Creative Producer and Co-founder of Duna Films Théo Grainzevelles uses video to inspire climate action. He played a key role at COP27, broadcasting proceedings around the globe.
Théo Grainzevelles (Geography 2015) knows it is the right thing to do. “We are facing a climate emergency,” he says. “If people don’t understand that then there’s no planet left. That’s why I make these films.”
In a digital age, Théo recognises the power of film. By co-founding Duna Films, an impact-driven film company focussing upon global environmental and social issues, he is able to inspire change in audiences across the globe.
He spoke to us from COP27, where Théo and his team were based in the Innovation Zone – a nexus for public and private sector idea sharing – producing films, content, and broadcasts which were streamed live around the world.
They filmed and interviewed key political stakeholders at the conference, including former prime minister Boris Johnson, former United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon, and Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Hoesung Lee.
Duna Films produce content which will have a positive impact – such as a recent clean air campaign with World Athletics
Théo gestures to the conference behind him. “There are so many individuals and companies here trying to move the needle on climate change. And that gives me hope.”
His own desire to avert the climate crisis set him apart in the film industry. Uninspired by the everyday projects in his role as a communications professional, a campaign in Portugal caught his imagination. “It was a restoration project entitled The Dune Project. We were out there, creating something that would make a difference – and that’s what did it for me.
“It was the reach, seeing the impact that film can have. That’s what hooked me.”
Théo founded Duna Films alongside fellow Leeds alum, Matilda Thompson (Film and Photography 2014), where they combined her film background with Théo’s environmental expertise. “My understanding and appreciation of the scale of the climate crisis was developed at Leeds. It gave me the grounding and passion to do this, and that expertise is key when directing and producing a narrative around specialist topics – such as carbon credits.”
When starting out, Théo and Matilda’s niche focus presented challenges in itself. For a start-up film company in a competitive environment, their desire to work with the “right” clients – instead of looking for profit – was never going to be easy: “It was a learning curve. We had to generate revenue, but we also wanted to work on projects that fit with our ethos.”
Despite the added barrier, when it comes to that ethos, Théo is unwavering – it is all about positive impact. “If it doesn’t deliver socially or environmentally, we don’t work with a client. The positive impact always comes first.”
And the team follow those principles when it comes to filming, too. They reduce emissions by employing local videographers and companies wherever possible, removing the need for travel. They aim to use electric vehicles in production, and don’t use diesel generators.
The output created is often designed to raise awareness, and recent projects include films about children living with cancer, a clean air campaign with World Athletics, and a project focussing on using the ocean as a tool to support mental health – with the dual benefit of highlighting the need to protect our seas.
Perhaps their most far-reaching work to date was the launch film for ‘Glasgow Breakthroughs’, a film which opened the COP26 conference for delegates and set the scene for the event. Designed for world leaders, the film was an opportunity to inspire action in the highest positions of power.
The ‘Glasgow Breakthroughs’ film opened the COP26 conference, presenting an opportunity to inspire world leaders
At COP27, Théo and the Duna team played a part once again, and Théo was under no illusion as to the challenges they faced: “I don’t think the representation is right here. It’s expensive to come to COP, so indigenous communities and African nations – those who are on the front line against the climate crisis – might not be able to afford it. That’s an issue. We need everyone collaborating for nature to keep 1.5 degrees warming within reach.”
But despite problems, there is cause for hope. “I’ve seen all the work people are doing at COP, and all the organisations doing the right things.
“Our films play their part in that. We highlight those amazing things people do to fight this. It’s inspiring to see, and we show that others can do it too.
“The general public aren’t always going to be reading the dense scientific documentation. But they do respond to film – through social media, an event, an advert. We can inspire change, and that keeps me motivated.”
Discover more about Duna Films.
Discover more about the University’s role at COP27.