Climate Ad Project is a non-profit organization that focuses on creating short media aimed at increasing the public’s awareness of the global climate change crisis. This project was created by Harold Moss. Harold is also the founder of the animation and production studio, FlickerLab. They have worked with media brands like Bleacher Report, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Disney, VH1, Michael Moore, Sesame Workshop, as well as the largest global agencies and brands, film studios, political candidates, causes, and educational companies. Harold Moss, has spent his career fusing storytelling, technology and a passion for change-making media and introduces the Climate Ad Project to his long list of impactful projects. In this interview, we discuss his process on a project, favorite project with FlickerLab and the Climate Ad Project’s mission.
Hi Harold! Tell us a bit about yourself. What was your first job in animation and how did you decide to pursue your craft professionally?
I studied documentary filmmaking, but when I moved to New York City, my focus was on activism. So I got a “pay-the-bills” job doing office work at an ad agency. Which was boring as fuck. So I taught myself computer graphics along the way, eventually figuring out enough to animate two TV spots for Bear Stearns, a client of the agency, on a now defunct piece of digital animation software. While Bear Stearns went belly up in the 2008 financial crisis, to date no one has been able to link that back to the spots I animated for them in the ’90s. Yet here I am, still animating.
Can you walk us through the process you go through when creating an animated project?
We create such a huge range of projects across just about every platform and device, so that means a lot of processes. Building out pipelines for new platforms and new kinds of storytelling is really my jam. But as far as there’s a “standard” process for animation, it’s something like this:
Why is this project animated? Answering this basic question is a crucial first step and will inform the rest of the project. And if there’s not a good reason, maybe it shouldn’t be animated.
Budget. Animation can range from a couple of stick figures, to a million dollar plus a minute Pixar film. So finding the aesthetic and technical combination to maximize the resources you have is key. Animations succeed on their own terrain, so you have to pick that carefully.
Scripting. This is where answering 1 and 2 starts to pay off. Are you writing with the reasons you chose animation, and the resources you have available to produce it, in mind? Writing for animation is as much about laying out visual storytelling to inform the boarding process as it is dialog.
Design. We like to have two or three artists attack the design to get some unexpected concepts in the mix. Again, the design must be informed by your overall concept *and* the money you have to animate.
Storyboarding. In animation, storyboarding is part of the writing process. As well as locking down your story, a lot of gags and new concepts are introduced here. Storyboard artists are writers, creators, and directors as much as illustrators.
Storyboard cut. We create a radio play of the dialog, then time the storyboard out. This is the roadmap to the animation. This is where you want to problem solve and reorganize—before you start animating.
Then the piece gets chopped up and handed out across the different animators, while background artists create the environments and props.
Compositing. Here we bring together the animation, backgrounds, and special effects, camera moves, and such.
Finishing. Music and sound design added, final color correct applied to the finished animation, final audio mix, and you’re out the door!
Even that is a simplified version. Animation takes a lot of people doing a lot of work! One of the most important strands that runs through this is you want to stack your decision making and edits at the top. Easy to change a script, harder, but still relatively easy to change a storyboard, but just money down the toilet to start reworking something once you’re in animation.
Which of FlickerLab’s projects did you enjoy creating the most and why?
Definitely up there was creating and producing the series “How the Body Works” for KidsHealth.org. Though we worked with panels of doctors for each episode to get all the facts right, I was delighted with how weird they let it be. I’ve done a lot of high profile projects, but “How the Body Works” is used in 30,000 classrooms every year, and featured on KidsHealth.org which is the #1 site for kids and health, so this series will probably be one of the most viewed things I ever do (and I got to voice The Nurb, the waddling, purple fella who guides us through the series, and that was a blast).
Can you tell us more about Climate Ad Project? What is the organization’s mission?
Climate Ad Project is a non-profit organization creating short media aimed at waking up people to the civilization collapsing scale crisis that is climate change, and building consensus on the urgency of shutting down the global fossil fuel economy. Seriously. We have a few short years to shut it down before we lock in utterly catastrophic impacts without any way back. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued their “bleakest warning yet,” and we should expect every report to get bleaker still until we shut down the fossil fuel industry. And if global dependence on Russian fossil fuel supplies (and lots of other bad actors) doesn’t have you clamoring for getting off the stuff, and your name doesn’t rhyme with rootin’, then what are you smoking? It’s definitely not the good stuff.
I founded the group with NASA Climate Scientist Peter Kalmus, and a group of incredible media makers and storytellers. We’re unfunded, and up against the countless billions spent by the fossil fuel industry to spread climate disinformation and buy political influence. So, we could use all the support we can get! This is the most important work any of us could be doing right now.
Did I mention we need to shut down the fossil fuel industry? Yeah, we really do.
How has your background in animation tied into the creation and success of Climate Ad Project?
I’ve spent the last 20 years creating animations and other kinds of films that make folks laugh, but just as often are aimed at shaking up how they think about the world. At its best, comedy provides a kind of neurological end run around our very human tendency to believe the absolute truth of every piece of nonsense in our head, regardless of how it got lodged there.
I also spent the last dozen years trying to get a daily climate media project off the ground, but could never get it funded. So there was much joy, and relief, to find such an incredible group of folks ready to make it happen. Any success we’re having is the result of this amazing team of creatives. We’ve got animators, editors, designers, writers, scientists, and all kinds of folks from all over the world stepping up to the plate. And we’re always looking for more! Your planet needs YOU to help make Climate Ads!
Do you have any other exciting projects coming out in the near future that you can tell us about?
Oof, so many I *can’t* talk about yet. But we’re about to film the pilot for our first original FlickerLab series. It combines live music and incredible meals by sustainable focused local chefs. That will be in regular production by summer, and is the first of a line-up of original shows we’re rolling into production over the next year.
Do you have any advice for aspiring creatives or titles?
Well, if you’re a media maker, and sick of fossil fuel trillions literally burning your and your children’s future down, get in touch with the Climate Ad Project. Our storytelling becomes exponentially more powerful when we join together to make a sustained push
One of the things I’ve learned over 30+ years of activism is learning the balance between patience and impatience. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Fighting for change is joining that arc. We stand on the shoulders of giants, we’re building towards a future we won’t be here to see, so we need the patience of a long distance runner. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be pushing like hell for the changes we need right now. So it’s a very zen sort of balancing act. FIght like hell, but understand it’s a struggle that will continue long after you’re gone.
Thank you so much for reading! You can learn more about Climate Ad Project here, and Harold Moss’s work with Flickerlab here.