FilmAsMethod – Film Production

In the last 10 years, Johanna Ickert and her team have gained an expertise in turning complex scientific subjects into fresh and easy-to-grasp concepts – be it for TV, online distribution, or educational purposes. Bringing together media production skills and a background in visual anthropology and science communication theory, we produce and disseminate highly visual, socially relevant, and story-driven films, photographs, and graphics that stick in our viewers’ minds. Our recent clients include internationally renowned think tanks, research institutions, foundations and NGOs, such as the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI), Potsdam University, Humboldt University, German Committee for Disaster Reduction (DKKV), Heinrich Böll Foundation, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Greenpeace, Sparkassen Foundation, bauhaus-archiv, the Franco-German Cultural Council and the Foundation Brandenburger Tor.
Below you find a selection of our recent projects:

All in one boat

A participatory documentary project on flood resilience in Vietnam
The ResilNam documentary project “All in one boat” followed a transdisciplinary approach in communicating  flood risk to at-risk communities, as suggested by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The aim was to provide locally embedded and multivocal perspectives on the role of gender in ecosystem-based adaptation in Thua Thien Hue province, by portraying three women living in coastal and urban flood-prone areas. Women are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of flooding, and the reasons for this vulnerability and possible resilience strategies are often not sufficiently communicated to make this knowledge a shared resource. Therefore, we chose a participatory, visual anthropological approach to make our protagonists’ flood experiences as well as the EbA measures they are involved in understandable and emotionally accessible to an interested local audience.
One of the key methods applied was the creation of flood-diaries: Our three protagonists wrote personal narratives in which they were reflecting topics such as their individual flood experiences, challenges they cope with as women throughout the disaster cycle, gender-related questions in the context of EbA measures and the potential they see in EbA. These diary narratives were recorded and combined with additional footage generated in the context of “video elicitations”. Video/photo elicitations are a well-known anthropological method in which audiovisual material serves as a catalyst to shape and facilitate the narration of “stories behind the pictures”. In our case, each of our protagonists directed the film team to specific spots they described in their diaries and linked their narratives to the specific local contexts they chose.

We think that this approach can be productive in order to communicate flood impacts and the role of gender in EbA in more context-sensitive ways. Further, it can help to strengthen non-scientific perspectives on the role of EbA and, if locally disseminated, holds the potential to serve as an effective means to create identification among those affected by flood risk. Usually, the intention behind film-based outreach efforts in the field of DRR is to take advantage of the medium film to transfer scientific knowledge or to motivate certain cognitive/behavioural responses of different target audiences. Albeit this is an important function, this project showed that going beyond this “deficit-orientation”, the medium film can also be used as a tool to strengthen the collaborative, reflexive and translational dimension of flood risk communication.

Commissioned by: Potsdam University


Paradise Reloaded?

A documentation of a communication project on Haydn’s Creation in the context of the Anthropocene

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In 1798, Joseph Haydn’s Creation was premiered. As a representation and celebration of nature, it was a public success. Since then, humanity has radically transformed Earth’s system. We live in a new geological age: the Anthropocene. What does nature mean to us today? What is “creation” for us?
This documentary accompanies a unique project that takes Haydn’s piece as a starting point for transdisciplinary encounters. The project was carried out by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in cooperation with Berlin University of the Arts (UdK), the choir Junges Ensemble Berlin, and three secondary schools based in Berlin and Hamburg. In several concerts, symposia, and meetings, our protagonists explore and discuss topics such as nature and culture in the Anthropocene, sustainability, and historical and current considerations of nature from a scientific and musical perspective. The documentary makes this lively transdisciplinary and cross-generational exchange tangible through participant observations, in-depth interviews, and a specific treatment of images, music, and sound.
Watch the Trailer
Commissioned by: Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS, Potsdam)


Energiewende Ruhr

Video portraits & photo reportages

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The UN Convention on Climate Change, adopted in Paris in December 2015, represents a historical turning point for global energy and climate policy. For the first time, all countries around the world have agreed to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. At the same time, each region is faced with the task of transferring the international climate protection targets to specific spatial and social conditions at the local level. This is also the case for the Ruhr area, one of the largest industrialised regions in the world. Once focused on coal, iron, and steel, it has undergone a profound structural change and is now facing the challenge of an energy transition.
Within the framework programme “Implementing the energy transition in municipalities of the Ruhr area”, funded by Stiftung Mercator, we have produced 5 video portraits and 16 photo-reportages focusing on the actors, structures, and processes necessary to carry out a transformation of the Ruhr area. The videos offer intimate encounters with the different local realities faced by citizens who are engaged in developing a sustainable future for the region.
Website with videos and photographs
Commissioned by: Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI, Essen)


Demoenergie – The Transformation of the Energy System as the Engine for Democratic Innovations

Video portraits, teaser, documentation, and photo-reportages


As a joint research project organised by the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI, Essen) and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS, Potsdam), Demoenergie examines the potentials and limits of dialogue-oriented citizen participation in the German energy transition (“Energiewende”) and the conflicts associated with energy infrastructure projects. One module of the project, coordinated by the KWI and engaging in action research, co-initiated and evaluated a participatory process that included local citizens and other stakeholders in the planning of a high-voltage transmission line in Windischeschenbach and Schwandorf (Bavaria, Germany). The project attempted to gain new insights concerning the design and implementation of citizen participation on infrastructure projects in the field of the energy transition. Using film and photography, we accompanied four protagonists involved in the different stages of the project. Each of them shared a unique perspective on the deliberative process and its goals. Seen in combination, these videos provide insights into the multi-layered sociocultural dimension of citizen participation in the context of the energy transition.
Website with videos and photographs
Commissioned by: Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI, Essen)



A full-length cinema documentary on the societal conflicts around Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

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What is the relationship between democracy and economy? How do decision-making processes work when it comes to large-scale infrastructure projects? And can we tackle the problem of climate change by focusing only on technological advancement? These are some of the core questions addressed by the feature-length documentary ENERGIELAND, which shows the German regions of Lusatia and East Brandenburg as torn territories. On the one hand, there is the energy giant Vattenfall, a company that wants to legalise the process of capturing CO2 from its coal-fired plants and storing it in underground saline aquifers. Together with politicians and climate researchers, Vattenfall is seeking to implement so-called “CCS technology” (“Carbon capture and storage”), arguing that it could rescue the world’s climate, prolong coal power, and become an export hit. However, a rapid resistance is forming in the storage regions around Birkholz-Beeskow and Neutrebbin. Opponents to the technology do not only point out the potential risks of CCS, such as groundwater salination or outgassing, but also the consequences of cementing the existing energy system. ENERGIELAND accompanies the everyday life of the controversy – from the spontaneous activities of citizens’ initiatives, panel discussions, and demonstrations, to meetings of Vattenfall employees, media tribunals, and large-scale PR campaigns for IZ Klima. The controversy surrounding the case of CCS raises fundamental questions regarding the political challenges of the German energy transition.
The film has screened at numerous festivals and has received several nominations and prizes. These include:
DocPoint – Helsinki Documentary Film Festival
Incredible Filmfestival, Lindenberg, prize “Best Documentary”
Lubuskie Lato Filmowej Wettbewerb, Lagów, Poland
CinemAmbiente Environmental Film Festival, Italy
International Student Film Festival “Sehsüchte” Potsdam, Fokus Nachhaltigkeit, special mention of the German Bundestag
Ökofilmtour, nominated for the prize “Best Documentary”
Internationales Dokumentarfilmfestival München
Filmfestival Cottbus
DOK Leipzig, nominated for the prize “Friedliche Revolution”


Last Minute

An awareness spot about climate justice
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“Every flight pollutes the atmosphere.” Of course. “Greenhouse gas emissions? Global warming?” True. But can’t we just forget about that? For this awareness spot inspired by the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance, we interviewed numerous passengers at Frankfurt Airport who were stuck in the gap between what they know they should do and their actual behaviour. We then re-enacted the most frequent statements in a film studio with professional actors.
Last Minute arose from the inconvenient truth that the richest 20% of the world’s population consumes not only 80% of the world’s natural resources but is also the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. At the same time, the countries of the global south are most affected by climate change, which they are hardly responsible for. In addition, they rarely have the economic resources necessary for adaptation and mitigation measures. In order to achieve more climate justice, it’s necessary to take into account that there is a “climate-tolerable” annual budget of around 2 tonnes of CO2 per person, per year (for housing, mobility, food, everything!). But in taking just one long-distance flight, this budget is already drastically exceeded.
Commissioned by: atmosfair gGmbH in co-production with Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF



A web-based documentary on the sociocultural dimension of climate change mitigation on three continents
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ClimateCultures is a multimedia web-based documentary portraying three different projects in the field of renewable energies and energy efficiency in Honduras, Rwanda, and Germany. Developed within the framework of a cooperation between Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF and the non-profit climate protection organisation “atmosfair”, the film accompanies the people behind these projects. What visions of the future drive them in their everyday commitment to sustainability? What are the implementation barriers they have to fight against? What specific social, cultural, and political challenges exist in each of these three countries?
Although more than 20 years have passed since the genocide, RWANDA is still strongly shaped by its historical heritage. But now everything has to change – based on the principles of “green growth”. One goal of the government’s “Vision 2020” program is to provide each household with an energy-efficient cookstove. Subsidised by CO2 offsets purchased by European flight guests, these stoves promise to reduce poverty, protect the climate, and prevent further deforestation. But how does this stove fit into the life and the cooking culture of Rwandan citizens? The film follows the staff of the NGO “Safer Rwanda” in the production and distribution of stoves, offering deep insights into a transforming society.
HONDURAS, on the other hand, is strongly impacted by an ongoing conflict on questions around the “right” development path. While the government has set up a framework to facilitate the construction of numerous hydropower projects, resistance against such projects has recently escalated into violent fights. Indigenous organisations such as “COPINH” and human rights defenders consider the boom of green energy industries as a form of “CO2lonialismo”. They criticise the fact that local inhabitants are often pushed away from their land and have only restricted access to water, and also point out that the electricity produced mainly serves US-American industries on the coastline. Many hydropower developers are thus accused of “green grabbing”: using climate change mitigation to justify and legitimise the privatisation of the commons. In this difficult context, the private company “CISA” has built one small hydropower plant after another; until now without much conflict. In what sense is their practice different? What is their social and economic strategy? And is this strategy also convincing to surrounding communities that do not benefit directly from the company?
GERMANY enjoys international recognition for its commitment to the energy transition (“Energiewende”). Nevertheless, the CO2 emissions from the world’s leading export nation increase annually. Therefore, four friends at a high school in the small town of Neustrelitz undergo an experiment: they want to contribute to “climate justice” through their everyday actions. This turns out to be a difficult task. How can they reduce their annual CO2 emissions to 2 tonnes without transforming their entire lives?
Link: Please request private link to the work-in-progress website:
Commissioned by: atmosfair gGmbH in co-production with Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF



Flood Resilience in Vietnam

A motion graphics-based information video

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In the last years, flooding has increasingly affected thousands of citizens of Thừa Thiên-Huế province in Central Vietnam. Especially the low-lying coastal areas and Hue city have been repeatedly affected by severe flooding from the sea, rivers and heavy rainfall. Along with climate change, population growth and increasing urbanisation, the people of the province are highly affected by the impacts of flood hazards. Especially vulnerable to the impacts of flooding are women. Even though they are pivotal managers of natural and environmental resources and have the experience and knowledge to build community resilience, they only hold minor roles at the level of policy formulation. Through a combined approach of using ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) and strengthening the role of women in disaster risk management (DRM) and climate change adaptation (CCA), the ResilNam project wants to contribute to increasing flood resilience in Thừa Thiên-Huế province. This informational film commissioned was by the ResilNam team from Potsdam University and aims to convey the key aims and objectives of the project.
You can watch the video here
Commissioned by: Potsdam University



Enhancing Synergies on Disaster Prevention in the European Union

A motion graphics-based information video
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The project “Enhancing Synergies on Disaster Prevention in the European Union” (ESPREssO) aims at contributing to a new strategic vision to approach natural risk reduction and climate change adaptation in Europe, thereby opening new frontiers for research and policy making. We produced this informational film on behalf of the ESPREssO team to support a concise communication of the project goals.
You can watch the video here
Commissioned by: Deutsches Komitee Katastrophenvorsorge e.V. (DKKV)


Interviews with DRR experts from the ESPREssO team

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Why should you care about disaster risk reduction (DRR)? What are the biggest obstacles to DRR in Europe? What should we do in order to improve it? And what can we do today to contribute to DRR? In this interview series, we asked experts in the field of DRR to respond to these questions.
You can watch the videos here:
Why should I care about Disaster Risk Reduction in Europe?
What are the biggest obstacles to Disaster Risk Reduction in Europe?
What should we do in order to improve Disaster Risk Reduction in Europe?
What can I do in order to improve Disaster Risk Reduction?
Commissioned by: Deutsches Komitee Katastrophenvorsorge e.V. (DKKV)


The North Anatolian Fault

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Istanbul has one of the highest seismic vulnerabilities in the world due to its proximity to the North Anatolian Fault. This short animated film portraits Olcay, an early career geoscientist, who developed a passion for earthquake science and its communication to the public.
You can watch the film here:
Production team: Director: Johanna Ickert; Contributing Researchers: Prof. Iain Stewart, Dr. David Fernández-Blanco, Johanna Ickert; Motion Graphics: Andrew Berry; Sound design: Philipp Nespital; Speaker: Marianne Graffam; Acknowledgement: This film and the associated doctoral research were generously funded as part of the Marie Curie Integrated Training Network on ‘Anatolian pLateau climatE and Tectonic hazards’ (ALErT).