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Who Killed the Electric Car?
Production Notes

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 themselves.

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 AppNet/Commerce One).

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 project happen."

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)