMAN: I have a background in television writing. I was on the verge of becoming a showrunner when I first left college and took the screenwriting program at USC. I was doing labor organizing in college, then I moved on to organizing gay people and women. As my community was in Hollywood, I started to organize myself within this community. Grey’s Anatomy is actually one of my favorite shows because it does such a great job of telling climate stories.

SAMUEL RUBIN: I’m a producer and I’ve always been interested in social impact storytelling. Ever since I was 13, I knew I wanted to be an impact producer and channel grassroots activism with storytelling. I went to performing arts schools and grew up as a child actor, so I was always a theater queen!

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RAHMAN: How did you get started at Young Entertainment Activists? What did you do there?

INSIST ON: At Young Entertainment Activists, I wanted to give people the tools to claim their identity with storytelling and storytelling. I joined Young Entertainment Activists in the summer of 2019 and started volunteering because I loved the community. The main [priority] has always been the climate. Everything we do affects the climate in which we live. We have therefore launched strategic plans to close the industry’s gaps in the fight against climate change. This can be done with storytelling and also with behind the scenes work. We want to make sure the sets are as durable and as [zero waste] as possible and also support grassroots activists.

RAHMAN: Why do you think intersectional storytelling is important in the climate change conversation? How will your summit work to center voices of color on climate change?

BEGALMAN: Excellent question. Ultimately, environmental justice is one of the most intersectional movements in the world today. It affects every kind of community – from racial equity to immigration to economic justice. Entertainment work needs to reflect that. We can use our storytelling to amplify intersectional environmentalism. For me, intersectional environmentalism work for creatives is about amplifying and creating characters who are BIPOC, who are disabled, who come from frontline areas for climate change, like the Pacific Islands. We also need to support other movements. If you are a queer person, you should come forward for Black Lives Matter. You should show up for all other movement types that you can be an ally with, as this is an intersectional approach to alliance.

We also have a program called “Start at Intersections – Fair and Ethical Climate Storytelling”. This is a workshop for creators and executives who want to practice integrating intersectional climate narratives into television and film scripts and fictional narratives.

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INSIST ON: It’s important in entertainment to incorporate BIPOC characters whose issues we can see with the nuances of character and the realities they face. I like a potential climate hookup that Allison wrote for Scandal; [it] is about Olivia Pope signing with an Indigenous rights activist who opposed the fossil fuel industry.

BEGALMAN: You need to start with: Is this your story to tell? There is an ethic behind this work at this point. You need to do some research to find out if this is your story to tell. How can I make it a story I should tell if it’s not about my community? Who can I include on my team that reflects this community? We want to educate people on how to make work intersectional.

INSIST ON: Allison and I are both gay, but we’re also white or transient white. There is a lot of intersectionality through which we educate ourselves with summit programming. We want the structure of the summit to elevate the voices of people who have no funding or support. This year, we will begin the summit with a video commissioned by a Tongva artist in partnership with the Sacred Places Institute, as well as the Gabrielino Tongva Springs Foundation. We are on indigenous land and we must welcome indigenous creators.

RAHMAN: What led to the decision to keep aspects of the Hollywood Climate Summit online?

BEGALMAN: Ultimately, people come to the summit to meet other professionals in the climate media community, so the fact that our virtual platform, Hopin, allows our attendees to schedule one-on-one calls with each others inside the platform – as well as random networking – makes it the best for us in terms of functionality. As we have participants joining the event from all over the world (over 27 countries!), it is essential that our virtual programming is as accessible and interactive as possible. Attendees can also engage directly with partner organizations and sponsors at Hopin’s vendor exhibit booths to learn about the work of these organizations and learn how they can get involved. You will see all of this once you log in to Hopin.

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INSIST ON: It’s a very interactive process. All of this year’s summit programming, both in-person and virtual, is very engaging. It targets storytellers and creators who want to come to the program with ideas. One of the offerings is “Writing Climate Stories,” hosted by NBC Universal. There will be plenty of creators, executives, and mid-level buyers looking for climate stories. We want the Hollywood Climate Summit to be the marketplace, the SXSW where all the creators can be amplified and where the activists, who have those stories but maybe they don’t have the entertainment experience, can have a great pause.

RAHMAN: In what ways would you like to see Hollywood move forward on sustainable practices and climate change?

BEGALMAN: Next year we focus on climate migration, which touches on so many issues. For us, we want Hollywood to invest more in climate storytelling over the next five years. People want to watch climate stories; it is a good business venture. We want them to use more sustainable technology and continue to build relationships and build silos.

INSIST ON: What we saw at the Hollywood Climate Summit is that it is a coalition building effort. The summit has so many innovators and creators. Yes, the theme is storytelling this year, but we also want writers to know that if they’re writing a screenplay, they can use an amazing paperless app called Scriptation. … We want the summit to be a place where production can find funding and where junior professionals can find jobs. We need a place where people can feel supported in a community.


Sharmin Rahman is a fiction writer and screenwriter, who recently graduated from UCLA’s Writers Program. Raised in Brooklyn, Rahman currently lives in Los Angeles where she is working on her first collection of short stories. Follow her on Twitter @sharminerahman.

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