It's not surprising that the people responsible for Who Killed the Electric Car ?
combine environmental awareness with futurist tech
savvy and entertainment-world flair. Two of the principals - Director
Chris Paine and Executive Producer Dean Devlin - were EV1 drivers
Devlin and his fellow Executive Producers, Richard Titus and Tavin
Marin Titus, have all been leaders in bringing digital technology to film
and television production. Chris Paine and Richard were both '90s
"digerati". "We knew each other as friendly rivals in the Internet
boom", recalls Richard Titus, whose new media agency Razorfish (and
later Schematic) competed with Paine's Internet Outfitters (later
Here's how an assortment of green-showbiz-techy journalistfilmmakers
pulls together a documentary production. "I had been
working on this for about a year with co-producer Kathy Weiss and my
friend Roger Gilbertson", says Paine. "When we needed more
producing support, I went to Tavin and Richard." Tavin and Richard
Titus were quickly drawn to the story. "We thought immediately of
Dean Devlin", recalls Richard. "Tavin had worked with him for years.
Dean drives an electric car, he's a dedicated environmentalist, and
he's a hugely successful commercial film producer who could make this
Finally, the team brought in Jessie Deeter, whose journalistic
documentary background with "FRONTLINE" rounded out their
experience. "Jessie's relentless pursuit of CARB and the auto industry
resulted in getting informed industry insiders like Alan Lloyd, Tom
Everhart and John Dabels to talk with us", says Paine. Deeter recalls:
"After having two of our key interviews from General Motors cancel on
the same day, I knew that we were going to have to work extra hard
to get all sides of the story."
Richard Titus explains why so many well-known faces became part of
the documentary. "As the program wound down, celebrities were the
only people who could get the EV1. I wanted to lease one, but Chelsea
[the GM sales specialist who became a EV activist] told me I was
wasting my time with the size of the waiting list. Celebrities were in a
position to embarrass GM if they couldn't get a lease, so they got the
cars. As Chelsea said, you didn't stand a chance if you were a dentist
from the Valley."
One of the most dramatic episodes in the making of the film took place
before the production team was firmly established. "Chris got a tip
from the EV activist grapevine that GM was trucking the repossessed
EV1s to the GM proving grounds in Arizona", says Tavin Titus. "He
called from down there and said "We have to rent a helicopter now!"
We hadn't assembled production financing or crew yet, but our "Shoot
Now, Pay Later" decision turned out to be crucial. About two days
before Christmas, Chris flew around in the helicopter over the vast
proving grounds and stumbled upon the pile of 50 EV1s sitting next to
the crusher. We all got the chills when we saw the footage." That
documentary evidence would make a startling contrast to GM's claim
three months later that every part of those vehicles would be recycled.
"For those of us who drove and loved these cars", says Dean Devlin,
"It was enormously frustrating because this story was never told in the
press. We couldn't understand why. Every time the story of the electric
vehicle was told, it was from the car companies' point of view, and
filled with bad information, even from very good media outlets. It
shocked me. We only knew about this because we were personally
involved as EV1 drivers. We realized that this story was not going to
get told unless we told it."
"Documentaries bring big stories to the public in ways other media
can't", says Paine. At first, I just wanted to share the amazing
experience of driving an electric car, because they were impossible to
get outside of California and Arizona. When they started taking them
off the road, I knew we had better start shooting. What we discovered
was a lot more than a story about a car."
Director of Photography Thaddeus Wadleigh anchored the project in
High Definition technology. Multiple camera operators (many of them
volunteer) captured some of the film's best moments on smaller
cameras. Veteran Cinematographer Jim Matsloz shot most of the
footage of the EV1 on the road, including the race on the Willow
Springs race track. Editors Michael Kovalenko, Chris A. Peterson, and
Associate Producer Natalie Artin worked with the team to assemble
200 hours of footage, archives and transcripts into our final film.
"We can't sustain a world where we consume so much oil and create
so much pollution just to drive our cars", said Paine. "As filmmakers,
we just wanted to start a little fire with this film." Richard Titus adds,
"We wanted to leave people inspired to reshape the future."
(source: press kit from Sony Pictures Classics)