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The Power of Emotion

Storytelling can take viewers on a journey through many moods, and build toward a climax that leaves viewers profoundly sad, inspired, outraged, or filled with wonder. Cinematic style, music, sound design, voice, tone, all combine to create a heightened responsiveness. Research reveals that deep emotional sensations can engage and motivate audiences to action.

Gloom and Doom vs. Utopian Visioning?

There are so many urgent stories to tell about climate justice, species extinction, pollution, deforestation, and also about joy, resilience, hope, love, and community. From gorgeous natural history films to short-form digital videos, from hard-hitting investigative docs to comedic adventures, there are many ways to engage. In the early 2000s, when scientists released new data about global warming, a barrage of gloom-and-doom media followed. Yet, research has found that “fear appeals” do not always promote action. In fact, they can have the effect of distancing or disengaging people, leaving them “feeling helpless and overwhelmed.” Studies show that solutions-oriented films are far more likely to be catalysts for action. Inspiring audiences with the possibility of change and an aspirational vision of “credible hope” are key to how filmmakers influence a global environmental movement.

“With The Cove, all you needed was to watch the trailer. 

People were like, okay, tell me what I can do right now! 

They didn’t even need to watch the movie.” 

–Wendy Cohen, President, Picture Motion

Emotional Engagement Continuum

There is a range of “emotional” appeals that can be used to engage viewers, beyond the extremes of abject apathy and utopian aspiration. Below, we present examples of how different approaches manifest a connection with audiences. 


Creative Design

The Empathy Factor

Who Are The Real Experts

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