Young people march with white banners.

A sign at a climate protest in Toulouse, France, on March 25, 2022, references Adam McKay's movie Don't Look Up.

(Photo: Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

'No Time to Waste': Don't Look Up Team Launches Studio to Push Back on Climate Disinformation

Yellow Dot Studios announced its debut with a satirical commercial for "Big Money."

The filmmaker-producer team behind Don't Look Up launched a new climate-focused, "anti-bullshit" media venture Tuesday with a spoof advertisement for "Big Money."

The satirical video is the first offering from Academy Award-winning writer-director-producer Adam McKay's new Yellow Dot Studios, a nonprofit devoted to counteracting decades of fossil fuel-funded misinformation about the climate emergency.

"The climate is changing much faster than large swathes of our media are telling us, and there is no time to waste," McKay said in a statement. "Oil companies' horrible and destructive disinformation created decades of delay in dealing with climate breakdown. Yellow Dot's goal is to push back, whether that's through in-house videos, or videos for climate orgs and activist groups, to help get people involved and activated at a rapid pace."

"We wanted to highlight the—I think this is the technical term—the boatloads of money that are going into corrupting the system and in turn hurting the climate change movement."

The first sample of Yellow Dot's work is "Big Money."

"It's unregulated, gathers by the billions, causes inaction on the climate crisis, bank collapses, and an unaffordable life for billions of people. It sells itself, but now it has its own commercial. Raise a toast to what made it all possible," the video's YouTube description reads.

The video, written by McKay, follows an imagined protagonist from their first paper route to a luxurious life as a lawmaker-purchasing, climate change-denying mogul with an "empty, life-sucking, zombie, lamprey" where their heart used to be.

Yellow Dot managing editor Staci Roberts-Steele, who also co-produced the 2021 film Don't Look Up, told Common Dreams that the studio wanted to focus its first video on the root cause of both the climate emergency and the false information surrounding it.

"For many decades, Big Oil's been pushing the narrative that climate is the fault of the individual, and, even though we should all be doing our part and recycling and things like that, the biggest offender of pollution and production of CO2 are the fossil fuel companies," Roberts-Steele said.

Despite being fully aware of this fact, these companies have made no real effort to reduce their emissions, and continue to push for additional fossil fuel developments like ConocoPhillips' Willow project in Alaska, she added.

"We wanted to highlight the—I think this is the technical term—the boatloads of money that are going into corrupting the system and in turn hurting the climate change movement," Roberts-Steele told Common Dreams.

However, not everything Yellow Dot Studios produces will be so "cutting," Roberts-Steele said. The team also plans to signal boost the efforts of organizations doing important but underreported work and run more purely informational videos. For example, next week they plan to release content about how U.S. residents can take advantage of the savings and rebates in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Right now, the studio's goal is to post a video or meme on social media every week for the next five or six months. The team is currently working from a bank of scripts completed before the Writer's Guild of America strike began May 2. If they run out of content before the strike ends, they will shift to projects that don't require writing like public stunts and other types of climate campaigns.

The nonprofit receives funding from climate philanthropists and donors. Rounding out the team are five-time Emmy-nominated producer Anna Wenger as a second producer, climate scientist and policy adviser Dr. Ayana Johnson as a board member, and activist and advertiser David Fenton as senior adviser.

"We just started talking about creating short-form content that could fight disinformation."

Yellow Dot Studios takes its name from two different sources, McKay explained on the website.

"Yellow Dot is the sun, which thanks to the heat-trapping pollution from burning fossil fuels, is a part of the problem… and also a major part of the solution," he wrote. "It is a yellow light about to turn red."

Roberts-Steele said that the yellow light sends a signal to "slow down."

McKay and Roberts-Steele first became aware of the effectiveness of short-form video messaging when they ran a campaign of climate information videos for Netflix alongside Don't Look Up. Then, in September 2022, they worked together on a viral spoof Chevron ad.

"We put that out and got 5 million views overnight," Roberts-Steele told Common Dreams. "And we just started talking about creating short-form content that could fight disinformation."

The response to their latest venture has been "really great," Roberts-Steele said.

"We've heard from people, kind of, of all political backgrounds—or at least a good cross section—that are just happy that we're calling out Big Oil money," she said.

There were also plenty of responses from people who just found it funny.

While the humor in McKay and Robert-Steele's climate projects can edge toward the cynical at times, Robert-Steele says she does have hope for the future. This hope comes partly from knowing that solutions do exist and partly from watching the younger generation.

"I have a five-year-old daughter, and she was just learning about Earth Day last month," Roberts-Steele said, "and she came home from school and was like, 'We need to get all this bad stuff out of the air so we can save Mother Earth.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, that's kind of the idea!'"

That sense of optimism extends to the future of Yellow Dot Studios itself, namely, that it will soon no longer be needed.

"I hope I don't have a job in a couple of years because I can move on to something else because we've figured this out," she said.

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