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Michael Moore [00:00:14] This is Rumble with Michael Moore. And I’m Michael Moore. And welcome, everyone. So we have with us here today on Rumble, the creator of the series I’ve been talking about now for a number of months. Maybe the best thing that I’ve seen on TV in the last year. He wrote Contagion a good decade or more before COVID came along. He wrote and directed this incredible film that we’ve discussed called The Report, a dramatic version of the Senate committee that held the investigation to figure out what was going on during the Bush administration with the black sites, with the torture. And this series, it’s on Apple+TV. It’s called Extrapolations. I’m showing the first three episodes of it in my film festival because it plays like great cinema. It’s an anthology series. And when I was growing up, these were somewhat common on television. Maybe you’ve heard of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, where every week it was a new story. Like a like a small film. And that’s what Extrapolations is. It’s eight episodes, but it’s not episodic TV. There is a brand new story every week. The extent of this begins, the first episode, in the year, I believe, 2036. The last episode takes place in the year 2070. So while Extrapolations is set in the “future,” it starts in the very near future, like 13 years from right now. And there have been great documentaries made about the collapse of our planet. I haven’t seen anything to match this that has used fiction drama, this anthology series mode here with this particular issue and been able to tell such a powerful story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve teared up watching these eight stories.
[00:02:31] Now, some of them, characters that you are introduced to in the first story, we’ll call it the first episode, you will see again, maybe three or four episodes down the road, some of them not til the last episode. Some you’ll see only once. The actors that Scott convinced to do this, I mean, it just TV doesn’t get this good. Meryl Streep is in it. Kit Harington, who played Jon Snow on Game of Thrones — he’s the supposedly the guy who’s going to help save the planet. He’s got strong environmental tendencies, except he’s got to make at least $1,000,000,000 while he’s saving Earth. On and on and on. Edward Norton is in it. Forest Whitaker. Marion Cotillard. David Schwimmer. Oh, my God. So many great actors in this. Some, again, are only one episode. Some come back 20 years later, ten years later. I’m telling you, my friends, you’ve not seen anything like this. If you can convince people in your family, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, your fellow classmates, this is just great filmmaking. It’s great drama. And the storytelling, by the end of any particular story, any particular episode here, you need to sit with it. You need to think about it. You’ll go to bed, you’ll be thinking about it tomorrow. How often do you get to see a movie or something on streaming on TV where literally it just sticks, right, right to your bones. And that’s what Extrapolations does.
[00:04:08] Anyway, so, before we bring Scott on, I want to thank the underwriter for today’s episode. This episode is brought to you by BetterHelp. It’s so easy in this country right now not to prioritize our mental health. But my friends, it’s the best thing we could do for ourselves. When life gets overwhelming, when we’re struggling to sleep because of the thoughts racing through our heads, one of the best things we can do is to talk to somebody about it, to work through what’s eating away at us. A therapist can be that outlet to help find some peace. If you’re thinking of starting therapy, maybe check out BetterHelp. It’s entirely online, so it’s completely adaptable to your schedule. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist. If it’s not a great fit, you can switch therapists any time. No additional charge. So get a break from your thoughts with BetterHelp. Visit betterhelp.com/rumble. Do it today to get 10% off your first month. That’s BetterHelp.com/rumble. And thank you BetterHelp for supporting this podcast and for supporting my voice.
[00:05:22] Okay. It’s time to bring on the great Scott Z Burns, the creator of this incredible series on Apple TV. And I just can’t tell you enough. If you have nothing planned this weekend, this is a great binge weekend. I can’t sing Scott’s praises enough, but let’s let Scott do some of the talking. Scott Z. Burns, writer, director, producer, creator, thank you so much for making this series and thank you for being on Rumble here with me today.
Scott Z. Burns [00:05:54] Thank you so much for everything you just said. That was sort of a dream come true for me. I should also say we are in the middle of a strike and I am a a member of the Writers Guild and we’re not supposed to be out promoting our products. So I just want to say two things about that. First of all, I’m doing this because Apple put the show in front of the paywall, so they’re not profiting from this. I am not certainly not profiting from it. So I appreciate the opportunity to speak about the show free from commerce. The other thing which I will say about my guild that I think is lovely is I’ve spoken to them a few times during the strike about wanting to take an opportunity to talk about climate. And what I’ve said every time is part of being an adult means that sometimes you have to deal with more than one difficult situation at a time. And this is exactly that. And labor and climate are not strangers. We will encounter those two things more and more as time goes on. But they encouraged me to talk about the show and to talk about climate change.
Michael Moore [00:07:05] Also, thanks to those of you in the public. Every poll has been taken during the writers and the actors strike shows 70% or more of the American public support the writers and the actors in this strike. And so I will speak on your behalf, if that’s okay, Scott —.
Scott Z. Burns [00:07:24] Sure.
Michael Moore [00:07:27] — in thanking the vast majority of the American people who’ve been supporting us and thank you for also supporting the UAW. So I really appreciate you saying what you said. And of course, our unions and the UAW and others, our environment, our collapse is first and foremost in the front of all of their minds and their actions in trying to save this planet. We’re all in the same boat here together. Just explain to the audience here how this came together. Where did this idea come from? Clearly, you make films about social issues, social justice, corruption in power, all the great work that you’ve done both on TV and with movies. But I’ve never seen anything like this.
Scott Z. Burns [00:08:12] Oh, thank you. That means a lot. You know, we need to save the planet so that we continue to argue about all the other things that it’s important for us to argue about. For me, who is really more of a screenwriter and filmmaker, I wanted to see what I could do with fiction if it was informed by science. And I just wanted to tell human stories and I wanted to sort of test a hypothesis that if it’s a great story and it can move people, putting it in a climate changed world shouldn’t diminish that. That, you know, as one of the people who works on our show, Dorothy Fortenberry, is fond of saying, the shows that don’t address the fact that the climate is going to be different or already is different, those are the science fiction shows. Those are the shows that are pretending with the world. Our show, it isn’t… People should know this is not the worst case scenario. We spent years in a writer’s room making sure we weren’t doing the darkest version. And what I really wanted to tell was the messy middle of the story. Not the part where, you know, the world ends. The world does not end in our show. It doesn’t. And I also wanted to find a time horizon that made sense for a lot of different people, because one of the things we never talk about with climate is how it affects different people in different places. And if you have children, your time horizon might be the end of the century. If you have a lot of money, you may not even have a time horizon. Maybe the end of your life. If you’re in a frontline community that’s dealing with issues surrounding pollution or if you’re in the Marshall Islands and the seas are coming up around you, or you’re in Alaska and you’re going to lose your entire community to sea level rise, or you’re on the Gulf Coast and you’re being hammered by hurricanes, your time horizon is very different. And I wanted to honor the fact that when we talk about climate change, just like when we talk about a lot of other social ills, like health insurance or anything else, it really depends on who you are and what your resources are. And so that was the goal of the show, was to not put it so far in the future that you could ignore it because it just seemed like a different world. Because the future shows up in different places in different increments. It’s not, as it turns out, like Star Trek, and everything’s just different.
Michael Moore [00:11:02] Right.
Scott Z. Burns [00:11:03] You know, walking around New York City, there are beautiful, really new buildings. And there are buildings from the 1800s right next to each other. And so we tried to create a future that honored that. That the future shows up in different places and different amounts. And so that’s how we chose to set our stories. And I shortly thereafter sent the first script I wrote to Meryl Streep, who I’d worked with on a film called The Laundromat. We had a lovely conversation about that. We got to the end of the conversation and she just said, “Okay, when do we do this?” And we were off to the races.
Michael Moore [00:11:43] It’s a very diverse cast. Leslie Uggams is in this, the great Leslie Uggams. I mean..
Scott Z. Burns [00:11:49] Yeah.
Michael Moore [00:11:50] So in the first episode, as I mentioned, it starts in 2036. 13 years from now. And it starts at the annual United Nations gathering to discuss climate.
Scott Z. Burns [00:12:04] Yeah.
[00:12:04] It’s called COP. You know, COP15, COP20. COP28 is in a couple of months from right now. That’ll be this year’s version of that. Extrapolations, the first episode, starts with COP —
Scott Z. Burns [00:12:16] 42.
Michael Moore [00:12:18] We’re on 28 right now. So COP42. And you’ve seen the news reports of these COP gatherings. You know, they’re huge and they’re people from all over the world. The most shocking image in this first episode right out of the gate is the camera is in the back of the room of what’s was supposed to be a huge room, and it’s being held in Tel Aviv, and it’s 2036 and the room is virtually empty. There are representatives from countries sitting around the typical U.N. half oval table. There’s a lots of protests going on all over the world, but it looks like literally either people have given up, or they realize having another COP is not going to solve the problem. We’re so far down the road. This is a theme that is repeated through all eight episodes. What made you decide to start this way? I mean, you had to start somewhere and you introduce us to the wealthy corporate head who’s got all these plans to “save the species” and, you know, “get the carbon out of the atmosphere” and all this. But you can also see that he’s really about the dough-re-mi more than he is about anything else.
Scott Z. Burns [00:13:38] There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of those people, you know, kicking around right now, especially in the tech sector. And the COP phenomena is interesting. I mean, we’re not that far away from the reality of this show and when it begins. And I worked with the UN a little bit on the show and I wanted to make sure I got the details of the COP correct. They were very forthcoming about their own concerns about how effective these kind of meetings have been. And here we are three years later, and we’re having it in Dubai. And as we’ve heard this week, the president of the COP is a gentleman named Sultan Al-Jubeir, who is actually the head of an oil company in Dubai. And that steers us right into a very familiar problem, where on one hand, we need to work with industry to solve these problems. On the other hand, industry’s concern will always be to make money for its executives and its shareholders. And so are they really the people to be trusted with the planet? And that is a big theme of our show. And it’s a big, big theme of this moment. It’s interesting to me that the head of the U.N. this week here in New York has decided that people who have not kept up with their commitments that they made in Paris are not allowed to speak during Climate Week.
Michael Moore [00:15:25] Right.
Scott Z. Burns [00:15:25] They called it in The New York Times “shaming without naming.” What’s interesting is amongst those — and I will do a little shaming and naming — you know, Rishi Sunak, who is the PM of England, of the UK, which has been a leader in climate reforms, announced yesterday that there is no way to help them fix their economy and stay on their Paris commitments. And so they’re rolling them way back. And this is what we have to guard against. We need to deal with these issues now. And the idea that it’s better for the economy to wait until we address this is incredibly shortsighted and dangerous. You know, it just it’s not going to work. It may get his party some more votes, but we’re well past the time where that choice was possible.
Michael Moore [00:16:24] You mentioned earlier that you want the audience to understand that this is not one depressing story after another.
Scott Z. Burns [00:16:31] Yeah.
Michael Moore [00:16:31] I mean, there’s hope, which is a necessary thing. And then there’s hopium. Hopium, the drug that we try to give ourselves constantly, “it’s all going to be okay. We’re going to be fine. Technology will save us.” And you very honestly, throughout this series, remind people, you know, yes, we need technology, but if you’re just relying on that, that’s going to save the planet, these are voices from the future in your fiction. I forgot who said — I think it was Picasso — whoever said that, you know, art, the importance of art is telling a lie that actually tells the greater truths. Fiction is not real, and yet it sometimes is more honest and more truthful than a documentary. This is what every episode does. And I think once you roll into the second episode, Sienna Miller is this scientist who’s trying to find where the whales are. It’s so powerful and so moving. And you tell these little stories, these little personal stories that make this kind of fiction so compelling.
Scott Z. Burns [00:17:39] Yeah. I mean, episode two was really you know, I was in the process of losing my father to Alzheimer’s while I was writing it.
Michael Moore [00:17:49] Oh, I’m sorry.
Scott Z. Burns [00:17:51] And so it really became an episode about saying goodbye and about how we deal with grief and loss and how you have to move through that. And I think that there is a part of climate change that is going to ask us of that. But the, you know, the really amazing opportunity about species loss and some of these other issues — my dog is barking in the background because I think it’s it’s his favorite episode — it’s what we still can choose. You know, there are very bad versions of the future and there are less bad versions. And I’ve been asked before, “Well, how did you take care of yourself while you were doing this?” And I said, “I actually never felt more alive or engaged than when I was doing this.” These were stories I wanted to tell. And I got to go to work every day — and I know you’ve had this experience — with people who are similarly moved. You know, the big issue that everyone listening will have is, “Well, what can I do?” And in episode three, I really tried to answer that. Daveed Diggs plays a rabbi in an episode with David Schwimmer. I won’t say what David says at the end of that episode, but that’s how I feel. You know, we’re going to get through this. We’re not all going to die. But the only way we’re going to get through this is by relying and communicating with each other and making some very difficult choices. And if we do that, we will, I think, find out we have muscles that we have not used in a very long time. And that will be a beautiful moment to be alive for. And that was really what episode three was about. It was about how do we ask the right questions because that’s where this starts — is can you look around at work, in your family, if you’re a kid at school, can you look around and just start asking questions about why is this thing that is so clearly wrong, still the predominant way of doing things?
Michael Moore [00:20:13] And in that episode, which is set in Miami and by this time again, it’s now probably at least ten or 15 years beyond where we’re at now, the waters are rising. Parts of South Beach are underwater. The rest of Miami looks like it may soon be. And what you mentioned, this question that keeps getting asked throughout this episode is being asked by a 13-year-old. She wants to know why. Why is this happening? What is the awful thing that we did to upset God or Mother Nature or whatever to where we are facing literally being underwater? And to have it come out of the mouth of a 13-year-old and the brain of a 13-year-old was so beautifully done. And I would think, too, I mean, young people already today, if you have a tween or a teen, they are completely aware of the planet that we’re handing them. Completely aware. They have already had it. They’re already fed up. They’re, as you know, many of them, they’re very active politically. A lot of them are going to be able to vote next year. You really captured that and giving voice to this new younger generation.
Scott Z. Burns [00:21:36] Well, I owe a debt of gratitude to my niece in Austin, Texas, for that. She has a little bit of that character in her. I hope I did when I was young. But what you said is exactly right. You know, pretending that this doesn’t exist and thinking you’re doing yourself or your child a favor by not being clear and direct about what is going on with the climate, it isn’t going to make them happy. It’s not going to make them like you more. I know that we’re afraid of triggering our kids. But I think one of the things that we have to teach them is that some of the things that are happening in the world demand action, demand our interest, and you’re not powerless. The part that’s depressing is the part where they believe they’re powerless. It’s very easy to teach people they are not powerless. Young people today make huge differences. You know, I was at a climate event the other night, and there was a young woman there named Sage Lenier, who was so powerful and she confessed to struggling with climate-related sadness. But man, she’s now turned it into a whole curriculum and she’s educating people. And she’s one of a number of people who I met who are making that kind of difference. So we’re not helping anyone by hiding the truth because you can’t. I mean, you know, you walk outside in New York City this summer and you see the smoke from these fires, and we have to talk about it because here’s what happens if you don’t. There are people in the world who will tell you that there are fewer acres on fire this year actually, than other years. And they’re right. But a lot of the the acres that are not burning are acres in Africa. And they are African grasslands that probably burned last year. And a grassland isn’t as good a holder of carbon as a forest. Now, the acres of forests that have burned this year are like nothing else we’ve ever seen. I think the amount of carbon that was released from the ground and from the trees is basically more than Canada would make in about a year. And so Canada this year doubled its carbon contribution to the world by catching fire. And there’s no way to hide that. You walked outside and you saw it in the air. I had people send photos of New York City to me all summer long saying, this looks like an episode of your show.
Michael Moore [00:24:25] Yes. On one particular day here in New York, it got so dark at two in the afternoon that I looked out the window and the nighttime lights in New York City came on at two in the afternoon. And it was a shocking sight. And, you know, I’ve always said to people, being from Michigan occasionally you’ll get a day in January where it’s 70 degrees and everybody’s so happy, and I’m like, what are you happy about? It’s not supposed to be 70 in January. You know, and I would say to people, “if the sun suddenly came up at one in the morning, two in the morning, would you just be jumping for joy? Oh, more sunlight. More tan!” You know? No, you would be freaking out. You’d be running down the middle of the street like your hair was on fire. Like something was wrong, the planet was off its axis, and we are all about to die.
Scott Z. Burns [00:25:25] Yeah, I grew up in Minneapolis, and, you know, I know that I used to go skiing at these little ski hills around town. And from what I understand, they either are making their snow or their season is getting shorter and shorter. And it’s not just the inconvenience of no snow. You know, this has a massive impact on agriculture, on insects, which leads to disease, which is a whole other thing. So the impacts of changing the climate that we built the world around over hundreds of years is not a small thing. And, you know, we really need to check ourselves and change path rapidly.
Michael Moore [00:26:15] You mentioned or I mentioned it earlier in the episode with Forest Whitaker and Marion Cotillard. And he’s been kind of a, I guess, an inventor most of his life. There was this great moment where she says, his wife, Marion Cotillard, and she’s just so disappointed with who she sees this person to have essentially been a failure. By this point, it’s New Year’s Eve in the year — What is it, Scott? 2050, 2060-something?
Scott Z. Burns [00:26:44] 2068 or 2069.
Michael Moore [00:26:47] Yeah. And so they’re in San Francisco and they’re trying to have a little New Year’s Eve party. And he’s still hopeful that the next thing is going to save them. It’s going to take them somewhere else. And then she reminds him, “Yeah. Do you remember when you told us, we just need to get solar panels everywhere? And now there’s so much smoke in the air from all these continuing fires that the sun doesn’t even make it through the smoke enough to get to the panel.” Like that day when it was 2 p.m. in New York City and it was dark, no sun hit any solar panel in New York City on that day. And I thought, “Wow, am I just getting a snippet of that?” And I had already just watched your episode. I’m thinking, this isn’t 2068.
Scott Z. Burns [00:27:33] No.
Michael Moore [00:27:34] This is actually going on right now, which means one of my takeaways from your series is, well, maybe there is still time to fix this, to stop it, to do something different. And then she says, “and the windmills, all the windmills up and down the coast hardly moving because the way the smoke and the whole atmosphere has changed. The wind isn’t what it was 50 or 100 years ago. And now we’ve got all these windmills just sitting there.” Wow. To hear that, especially at a time when that’s all we hear — “We need more windmills. We need more solar panels.” And, you know, as I’ve said, we should have been saying that when Jimmy Carter put the solar panels on the White House roof and we would have had 50 years down the road, but now lost, that’s gone. Can’t get it back. What do we do? Tell me just the thought process of even allowing that thought to be expressed, because, you know, obviously we don’t want people to take it like, “Oh, all hope is lost. Why are we even bothering?” But it’s quite a voice from the near future telling us if we don’t get it together now, now, not even now, yesterday we are going to be doomed on some level. The planet has plans for us because we’re the killers. So it has its own law enforcement, Mother Nature. Believe me, the planet’s going to live. The planet is going to be some kind of a rock somewhere doing something. We are the ones that aren’t going to be here.
Scott Z. Burns [00:29:08] Yeah, my feeling is, I agree with what you just said. You know, there are complicated stories around climate that we need to prepare ourselves for. You’re right. The planet will be here. The question is, will we be going around and around on it? And then beyond that, I think the biggest question is how will that feel? You know, and our show gets into that. In the episode you just mentioned, what is life like for Marion and Forest? What passes for fun, what passes for food? And so for sure, part of the show is a cautionary tale. The finale, and again, I’m not going to give away too much, there is a kind of reconciliation that occurs where we come to terms with the fact that we’ve been doing this and we have known better. You know, there’s so much information that’s come out in the last couple of years about the fact that oil companies knew what they were doing as far back as the late ’50s. And they have actively pursued a misinformation campaign that is very similar to the tobacco companies. In fact, there is some evidence that says that’s where they learned it. And so, you know, they’ve known that this was the cost of doing their business and they cashed us all in. And so that needs to really stop. And one of the ways that those things stop is accountability, which is a thing that I really believe in. And the finale of our show was informed by a movie called Trials at Nuremberg, where the people who perpetrated the crimes against humanity in World War II are held to account. And the way that I got into it was I found an old article written by a law professor, I think, in 1972 that either at USC, I’m pretty sure that deals with the rights of a tree. And this is not new. There really is a thing called ecocide, and it really is a crime against humanity. And we need to stop scoffing at it and start deciding that that’s a thing that we can all stop. But we all have to do it. And so that was sort of, you know, I think I gave away a lot of the ending. But you’ll be interested to watch how, especially if you’re a film fan and know, you know, the Trials at Nuremberg about how that plays out in our show.
Michael Moore [00:32:00] No, it’s very powerful. No, you didn’t give it away. But this issue of accountability is very present in this series and conscience — knowing right from wrong. All of this, it’s so powerful and it’s so moving. I’ve watched the series twice now, and I’ve told people on this podcast that I actually went back and watched the Miami episode a third time. I wanted to see if I could watch this episode and not cry. And I couldn’t pull it off. And I found myself after watching the series through a couple of times. I found myself not only even more committed to figuring out what I could do personally, but what can I do the greater thing has to happen to all of us collectively, and how could we do that? Could start in your apartment building, could start on your block because, you know, it could start anywhere. It doesn’t have to be just you or just me. And there’s a whole host of things that have to happen. But if we stay stuck on, “Oh, somebody’s going to fix this later.” Or “technology will save us.” Or in the one episode, the president of the United States is congratulating people for planting another thousand trees. But it’s already in the 2050s or ’60s at that point. And you know enough by watching your show, you’re saying, “Well, that’s a good thing to do. That’s a nice thing to do. But really? They’re still going to be doing that when if we don’t have this figured out by 2060 — holy smokes.” But you did it so beautifully. You weren’t making fun of people planting trees. You were like, “Yes. This, of course, has always been what we should have been doing. And yes, in 2060, it’s too late. So what’s the plan, Stan?” It’s really exhilarating filmmaking passing in the form of a series on a streaming television. But it’s way, way beyond that. I thank you for making this. I thank you for coming on my podcast. You probably can’t talk about what you’re doing next. If I were you, I wouldn’t —
[00:34:15] —because, Scott, you and I both know they must not see us coming.
Scott Z. Burns [00:34:19] Yeah, exactly. I am writing a play because I’m allowed to do that during the strike. And I don’t know if you even know this, but the last play I wrote was called The Library, which was about a school shooting. And I have you and Bowling for Columbine and a few other really important people in my life to thank for that.
Michael Moore [00:34:44] Wow. Well, thank you for saying that. And I don’t know what I’m going to do with this, but Extrapolations is going to… There’s going to be somewhat of a — it might be a crooked line, but it’s going to be a straight line, I think, to one of the next things that I do regarding this particular issue and the larger ramifications of how we can survive, how it’s not all hopeless yet. And you’ve given me that sense of inspiration to do something with that. So thank you for that. Just keep doing more of this.
Scott Z. Burns [00:35:17] All right.
[00:35:18] It’s much, much appreciated by people who care about what’s going on and who also would like to take a good 45 minutes to an hour and sit down and watch something that, dare I say, is hugely entertaining in the sense that — why do we love the movies? Sometimes you laugh and sometimes you cry and sometimes you get mad, and sometimes it makes you think whatever it does, and if it has you doing that 24 hours later than you and I have succeeded in what we’re trying to do here. And I encourage everybody to take this opportunity to watch this eight episode series called Extrapolations by the great Scott Burns here, who’s been our guest on Rumble today. Any final words, Scott, before we go? It’s all yours.
Scott Z. Burns [00:36:04] I will keep doing what I’m doing if you do the same. And thank you again so much for having me. This has been a pleasure.
Michael Moore [00:36:12] I will continue to do that. Thank you so much, Scott Burns. Thanks to all of you who listened to this today. It’s Extrapolations. It’s on Apple Tv+. Watch it. Thank you very much, Scott. And thanks to all of you who are listening to this today. I’m Michael Moore. This is Rumble. And we’ll see you next time.