Back in 2011, social and economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin published his book The Third Industrial Revolution that explored the challenges of climate change and globalization, along with the opportunities created by the rise of the Internet and automation, and how governments and corporations should be preparing for, and working to build, a society and economy driven by sustainable innovation and powered by renewable and distributed energy.
Now Rifkin stars in a new documentary (named after his book) from Vice, talking to young people about a roadmap to solve the converging issues of global economic stagnation and environmental disaster. Vice first announced The Third Industrial Revolution at Ford’s “City of Tomorrow” symposium at the Detroit Auto Show on Monday. It’s produced in partnership with Vice Impact, the advocacy-driven platform covering social, economic and environmental issues facing young people that the company announced in September. Vice Media Chief Creative Officer Eddy Moretti says that this project is significantly different than past Vice films and series.
“This is a major pivot for us from the traditional film distribution model, this is activism,” says Moretti. “We started Vice Impact to be our activist brand. For this, we want to go big. It’s not like any other documentary we’ve done. It has to be a teaching tool. I don’t want to just entertain and raise awareness, I want business leaders to listen to this and change. For me, it’s the most exciting thing we’ve ever done.”
The idea for the film hit Moretti last year after hearing Rifkin on CBC Radio in Canada speaking on a panel. Intrigued by Rifkin’s ideas around infrastructure, the environment, and the economy, Moretti read his books and requested a meeting in Washington, D.C.
“I went to D.C. and he gave me an hour, and that hour turned into a whole day,” says Moretti. “I suggested he come to Brooklyn to shoot a TV special. It was only supposed to be an hour-long special. We filmed it last summer but after we started adding music and archival footage, I said, this is better than An Inconvenient Truth. This is a whole plan for the social, economic and environmental future.”
Rifkin has already been working with China and the European Union on adopting an innovative approach to future infrastructure, and Moretti says it’s time to get American business on board, and to actually get things done, it takes more than celebrity.
“I’d rather have American CEOs endorse the film and the ideas, than Leo DiCaprio,” says Moretti. “His film came out, he went to the White House, everyone pats themselves on the back, but you don’t reach through the other side.”
Ford came on as a sponsor after Ford Motor Company president and CEO Mark Fields told Moretti about the company’s new City of Tomorrow initiative, that focuses on improved walkability, autonomous vehicles, and advanced, high-speed mass transit. The company has also announced that over the next five years it will invest $4.5 billion into hybrid and fully electric vehicles.
“I had dinner with Mark Fields in October while we were finishing up the film, and he outlined their City of Tomorrow plan,” says Moretti. “So I sent him the film and they asked us to talk about it at the Detroit Auto Show.”
In the coming months, Vice Impact will be hosting both private and public screenings of the film across the U.S., aiming to engage CEOs, government officials, and community activists about the future of industries and jobs in the United States. Moretti says there will be a film festival announcement soon, and the company is already in talks over theatrical distribution.