Writer/Director Chris Paine’s documentary feature film Who Killed the Electric Car? premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006 before its release by Sony Pictures to critical acclaim in 100 U.S. markets. The film was the third highest-grossing theatrical documentary of 2006 and screened with An Inconvenient Truth in many markets.
The film was written and directed by Chris Paine, and produced by Jessie Deeter, and executive produced by Tavin Marin Titus, Richard D. Titus of Plinyminor and Dean Devlin, Kearie Peak, Mark Roskin, and Rachel Olshan of Electric Entertainment. The film grossed over $1.75 million – a large number for independent documentaries of this type.
Currently in wide DVD release, Paine’s film investigates the events leading to the quiet destruction of thousands of new, radically efficient electric vehicles. Through interviews and narrative, the film paints a picture of an industrial culture whose aversion to change and reliance on oil may be deeper then its ability to embrace ready solutions.
Who Killed the Electric Car? and Chris Paine were nominated by the Writer’s Guild for Best Documentary of 2006. The film also received nominations from The Broadcast Critics Awards and The Environmental Media Awards for Best Documentary of 2006. The film won the audience award at the Canberra International Film Festival and won a special jury prize at the Mountain Film Festival.
Festivals and Awards
1) Nominated: Best Documentary – Environmental Media Awards (2006)
2) Won – Special Jury Prize Mountain Film (Telluride) (2006)
3) Nominated Writers Guild: Best Documentary
4) Nominated Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, 2007 Best Doc. Feature
5) Won – Audience Award at the Canberra International Film Festival.
The film screened at the following Film Festivals:
San Francisco Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival
Deauville Film Festival
Seattle Film Festival
Los Angeles Film Festival
Canberra Film Festival Tribeca Film Festival
Berlin International Film Festival
Atlanta Film Festival
Newport Film Festival
Mountain Film Festival
Sony marketed Who Killed The Electric Car? in over 100 theatrical markets to become the third highest grossing documentary in 2007. Netflix now lists nearly 150,000 ratings of the DVD release from renting customers. Over 400 reviews have been written on Neflix and it is in their Top Ten List of “important movies you should see.”
Thanks to the massive push behind An Inconvenient Truth (we were a trailer for that film in theaters) and internet word of mouth, this West LA-produced documentary reached people around the world and helped inspire change.
The success of Who Killed the Electric Car? rather goes beyond electric cars. It has been an inspiration to independent producers of documentaries and with the advent of video on the Internet, has led to an entire movement of video production marketed around the large distributors, such as Sony, with numerous other documentaries gaining an audience directly.
Pain has been working on a sequel – Revenge of the Electric Car. This is scheduled for release April 22nd at the Tribeca film festival in New York.
I found the original documentary a bit far from unbiased, and strangely naive. Having worked in large corporations, I almost view conspiracy theories as almost an anthropomorphism of corporations. After you see a large corporation go through five CEO’s in seven years, and with “reorganization” become a ritualized annual event, it dawns on you that there is really no one home in these entities. No one is in charge. Chaos largely reigns. And assigning any particular point of view or mission would be viewed almost as a joke within the organization. Cubicle city doesn’t really have a leader, a mission, or a point of view. It just is. And it lives to continue to live, turning on any perceived threat with the same reptilian focus and process. It is what it is, but an intelligent “conspiracy” it is not. And a secret is an absurdity in organizations that thrive on rumor at the water cooler.
So I personally found Paine’s view in Who Killed the Electric Car almost painfully naive – a child mind’s view of the world.
That’s a little bit in conflict with the fact that the mission and intent of the film is definitely one I share. I think the adoption of electric drive in transportation is a heroic imperative with a very deadly clock running against it, the only hope to avoid a worldwide financial meltdown of unprecedented proportions – a 20 year depression with the collapse of banks and financial institutions world wide. This dark picture is so completely detailed in my mind, that I normally don’t even speak of it as it almost doesn’t matter and most of our viewers would dismiss it as total madness and irrationality on my part.
But I’m also very intrigued by how techno-social change actually occurs. I was in a privvy position to watch this first hand over the course of a couple of decades with the development of the Internet, and I’m profoundly moved by the difference between how most people THINK change is achieved and how it is actually achieved. The latter being by large scale rather slowly developing grass roots movements led by key individuals.
And I almost view it as all part of God’s plan. We really can’t have a society where we completely retool our communications infrastructure, at an expense of hundreds of billions of dollars, because somebody has a good idea or because some fad concept becomes the object of desire at the moment.
Similarly, we cannot spend a trillion dollars on retooling our transportation infrastructure based on such notions.
And so we wind up with a governments, existing businesses, automobile manufacturers and oil companies all fighting with all the tools they command to MAINTAIN THE STATUS QUO. And we have a small, but growing army of “fringe” people, all working on the concept of electric vehicles. It is THEIR job to maintain the status quo. It is OUR job to wrest change in that status quo. And all is right with the world.
Picture a hive of ants where 95% of the ants work to maintain the anthill against all comers and against all change. But they always maintain 5% of their population as scouts and foragers always looking for new ways to find food or improve the anthill. If they stumble on an idea for change so persuasive, members of the 95% start to defect. At some critical mass, the anthill suddenly adopts. Where that tipping point occurs is very interesting. But we have seen all of this play out in just this way with the INternet. And I think we will with electric transportation as well.
But we might have to revise what electric transportation IS and what it means several thousand times along the way until it becomes irresistable to the anthill.
In the meantime, our government, our automotive manufacturers, and the oil companies are doing EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. And we’re doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing. There is no evil. THere is no conspiracy. It just is what it is and it works this way for good and varied reasons emerging over tens of thousands of years of human development.
The way I think of this is that there are 166,000 gasoline stations with a vested interest in selling gasoline. All 50 states tax gasoline and cummulatively derive $25 billion in annual revenues from it. The United States government also taxes gasoline and derives another $25 billion from it. The five largest and most profitable corporations on the planet are all oil companies and EACH of them generate more annual revenues than 90% of the COUNTRIES in the world. The entire middle east is economically ENTIRELY based on oil production.
On OUR team we have a few hundred guys with a mad on willing to part with the ducats to put LiFePo4 cells in a car and thus gain a vehicle for themselves, some independence from the problem, and the ability to show others how to do the same. They do all this in sheds and garages with hand tools. Virtually none of them have sufficient capital to start a hot dog stand. It’s all gesture. And a single car.
So how come I feel like we have the larger team surrounded?
Because we do. Everytime they show their car, we add another couple of hundred. At some point it will be 10,000, then 100,000, then a million. At that point, it will start to grow. Addictive and contagious.
But in doing EVTV, I get a chance to talk to a LOT of people who are intensely passionate about electric cars. They are so passionate, that they devote multiple tens of thousands of hard earned ducats to build their own, none really being otherwise available for sale. This is like an ARMY of those scout ants and they are IMPASSIONED about it. They REALLY want it. I have seen that fire in the eye before – the early Internauts. And I have seen it play out.
If you do not fear it, you are simply unaware – a non sentient. Be afraid. Be very afraid. When tens of thousands of people worldwide all begin swirling around one dream, with that LEVEL of intense of passion, you have already loosed the hounds of hell. It is a force that cannot be resisted and its growth feeds on itself. The religion spreads. It is both addictive and contagious. And ultimately large corporations and governments, NEVER a source of innovation and change, are totally helpless to stop it. AFTER adoption, they can only scramble around to rewrite history to show that indeed THEY INVENTED IT. Which is why the misunderstanding of how change happens.
In order to transition from defending the status quo, to defending a NEW status quo, you HAVE to have invented the new status quo. And so our work is not done, until they wrest history away from us, and indeed present it as an accomplishment of corporations and governments. Only when we are conveniently marginalized and forgotten do we win completely. Nature of the beast.
Of course, by then, most of us, being natural scout ants, are on to the next big change thing.
And that’s pretty much where I’ve lived my life – with nearly unerring accuracy. You can pretty much bet electric vehicles are the next big thing because Jack Rickard showed up to pray over it. I didn’t event it. And I’m not going to do it. I’m just here to pray over it and tell everybody about it. I claim no authorship of any of it nor the Internet. I’m just really good at showing up at the right time at the next big thing. Once it’s not NEXT, I move on.
In a strange way, so is Chris Paine. Among ALL The people I talk to about electric cars, I always ask what interested them first in this. Of course, the very few old hands all have interesting stories about that. But among the vast majority, and I would say 80% of everyone I talk to, they ALL mention the 2006 film Who Killed the Electric Car. It is almost bizarre. I would rate this film, as THE most influential documentary ever made and THE major influence among our viewers to initiate their interest in electric vehicles.
Since announcing EVCONN (was it three weeks ago????) we’ve already received 37 paid registrations and 12 people bringing cars. I know that doesn’t seem like many. But I’ve done a lot of trade show conventions actually. We ran BBSCON/ISPCON from 1992 through 1998 twice a year. It went from 100 guys to 6000 all paying $695 and in the end featured 225 educational sessions in three days. (No, that’s not a typo). But I’ve never really seen a takeoff on a new show like this. I know it seems like few at the moment, but as I say, I’ve done this before. We have more registered NOW than I planned to have at the event at all. And it is scheduled for SIX full months away. If I had to guess, at the moment I would say 750 attendees and 40 cars. And I may have underestimated THAT. It appears the desire for a show of THEIR OWN about CONVERTING cars was kind of a pregnant idea – thank you Eric Kriss. I’m embarassed it wasn’t my idea.
So we’re not going to have an electric car show or convention. We’re going to have one very specifically about CONVERTING YOUR OWN CAR to electric drive. That’s to be the focus and entire subject. It is not going to be an OEM show or a feel good show. Hard info on how to and why to – by the people who do and know how to do. Not the sheeples who want to buy one or think they are cool. The guys who will go to their own garage and build their own goddamn car, – lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.
But it is incumbent on me to make it the best convention I can. ANd in considering the topic of headline speakers, I keep coming back to Chris Paine and “Who Killed the Electric Car”.
This morning i signed a contract engaging Mr. Paine to come address the attendees of the first Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention EVCONN. On Thursday evening, September 22nd, we intend to hold a catered barbecue and beer event at 7:00 PM in my backyard overlooking the Mississippi river, with perhaps a tasting for a few from the illicit distillery in the garage (medicinal purposes) and a bonfire. I will introduce Mr. Paine as the Keynote speaker for EVCONN and he will stand and deliver an emotionally charged speech of such inspirational nature you will never have heretofor witnessed.
And besides – I think you’ll actually like Stag beer. More to come.