IMAX launches 'Big Picture' environmental initiative

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IMAX Corp. has launched an ambitious corporate social responsibility initiative called “Big Picture.” The wide-ranging campaign (#IMAXBigPicture) will leverage the power of film to promote awareness of and appreciation for the “big picture,” the understanding that the actions we take in our daily lives can significantly impact the future of the planet. Under the initiative, IMAX has partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) specifically to address the host of environmental, societal and economic issues facing society as a whole. 

With the launch of its documentary film A Beautiful Planet on April 29, IMAX hopes to showcase the power of film in addressing these issues.

The IMAX-UNEP partnership will promote solutions against climate change as well as actions to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through film. Formally adopted by 193 member countries in September, the UN’s 17 development goals range from eradicating poverty, promoting gender equality and protecting the environment to ensuring universal access to clean water, modern energy and quality education. Under the partnership, the organizations will encourage the production of sustainability-themed films on a wide array of issues that lie at the heart of the UN’s efforts to protect the planet, end poverty and ensure peace and prosperity for all.

As part of the agreement,IMAX will launch a series of educational screenings and charitable premieres—called “In Feature”—to showcase sustainability-themed films. It will also encourage the development of films and documentaries to promote the UN’s 2030 sustainability agenda and to promote global action around World Environment Day on June 5 and the UN Campaign on the Illegal Trade in Wildlife.

“This global endeavor builds upon IMAX’s DNA and bridges to our legacy in advancing society’s understanding of and appreciation for mankind’s natural surroundings and co-habitants through documentary films,” said IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond. “We couldn’t think of a better partner than UNEP to help mobilize action and build on this foundation. Our hope is that by launching this campaign, we will change minds and hearts and make a greater impact across the world.”

UN Under-Secretary General and executive director of UNEP Achim Steiner said, “As an iconic storytelling platform and distribution network, IMAX brings entertainment and information to captive audiences across the world. Such an impact is immensely valuable. IMAX has also made a commitment to corporate social responsibility in the form of its Big Picture initiative. This work is just as important. Coupling the two in efforts to bring attention to the social, economic and environmental issues affecting our planet aligns with UNEP’s goals of engaging the public to better our world."

As part of the “Big Picture” campaign, IMAX also launched “In Focus,” a program to shine a light on the work of young filmmakers and inspire them to pursue careers in filmmaking. Under this initiative, IMAX—in collaboration with UNEP—will establish an annual young filmmakers’ competition, challenging participants to create public-service announcements or short films addressing issues like climate change and access to clean water and quality education. The program builds on the mission of The Michelle & Kevin Douglas IMAX Theatre and Immersive Media Lab at The USC School of Cinematic Arts, which opened in 2014, to provide student filmmakers hands-on opportunities to work with the latest in cinematography and IMAX film technology. 

As a first step, on March 16 IMAX convened a panel discussion at USC’s Michelle & Kevin Douglas IMAX Theatre and Immersive Media Lab to discuss “The Power of Film to Effect Change.” Moderated by USC’s School of Cinematic Arts’ Dean Elizabeth Daley, the panel included Gelfond together with Naysan Sahba, director of communications at UNEP, World Bank’s Action4Climate program director Lucia Grenna, and film producer Lawrence Bender. The session was followed by a reel featuring several of IMAX’s noteworthy environmentally focused documentaries as well as an extended clip of A Beautiful Planet.