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A contest to create alternate movie endings by integrating renewable energy into the narrative in a way that changes the movie's outcome.



New cognitive behavior and neuroscience research emphasize the importance of emotion and the value of “the story” over information content in changing behavior. In George Marshall’s Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change (p. 105), he says, “Stories perform a fundamental cognitive function: They are the means by which the emotional brain makes sense of the information collected by the rational brain.”  In other words, climate communications strategies that focus on scientific and technical content at the expense of narrative, disregard the emotional drivers of change.

To test the hypothesis that narrative offers a more “brain friendly” way to change attitudes and behavior around climate change, Alternate Endings proposes a narrative crowd sourcing model that blends creativity with science in a format that appeals to both the rational and emotional sides of the brain: A national contest that challenges the public to create their own narrative endings to favorite films through a plot twist that turns on renewable energy technologies that changes the outcome of the movies. 

This idea builds on established and growing Internet trends as web users produce their own videos based on movies or TV shows (“supercuts”) on YouTube (e.g., HISHE, Honest Trailers). The project will build and manage an online contest platform where contestants submit their ideas in any format, including video, photos, storyboard, script, voice, powerpoint or other medium that conveys the altered narrative and outcome. The winner(s) will be given the opportunity to produce their alternate ending video, including possible visit to an R&D facility, backstage, celebrity scientist, Hollywood writer, or other reward TBD. The project offers a way to combine creativity and science in a format that is highly popular and accessible, while offering education on video production and energy technology that inform participants and the public in an entertainment context.

Is this proposal for a practice or a project?


What actions do you propose?

The project entails two elements: 1) soliciting and awarding ideas, and 2) producing and disseminating those ideas through marketing and screening. Consequently, there are two broad audiences for this project: 1) those who will participate in the contest with their ideas, in a process that encourages learning;  2) those who will see the resulting video in an entertainment context. As discussed below, there is also a third audience anticipated, which includes funding organizations, venture capitalist, academic organizations, tech companies, and others, who may be interested in the potential for some of the ideas generated by the contest.

Likewise, there will be two marketing strategies: 1) to reach a wide range of individuals to participate in the contest; and, 2) to reach a wide audience with the resulting ideas and messages.

The Internet-based platform will comprise two elements: the framework and platform for the contest; and the online content, technical resources and collaboration opportunities for participants. (Not unlike this contest...)

The competition will judge the ideas, not the production value of the submissions. Good ideas will be recognized and winners awarded with the opportunity produce their ideas for a wide audience. Winners will have the opportunity to produce their alternate ending and/or a visit an R&D facility, backstage, celebrity scientist or Hollywood writer, or other reward to be determined.

We propose the following actions to implement this concept:

  1. Define the scope of the contest. To pilot the idea, we will define five film categories/genres, designating three movies for each category to choose from. This will minimize licensing exposure and allow for more comparative judging, while the concept is still being tested.
  2. Define the rules of the contest, such as specify eligibility, formats for submission, process and timelines, criteria, award levels, etc. Criteria will focus on the idea in terms of  technology, innovation, creativity, vision, humor, etc. Participation initially will be limited (capped at a certain maximum number) to keep the judging manageable and to create a sense of competition and urgency to register early.
  3. Secure intellectual property rights. This may limit to some extent the candidate films for the contest, but not to the extent that it would make the concept unviable.
  4. Secure sponsors to support the contest and/or to provide in-kind, networking or financial resources to produce,  market and screen the winning idea(s) in a variety of fora. Sponsors will not be limited to the film and energy industries.
  5. Create an Internet platform for contest information and submission of narratives. We propose to work with a professional online contest services company, OpenWater, that provides all the online functionality, marketing and award management services needed to run a fair, transparent, accessible and equitable online contest. The Internet-based platform will comprise two elements: the framework and platform for the contest; and the online content, technical resources and collaboration opportunities for participants. (Not unlike this contest...) A notional outline of the website architecture is provided below. 
  6. Establish an Panel of Judges. We will recruit an expert panel of judges including energy technology experts, climate and other scientists, artists, entertainment industry professionals, behavioral economics experts, venture capitalists, and others TBD. The contest will also be open to popular voting and commentary (again, much like this contest). The members of the panel will also serve as conduits to their networks and milieu to market the contest.
  7. Launch the contest and marketing strategy. Social media will likely be the core vehicle for marketing the contest, including targeting the YouTube audience. To avoid the "echo chamber" of social media, we will complement that with a "natural marketing" strategy, at least initially, and explore the potential to "cobranded" with sponsors. We will considering timing the launch and deadline(s) to coincide with entertainment awards ceremonies. As the model is proven, the number of annual starts may increase, perhaps with a revolving schedule.
  8. Produce, market and screen video. A variety of networks will be leveraged to reach a broad and diverse  audience, including those of the winner, judges, sponsors, project partners, and network establish through the contest itself.
  9. Establish feedback mechanisms for tracking and assessing results and impact and identifying potential spinoff ideas.


Landing Page

Contest mission

Body of the site:

All things pertaining to the contest

  • How to submit
  • Examples of submittal
  • Calendar of contest starts
  • Available Movies for each contest
  • Rules and regs
  • Member feedback
  • Voting and commenting
  • Awards
  • Sponsors
  • Judges

Support for creative writing and production

  • Tips for producing storyline, lighting on a budget, editing, etc
  • Hints for inspiration to get started
  • Internet Resource libraries and links
  • Community access
  • Life Line (one time access to expert for guidance)

Support for STI R&D

  • Tips on basic physics, mechanical design, existing theories
  • Hints for inspiration to get started
  • Internet Resource libraries and links
  • Community access
  • Life Line (one time access to expert for guidance)

Winners Page

  • Concept
  • Story of concept(s) and winner(s)
  • Story of production 
  • Screening
  • Critical review and comment (rotten tomatoes type system, perhaps kilowatt or CO2 meter?)
  • Results and impact (audience reached, nature of comments, actions motivated, collaborations created, etc.)
  • Spinoff ideas and projects

Who will take these actions?

The project will be led by Cecilia Ciepiela-Kaelin, President of AISDevelopment Corporation, in partnership with Scott Sklar, President of Stella Group Inc., and Joe Scacciaferro, CEO and President of FerroProductions.

AISDevelopment is a small, woman-owned, HUBZone company, based in Taos, New Mexico. AISD is about creating new ways to think about and solve the complex challenges of equitable socio-economic development and climate change. AISD will provide overall strategic management and direction for the project

The Stella Group, LTD, is a clean energy technology optimization and strategic policy firm specializing in blending clean, distributed energy technologies and financing for commercial, industrial, governmental, institutional, and mixed-use projects. Scott Sklar has forty years of experience in the energy sector, including national military and energy policy as a US Senate aide, technical performance and standards as Acting R&D Director at the National Center for Appropriate Technology, and business/financing running (15 years) the solar and biomass industry associations and his own company for 13 years. Mr. Sklar is a recognized expert and global leader in energy efficiency and renewable energy technology, policy and education, who can facilitate recruitment of judges, expert technical advisor, sponsors, and access to target markets.

is a technology design firm and leader of innovative broadcast and digital video production. Joseph Scacciaferro is a recognized leader in the entertainment industry for innovative broadcast and digital video production. Mr. Scacciaferro has been honored with 9 Emmy nominations and 5 Emmy awards for his accomplishments in both video and music production. Ferro Productions brings vast experience in TV, music and film production and extensive networks in the entertainment industry to facilitate recruitment of judges and sponsors, marketing and IP. Ferro will also provide technical support for the design and production of the contest platform, working with OpenWater to integrate the online contest software and functions.

Where will these actions be taken?

Because the project will be web-based, the geographic scope is unlimited, however, the target audience is the United States. The website will be hosted in the US.

In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.

United States

Country 2

No country selected

Country 3

No country selected

Country 4

No country selected

Country 5

No country selected


What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?

Because this project is focused on behavior change, it is not possible to provide a meaningful calculation of GHG reductions. The project is aimed at tapping into instinctive human behavior and neuroscience to change attitudes and enhance learning about renewable energy and climate change; it assumes that this change will have a broader social impact by increasing the number of people using renewable energy or influencing opinions on addressing climate change.

What are other key benefits?

The project offers a way to combine creativity and science in a format that is highly popular and accessible, while offering education on video production and energy technology that inform participants and the public, and generating original ways to communicate about climate change. The project will create an innovation ecosystem in which ideas, community connections and new narratives around energy technology are continually generated, which inform the communications, policy, social, health, technology and science communities, and with the potential for marketable innovations to emerge. The concept is scalable to other interest driven arts and sciences learning.

More than anything, it could serve to crowdsource ideas for how to deal with the challenges of energy messaging, delivery, behavior change, technologies, education, policy, etc. I think there is also value in potential series spinoffs for the TV/film industry; gamification; implementation projects; or technology ideas for venture capitalists or research funders.

The contest assumes the role of an entertaining competition that challenges both scientific and creative thought simultaneously. Beneath the surface it is a new age teaching tool illustrating the need for both right and left brain development and balancing. It will demonstrate to the individual and the communities the value of blending creative and scientific concepts and approaches. It will further develop socialization and common ground between two schools of thought not typically found elsewhere.

On the more practical side the concepts and ideas flowing from these submittals may contain true marketable elements or products. Further the originators of these concepts may in themselves be an untapped resource. These findings will hold true in both the Energy and Creative markets.

Finally, the ease of scalability is remarkable. The contest can expand into many other fields of study. It can be duplicated in the Environmental Sciences, Medical Fields, Global Societies, Technologies, etc. The contests can grow from a pure internet experience into an annual or semi annual global gathering of vast communities.


What are the proposal’s projected costs?

The cost to start up the project is estimated to range from $500,000 to 800,000. The project is extremely scalable at marginal extra cost, however, and we anticipate potential revenues and sponsorships to sustain and adapt the project over time.


This project will have an impact in the short-term, because it leverages current trends in online behavior to foster learning and innovation. It has long term potential in that it is scalable and flexible, and it has potential to generate new communications, learning and technology innovations.

About the author(s)

Cecilia Ciepiela-Kaelin is a senior economic development,  sustainable urban planner and innovation expert, based in Washington DC, with over 25 years of private and public sector experience designing, planning and managing international development programs in over 50 countries, working toward equitable and sustainable socio-economic change. Ms. Ciepiela originated the idea and sought and secured the collaboration of the proposed partners for this project, based on prior relationships and work on the issues of energy, climate change, social change, and systems change. 

Her coursework, research and professional work have included conducting assessments of Transit Oriented Development plans for Bogota, Cali and Medellin; advising the Center for Clean Air Policy on the development of an M&E model for transit oriented development projects in Colombia; and serving as a consultant to Pepco/Delmarva on their residential energy efficiency program in Maryland. She has conducted energy demand forecasts; a health impact assessment of the child protective system in the US; traffic impact evaluations of mixed-use urban development projects; and developed community energy use profiles using GIS. Most recently, she conducted a study of how climate change adaptation can be integrated into road design standards in the US.

Ms. Ciepiela-Kaelin has pursued an unconventional career path, which has given her broad and multifaceted experience and significant management proficiency. Among other things, in 2001 she designed and implemented one of the first cellphone-based market information systems, to provide fish prices to fisherfolk on Lake Victoria in Uganda using SMS, in partnership with South African telecom MTN. The initiative was covered in a Forbes Magazine blog. 

Since 2003, she has been President of her own economic development and planning services firm, AISDevelopment, LLC (AISD), a small, woman-owned HUBzone company, based in Taos, New Mexico.

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The idea for this project sprung primarily from reading George Marshall’s Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate ChangeI was watching "Planet of the Apes" (second of the new series) at around the same time and was irritated with the plot, because it was so obvious that the surviving population in San Francisco could have used all the solar and wind technology in the area, and avoided a devastating war over land and natural resources. I was working separately with an energy technology specialist and a TV and music producer, and put the two together to test my idea. Both liked it and agreed to join in the effort to get it funded and implemented.

I was further influenced by the writings of Daniel Kahneman, especially his booked "Thinking Fast and Slow," in which he adopts the psychological frame that considers our automatic thoughts or intuition as "System 1," and our executive function as "System 2." (Stanovic & West) He describes System 1 "as effortlessly originating impressions and feelings that are the main source of the explicit beliefs and deliberate choices of System 2." In addition, my thinking has been much influenced by the work of George Lowenstein and the challenge of practical application of these theories and research.