frequently asked questions
We’ve compiled some of our most commonly asked questions below, covering everything from the extreme ice survey and filmmaking process, climate science, how to host a screening, and more.
What inspired the story of chasing ice?
Director Jeff Orlowski was connected to James Balog through a mutual friend, and would meet on occasion in Boulder, Colorado when he visited. Jeff was a photographer, and a huge fan of James’s work, and really wanted to collaborate with him. In 2007, he started his project called the Extreme Ice Survey and Jeff signed on as a helper. When Jeff first went with the EIS team to Iceland to begin installing their first time lapse cameras, Jeff filmed the entire trip. It was mostly just to document what they were doing and to have a record of the project. Overtime, Jeff accompanied the team to Greenland and Alaska, and continued filming everywhere they went. They had collected a great archive of the project, and knew they could make a great film out of it. There had been so many efforts to document climate change before, but this one was unique. As James’s time lapses started to come back from the field, we knew the project was working and so Jeff put all his efforts into making a feature doc, built a world-class team to support him, and spent the next few years dedicated to ice.
What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
The biggest challenge was the harsh environments. We had weather as low as negative 30 degrees. One winter night in Greenland, the crew actually thought they might freeze to death in their cabin. Their heater was leaking gas so they decided to go to sleep without it and woke up in the middle of the night from their own teeth chattering. But as cold as it was, and as difficult as it may seem, that was also the fun stuff.
how many locations did you shoot?
The list is too long! Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, Glacier National Park in Montana, the Alps, Bolivia, Canada…wherever James went, we followed. Beyond the work in the field, we filmed scientists and experts all around the country who could help explain why James’s work is so critical.
how did you select your locations?
James selected the locations to install his time lapse cameras based on wanting to capture a very broad representation of glaciers all around the world. He wanted this Extreme Ice Survey to show people how glaciers are responding everywhere — not just in one small region.
how did you decide where to install the time lapse cameras?
There are two kinds of glaciers we were interested in. One was glaciers that end in and interact with the ocean. These glaciers calve icebergs, and many are located in Alaska and Greenland. The second kind are glaciers that end on land in the high mountains. They’re also retreating very rapidly because of warming. Places like Iceland, the Alps in Europe, and Glacier National Park were other choices for us. Some of it was a matter of opportunity. The Himalayas are a very difficult place to get to.
how did the team pass the time when waiting for the spectacular calving event?
The team divided the day into three 8-hour shifts. Each person would be up for 8 hours sitting and watching, while the other slept or maintained the camp, then both would both be awake in the evening for dinner. It was actually really beautiful to just watch and listen, even if nothing was going on. Under those conditions it takes a lot of work just to keep the camp maintained and running smoothly, so other downtime would include downloading cameras, re-charging batteries, backing everything up, and cooking.
How did you capture audio of the calving event?
When we filmed the big calving scene we were too far away from the glacier to accurately capture the actual sound. We ended up employing three reliable sources. The first was from calving events in Alaska and places in Greenland where we had been close enough to the glaciers and were able to capture the original sounds in a very high quality. The second source came from Skywalker Sound. They have a great library of ice calving sounds from different ice projects that they worked on. The third source actually came from Jason Amundson, a scientist from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Jason and his team use seismometers, which are designed to measure earthquakes. They can capture any vibration on the planet, and the waveform created when a piece of ice calves can be converted from the vibration into sound waves. So it’s basically having a contact microphone on the planet capturing the sound of the vibrating bedrock. It really does sound that intense. We were right next to the tremors and the big calving events are extremely noisy.
Following Chasing Ice, Exposure Labs’ dove head first into their next project, Chasing Coral. Utilizing time lapse photography again, the film was the first to document in real time, the devastating effects of climate change on reef ecosystems. It went on to play at over 80 film festivals and win over 30 awards, including the 2017 Sundance Audience Award, the Hi5DocImpact Award, and an Emmy for “Best Nature Documentary. With the support of small team, the film had a years-long impact campaign, that successfully leveraged the film to influence legislation in the South, mobilize voters, and inspire the next generation of climate activists. The film continues to screen in communities across the globe — 3,000 community screenings and counting. In 2020, Exposure Labs released their latest film, The Social Dilemma which has embarked on its own journey leveraging film for impact: This time shifting focus from reef ecosystems to information ecosystems.
What was the biggest challenge for the extreme ice survey?
The single biggest strain and risk in this project was actually the financing. It looks scary to go into those crevasses, but the team knew how to do that and had confidence in their knots and anchors. The thing that really stretched us to the limit—the film included—was the economic stress. It was extremely intense and it didn’t let up for five years — everything from employing the companies who operated the helicopters, to the airplanes that got us to Alaska and Greenland, and the finances that are allocated to the cost of the cameras, which is significant. Each camera was about $7K. Raising funds was a constant struggle.
what does a calving event sound like in person?
It sounds like six 747s flying right over you! This huge roaring sound of a calving incident is almost identical to the roar of those big jet airplanes.
what is climate change?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature precipitation, or wind patters, among other effects that occur over several decades or longer.”
Isn’t this just weather?
Rising global temperatures are accompanied by changes in weather and climate. According to NASA, “the difference between weather and climate is a measure of time: Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere ‘behaves’ over relatively long periods of time.” Simply put, even though we may have an extremely cold winter day or season, this doesn’t mean that the planet as a whole is not significantly warming over an extended period of time.
why is climate change happening?
Over the last 100 years, human activities have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, causing the planet to warm at an unprecedented rate. While we can trace the majority of greenhouse gases to the burning fossil fuels to produce energy, deforestation, industrial processes, and some agricultural practices also contribute to emitting gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are necessary to warm the planet in order to support life on earth, but the expedited buildup of these gases can drastically impact the Earth’s climate and have lasting effects to human health, welfare and essential ecosystems.
how do we know what we know?
By looking at the chemistry of ice we can learn about past temperature and by looking at the air we can measure carbon dioxide content. Ice Sheets are like tree rings in that they can preserve climate records. As snow builds up over time and new snow is added to the top, it turns into ice sheets. Scientist can drill holes into these ice sheets and pull out a core to examine bubbles of ancient air trapped in the ice, giving us our answer.
how is climate change affecting sea level rise?
Due to the speed of our warming climate, ice sheets are melting at an accelerated rate — faster than they have in 50 years. This has resulted in a series of ice shelf break offs, which contributed to the rise of the sea level as glaciers are thinning out and going into a rapid flow mode. Check out our Issue page to learn more.
what do you think about climate change as a debate?
Climate change is a bipartisan issue that effects everyone and it’s a shame that it’s been compartmentalized into a political debate. One of the things we are trying to accomplish with the film is to remove it from the political arena. We wanted this project to be a neutral observation and documentation of what we saw happening on the planet. It doesn’t matter what your political stance is, you should be able to watch this film and take something from it that you can incorporate into your own life.
What impact do you hope chasing ice will have?
We hope the film will help people realize through visual evidence that climate change is having a real affect on the natural world, and in turn humanity. It’s really hard for the average person to see the impact that humans have on the planet, especially when we live in a huge, beautiful country like America. You can drive across the States and spend days just looking out at huge open fields, and think, “how is my little car supposed to be having some sort of impact on all of that?” The time lapses capture that process in action and act as a visual record. It’s something that people can see and feel that represents what the science has concluded. If it helps change how people think about their relationship to nature, and how human beings exist on this planet, we’ll consider it a success.
Have you seen any change come from the film yet?
Yes! In Spring of 2014, we launched the Chasing Ice Ohio Tour with the goal to use the film to shift the political conversation around climate change. We focused the tour on one Congressional district, represented by Congressman Pat Tiberi (OH-12), who had been listed as a climate change denier. During the tour, nearly 10,000 people saw Chasing Ice. 80 collaborating organizations joined our movement to engage the Congressman directly and hundreds of constituents in the district reached out to the Congressman in support. In response, Congressman Tiberi shifted his stance on the issue, publicly revising his position on climate change. This Tour serves as a case study for the level of impact that can a film can have to create change on our political system and inspired our approach with our next films Chasing Coral and The Social Dilemma. Check out the Our Impact page to learn more.
What can we do to help?
In order to inspire action, we first need to agree that there is a problem. The most important thing you do can right now, do is share Chasing Ice and other climate stories — help shift perception and advance conversations around climate change. That’s where change starts. We also need to be creative and inventive to solve this problem collectively, adopting an equitable and intersectional approach. Intersectional environmentalism recognizes the disproportionate number of ways in which environmental degradation impacts people of color, welcomes collaborative solutions, and creates space for all voices, especially of those being most impacted.
The choices we make today have the ability to positively affect the planet for years to come. Leverage your abilities and resources to do the most you can with what you have. Check out the Take Action page for some specific tips on how to get involved.
HOW TO HOST A SCREENING
How do I host a Screening?
If you’re just watching the film in your home or with friends, there’s no need to register, just stream the film and enjoy! If you’re hosting an event or screening the film for an audience, head to our Screenings page to learn more about which licenses may be need.
How much does it cost to host a screening?
Ro*co Films handles the licensing for domestic screenings of Chasing Ice, click here to view pricing for different types of screening licenses. For international screenings, please email [email protected] for more information.
What kinds of venues can I host a screening at?
Check out our Planning Guide for ideas on where and when to book your screening! Depending on the size of your event, you can host screenings anywhere from your living room or backyard, to classrooms and school auditoriums, office meeting rooms, aquariums, museums, and more.
Do you help book the venue for my screening?
No, booking the venue is up to you.
What if I want to keep my screening private?
No problem, we do not share any event details publicly unless otherwise discussed.
How long is the film?
what formats is the film available in?
It is available for streaming on several platforms as well as on DVD through some of the screening packages available here.
Are subtitles or dubbed options available?
At this time, the film is only available in English and has English subtitles.
can someone from the film attend my event?
While we wish we could be at every screening, our team has shifted focus to our latest feature The Social Dilemma. If you have a special opportunity, please reach out to [email protected].
how do i book chasing ice to play at my festival or conference?
Contact [email protected] with information about your event, audience size, and any other relevant details and we will be in touch!
what materials do you have available for schools?
Check out our For Schools page for all of our educational resources.