Case Study

Purple Mountains (2020)

The Team

Jeremy Jones (Main character and Executive Producer), Josh Murphy (Director and Executive Producer), Adrienne Hall (Producer & Impact Producer)


Purple Mountain is a documentary that was executive produced by and features
professional extreme snowboarder Jeremy Jones. The film is specifically aimed at outdoor
enthusiasts who also happen to be climate skeptics or climate deniers living in red and swing
states in the US. The goal of the film was to use shared love of the outdoors to convince the
audience to vote for politicians who are committed to climate action. The film was released a
few months before the 2020 presidential election, when there was clearly one climate denying
candidate and another who pledged to take significant action to curb climate change. Although
the film’s primary goal was to influence the outcome of that particular election, the filmmaking
team considers the film’s message to be just as relevant today. Hence, they along with their
partner organizations have continued to use the film as part of their climate advocacy work.

Creative Design

From the initial stages of conceptualization, the filmmakers recognized that there is extreme polarization around the topic of climate change, despite the saturation of films that seek to motivate climate action. They assessed that existing films are mostly directed towards people who are at least somewhat receptive to the scientific data regarding climate change. Most of these films were not reaching climate skeptics and deniers who consumed information from a different media bubble. The filmmakers wanted to move beyond the political divide and reach the voters who had been made to believe that voting to protect the environment was not in their best interest. The film sets this politically neutral tone from the outset. The opening sequence of the film is a montage of speeches made by both Republican AND Democratic presidents over the last 50 years, discussing the need to implement policies that protect the environment. Not only that, the first two presidents featured in that opening sequence are: Richard Nixon (R) and Ronald Reagan (R). This is meant to disarm an audience member who might be instantly turned off by climate advocacy due to a belief that environmental protection policy is an exclusively Democratic issue. 

Purple Mountains is a character driven film starring Jeremy Jones, who throughout the film interacts with characters who are representative of the audience the film is trying to reach. The impact campaign structured the film this way because foregrounding the personal relationships between the characters, and their shared love for the outdoors, helps narrow the chasm between the two sides of the political debate. This strategy of relatability builds on the tone of bipartisanship and promotes harmony, as opposed to combativeness when it comes to discussing climate policy. Throughout the documentary, Jones emphasizes his love for the mountains and his personal fear around the rapid decrease in snowfall on mountains. Once he builds that foundation of trust, Jones relies on his knowledge of science and climate policy to try and convince the characters he meets to vote differently. He is able to seamlessly switch between these two languages (the personal and the logical) because, besides his work as a high-profile snowboarder, he is a founder of an organization dedicated to advocating for systemic change around climate policy.

Collaborative Model

he filmmakers collaborated with a range of strategic partners that supported the film, either financially or through their own climate advocacy work. The main partner supporting Purple Mountain is Protect Our Winters, a non-profit dedicated to non-partisan climate advocacy, founded by Jeremy Jones. Liars and Thieves is the film production company that produced the film; it is founded by the director Josh Murphy. Sound Off Film was in charge of designing the impact campaign for Purple Mountains. Teton Gravity Research is a brand that produces content about all things related to the outdoors and outdoor activities. Jeremy Jones, in his capacity as a high-profile snowboarder had previously been featured in several of their films. In the same vein, the brand provided backing for Purple Mountains. Beyond these partners that were involved in the production and distribution of the film, the film was also sponsored by several well-known brands such as Cliff Bar and Hemp Fusion.

Now that the initial goal of mobilizing voters in the 2020 presidential election has been achieved, this first impact campaign is wrapped up. However, Purple Mountains continues to be embedded within this network of partner organizations that are engaged in long-term efforts. One only needs to do a quick search on any podcast platform to find Protect Our Winters staff and athlete ambassadors giving interviews to promote the film’s message of non-partisan climate advocacy that is centered around people’s love for the outdoors. 

Outreach Strategies

Protect Our Winters works with many athlete ambassadors with large social media followings, who are influencers within the outdoor enthusiast community. One of the main strategies of the impact campaign is to leverage the trust that the followers of these ambassadors already have to promote the film’s message. The filmmakers report being affiliated with such athletes has allowed easier access to politicians who are impressed by the reach that these influencers have.

Measuring Impact

Given that so much of the film distribution and outreach strategy is centered around social media, the impact team has taken advantage of social media analytics to assess the reach of their impact campaign. Only a few months after the film was released, the team reported almost 350,000 views of the film, with about 90% of the viewers across various platforms identifying as men. Organic as well as sponsored posts about the impact campaign made by affiliated social media accounts reached over 6 million users. After attending a screening, nearly 300 people accessed the discussion guide provided on the website. About 50% of the people who engaged with Purple Mountains through the Protect Our Winters website made a plan to vote. 55% completed their plan to vote.


Up Next

The Elephant Queen

Ten years in the making, The Elephant Queen defies genre as a blue-chip wildlife film with a character-driven narrative. It is an epic journey following the matriarch, Athena, as she leads her herd across the merciless savanna in a time of extreme drought. Directors Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble and their assistant director, Etienne Oliff, were committed to making sure the film had a positive impact on wild elephant conservation in Kenya as well as engaging a broad, global audience.