Leila Conners founded Tree Media Group in August of 1996. With a background in international politics, Leila set out to build a production company that creates media to support and sustain civil society. Leila and Tree are currently creating an internet television channel, called Tree Channel, that will carry the content that Tree creates, among other media.
Most recently Leila directed, wrote and produced a feature-length documentary, The 11th Hour, with Leonardo DiCaprio and 54 leading thinkers and scientists about the state of the world and the state of the human condition. She has written 2 short films with Leonardo DiCaprio on the environment called Global Warning and Water Planet and a feature film script for Ridley Scotts Scott Free Productions on the state of the oceans. Leila has also been published in newspapers and magazines around the world including the International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Yomiuri Shimbun and Wired Magazine among others. Projects over the last 10 years with Tree Media Group include work with the Council on Foreign Relations, NASA, JPL, Norman Lear, Green Cross International, Harvard University, and Hollywood studios among others. Her article on Death and American Culture was published in War, Media and Propaganda, published by Rowman and Littlefield. Leila is currently in pre-production on her next feature-length documentary on consciousness and how to heal the environmental crisis.
Prior to Tree Media, Leila was Associate Editor of New Perspectives Quarterly, an international journal of social and political thought, and Associate Editor of Global Viewpoint of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, an internationally distributed op-ed column that reaches 200 papers. At NPQ, she interviewed thinkers and policy makers including: Kofi Annan, Nafis Sadik, Betty Friedan, Hans Bethe, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Boutros Boutros Ghali among others. She is now Editor-at-Large for NPQ.
In 1991, Leila translated Jacques Attali's book from the French for Random House entitled, Millennium. Leila is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is also a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy and is a member of the Writers Guild of America (WGAW). Leila serves on the Board of Global Green USA and the Entertainment Board for One Voice, a middle east peace project. Leila is often invited to speak on issues of sustainability and the environment and has served on panels nationally and internationally. The film, The 11th Hour, to date has won the Diversity Award and the Earthwatch award in the United States and the Clarion Award in the UK.
Leila lives in Santa Monica with her son Aidan Michael.
Drought. Famine. Severe flooding. Record rainfall. Hurricanes. Acid rain. The highest average temperatures in recorded history. Catastrophe is reported on the nightly news as isolated incidents. But are these incidents isolated, or pieces of a larger global puzzle that could unlock humanity's future? In the history of the planet, humanity's time on earth has been short but powerful. The human drive to ensure its own survival and quality of life has revolutionized industry, science, nutrition and medicine. But it has also effected unprecedented changes in the delicate balance that makes life on earth possible.
Interview with Leila Conners
What do you see as being the positive and negative impact of the media in influencing thinking about climate change?
The more media discusses climate change, the better. The problem with media in terms of climate change is what we call the “10%” problem, in that, the media is always looking to be “fair and balanced,” which is commendable. However, when it comes to climate change, the media looks for “the other point of view” and less than 10% of scientists oppose the science on climate change, yet they are given 50% of the coverage just so that media can appear balanced. This is detrimental to, literally, the survival of the human race. And I mean that. We have to understand that every minute we waste “debating” the issue of climate change, we waste a precious moment in which we could be spending trying to solve this problem that threatens the very biological basis upon which human life depends. Climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and we need to fix this problem now.
What types of initiatives would you like to see the media in
The media needs to stop debating and start showing solutions that people can implement at every level, from the personal to the community level, to also changing consumption behaviors, to putting pressure on politicians to take action.
In your writing of the script for the movie, The 11th Hour, what were the main themes that you wanted to draw attention to? Do you believe that you have succeeded in doing this?
The 11th Hour was an investigation into the state of the planet and its biological ecosystems. What we did not anticipate was that 95% of the leaders and scientists who we interviewed were concerned that the human race was very much at risk of some sort of die-off due to the impacts of climate change and the disruption of the biological web of life due to human civilization and how it functions. We were shocked at this and we put that concept into the film. We also wanted people to know that there STILL IS TIME to make critical and much-needed adjustments to how we design our civilization so that we can reduce the human footprint on planet earth. With the technologies we know today, we can reduce the human footprint by 90%, with the technologies that we know today at that are on the shelf!
What were some of the challenges you faced in planning and making this film from seed idea to completion?
We had a fairly nice production experience with the film. We did not find many challenges as so many experts wanted to participate and share their views at this important time.
Of all the experts you and your colleagues interviewed, what were the aspects that you personally found most striking?
The most striking aspect was that there is a very high degree of consensus on what is happening to the earth’s biosphere. There is not much disagreement.
What are you hoping the 11th Hour action movement will achieve globally?
The 11th Hour Action movement is about personal responsibility and community action. We hope that the film and the support website that we have created will generate action on the ground, no matter how small. We have to start somewhere, and changing the local, finding out about how clean your water is, where your food comes from, and making sure these things are OK, and not polluted, that’s a good start. And we hope most people look into those things, as a start.
How does the company you founded, Tree Media Group source and develop stories into media items? Are there a growing number of people wanting such services? What are the criteria you use to evaluate initial proposals? Does it include evaluating it in terms of the authenticity of the product and/or its marketing strengths?
We generally don’t take on other people’s projects unless a project comes to us that is already on our slate and they are further along in their production than we are.
What are your observations and expectations of President-elect Barack Obama with respect to climate change and saving the planet?
Almost anyone will be better than the Bush Administration that stalled any progress for 8 years. President Obama knows very well that we need to tackle the climate question so I expect to see great strides in dealing with this problem.
In your personal career development, what strategies have you used to develop your potential and source new alliances?
I have found that the best advice is to “show up,” meaning that one gets so many invitations and opportunities to experience new ideas and new groups, and to the best of your ability, you should “show up” and be open to what is happening around you. I find that I don’t show up enough and every time that I do, I am always thankful because I meet someone new, learn something new, and almost always, that person or idea resurfaces down the road in a meaningful way. Life has a plan for you especially if you are present in it. So I try to practice that myself, although for some reason, it is not that easy to do.