Hunter Vaughan smiling at camera

Hunter Vaughan

Hollywood’s Dirtiest Secret: The Hidden Environmental Costs of the Movies

A Lecture by Hunter Vaughan (University of Colorado Boulder)
Sep 26, 4:30–6 PM
Newhouse Center Lounge
Free and open to the public

Hunter Vaughan's most recent book, Hollywood’s Dirtiest Secret: The Hidden Environmental Cost of the Movies (Columbia University Press, 2019), offers a new history of the movies from an environmental perspective, arguing that how we make and consume films has serious ecological consequences. In an era when many businesses have come under scrutiny for their environmental impact, the film industry has, for the most part, escaped criticism and regulation. Its practices are more diffuse, its final product less tangible, and Hollywood has adopted public-relations strategies that portray it as environmentally conscious.

Bringing together environmental humanities, science communication, and social ethics, Hollywood’s Dirtiest Secret is a pathbreaking consideration of the film industry’s environmental impact that examines how our cultural prioritization of spectacle has distracted us from its material consequences and natural-resource use. Vaughan examines the environmental effects of filmmaking from Hollywood classics to the digital era, considering how popular screen media shape and reflect our understanding of the natural world.

He recounts the production histories of major blockbusters—Gone with the WindSingin’ in the RainTwister, and Avatar—situating them in the contexts of the development of the film industry, popular environmentalism, and the proliferation of digital technologies. Emphasizing the materiality of media, Vaughan interweaves details of the hidden environmental consequences of specific filmmaking practices, from water use to server farms, within a larger critical portrait of social perceptions and valuations of the natural world.

Generously supported by:

The Newhouse Center for the Humanities, Cinema and Media Studies, the Paulsen Ecology of Place Initiative, Environmental Studies, and the French Department.