Damon Gameau: That 2040 Film

April 3, 2019
Following the massive success, both in cinemas and its impact on society, of That Sugar Film, the actor turned filmmaker has made a highly entertaining family climate film full of solutions for our future.

You’ve done this film for the sake of your daughter, at least primarily. What sparked the idea beyond your daughter?

Just that I didn’t know what to do. There just seemed very little avenue for action apart from eating less meat and buying a Tesla, something which I can’t afford. I just didn’t know what to do, and felt very hopeless by it, and didn’t really know what I was going to talk to her about if she asked me. I found myself completely disengaging with any environmental story because I found it too overwhelming. It was too existential. I didn’t know how to approach it. So, I just started thinking and reading and the more I read, it just opened up that ‘my god, there are so many things we can do, but they don’t seem to be getting anywhere near the same attention that the dystopian versions we’re getting.’ I thought, there’s got to be a balance. It’s important to get that diagnosis because you want to know what’s wrong. But if you just keeping bashing people over the head, can we not counteract that with some positive ways out as well? That’s really what inspired the film. I also watched a lot of climate films and environmental films, and there was not a lot around solution.

In terms of the kids being interviewed in the film, how many different countries did you survey kids from and were you amazed by their responses?

Tanzania, Bangladesh, Singapore, Sweden, a couple in America, UK. Ages were six to ten. That was probably the best part of the film, hearing their response.

Part of me was quite upset by some of the responses. Some of them were quite emotive in terms of how much they are scared for the planet and what’s going on. These kids shouldn’t know this. But then, equally, quite inspired by what some of them were saying and thinking, and inspired by the thought of them getting a position of power in the future… They’re growing up with a different set of cultural norms than we did. None of us could say that. We didn’t have plastic in the ocean problem. We didn’t know about climate change. The fact that they know at such a young age means that they’re integrating it into their value systems, which means once they get into positions of power, if we haven’t destroyed the planet enough by then, I feel very confident that they’re going to do something.

The film’s approach in terms of style is quite fun… Even if the subject is not fun, making it approachable and accessible. Was that part of your methodology?

It’s that thing of, ‘how do you bring in people that won’t want to see this?’ You finish work. You don’t want to go watch a film about how the reefs are dead. It’s very hard to sit through. So how do you express this kind of information in a way that’s faithful and accessible? And I think people are more prone to listening when they’re engaged. If something new is popping up or the graphics are really interesting, ‘Oh, this is compelling. There’s something different about this’. So that was the idea of just trying to cut through and find a new way to share that information because I think there’s so much information out there right now. What’s your product difference? How are you going to actually get through? It’s a family climate film, which I don’t know that there’s many out there. How do we get the whole family engaged in this topic and conversation? Because not enough families are.

Your film is so overwhelming and positive all the way through. Did you know about some of these solutions before you started?

I didn’t know about any of them, really. A researcher and I worked together for about six months and I just narrowed things down into certain categories around energy or agriculture. And then, really, it was about finding those solutions, which ones had the most cascading benefits, and which ones would have a lot of ripple effects in terms of solutions. I found I needed to find a way to care about it and I didn’t know how to. But the last three years … I do feel hopeful. I do think we can do it. I think that not enough people believe that. There’s a nihilistic narrative that’s emerging because we are absolutely smashed with negative fear. So, it’s understandable but once you shift your focus a little bit, you go, ‘Of course, we can do this.’ There are massive hurdles, but we’ve got to believe that we can do it if we’re ever going to do it.

It’s a paradigm shift, it’s not just about energy, but how do we distribute that energy? We’ve had this century very centralised governments, centralised finance, but that’s not working for us. And so, we now have technologies that allow us to decentralise in a big way and bring more power to communities, more power at a local level. Technology’s on our side in that sense, so why not just go down that road?

These ideas are great, and they clearly work, but it’s getting governments and massive companies invested… How do we change that?

If enough people see the alternative, who say ‘oh, that’s viable’, then you know what to put pressure on. You know what to ask at a policy level. You know what investors to start investing in. That’s the way it happens. But if you can’t see it at first … we can all go, ‘Oh, it’s never going to happen. It’s too hard. There’s vested interest’. We all know that. We get it. But I think you also need to know. So, instead of lambasting and wasting our energy and going, ‘we’ve got to shut down Exxon’, use some of that energy to go, ‘let’s invest in this, let’s crowdfund this, let’s bring venture capitalists in’. That’s what is missing.

What do you hope for distribution of the film?

We had great success in Australia with our first film, That Sugar Film; we did this tour of the country where we invited people to come out, have a debate and discussion about it. We had experts on stage and really got great conversations going. We’re wanting to do that again with this one. Yes, it’s nice to be on a streaming platform, that would be great, and someone might just watch it, but I want people to come out, watch it together. Let’s have a debate. What can you do in your community? Here’s something you can access on our website that signs a form that gets you to get together and go to the council and say, ‘You know what? We want our food waste collected and used for energy’. Or, what are those point of agency that people can have to really step up? We need that. We need people to not just to eat less meat and ride a bike to work. Actually, we’ve reached a point where you’ve got to find agency and stand up.

2040 is screening at the 2019 Vision Splendid Film Festival, June 28 – July 6, 2019



  1. Michelle

    Definitely seeing this one Damon ! Thanks for making great doco’s for us.

  2. Tatina Semprini

    The most amazing, inspiring film ever. I loved it and watched it again a second time. Everybody needs to see this film, from school children to politicians. We all need to get involved, and it’s so comforting to see that we have all we need to save the world – we just need to get everybody, especially people in power, on board!

Leave a Comment