Lisa Day of socially conscious film company Participant Productions answers questions
What work do you do?
I am the vice president of social action and advocacy at Participant Productions.
What does your company do?
Participant is a film company with a twist — we only make “issue” movies, and for each movie we create social-action campaigns. Our films have included An Inconvenient Truth and Syriana, as well as Good Night, and Good Luck, Murderball, and Fast Food Nation. I get to work on the campaigns for each of our films.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m still doing a lot of work on An Inconvenient Truth, although I am increasingly occupied with upcoming films such as The Kite Runner and Angels in the Dust, a documentary about an AIDS orphanage in South Africa.
How do you get to work?
I will have to admit that I drive. I used to take the bus, but now I commute to Beverly Hills and there aren’t as many options. It’s a real problem.
What long and winding road led you to your current position?
I fell into my work — there was no plan. I was in law school at UCLA, knowing that I didn’t want to practice law, and worked one summer at an environmental group called the Earth Communications Office. After finishing law school, I ended up at ECO for 10 years working on environmental communications campaigns, and that eventually led me to Participant.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in D.C. and now live in Los Angeles.
What has been the worst moment in your professional life to date?
Having to decide to leave an organization I’d been with for 10 years. I still feel like I left a big piece of myself behind.
What’s been the best?
Seeing the reaction to An Inconvenient Truth and knowing I played a role has been extraordinary.
What environmental offense has infuriated you the most?
Waste in all of its forms.
Who is your environmental hero?
The Union of Concerned Scientists — science with a conscience.
What’s your environmental vice?
Now that I drive to work again, I am behind the wheel of my car way too much. I offset my emissions every year, but it’s no excuse.
How do you spend your free time (if you have any)? Read any good books lately?
I am a voracious reader and a music geek, so chances are that if I’m not at a concert, I’m at home reading. I’ve been recommending Rory Stewart’s The Places In Between to everyone. Rory walked across Afghanistan in January 2002, and The Places In Between is as much a travelogue as it is a study of modern day Afghanistan, its people, and the effects of 30 years of war.
What’s your favorite meal?
I’m probably happiest when there’s Indian food in front of me.
What’s your favorite place or ecosystem?
Joshua Tree National Park.
If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?
I’m too much of a realist to aim big, so I would institute pay-as-you-pump car insurance — the more gas you use, the more you pay in car insurance. The less you drive (and the more fuel-efficient your car), the less you pay. It’s not perfect, but it would encourage less driving and higher fuel efficiency.
Who was your favorite musical artist when you were 18? How about now?
Peter Gabriel was my favorite and is still way up there on the list. I don’t think I could pick a favorite now, but Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Rós, Elbow, Magnet, and Kings of Convenience are some of the artists who are never rotated off my iPod.
What’s your favorite TV show?
Heroes is my TV pick of the season.
If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
Never be silent. If you’ve got an opinion, express it.
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