"When you see people cry after your film ends, it's the most satisfying feeling."

Lizzie Gillett, producer of climate change film The Age Of Stupid, is proud of her involvement in a project that has taken up a large part of her life over the past four years. In helping bring to the screen a movie that conveys the global effects of human consumption, Gillett has had her own resources stretched.

The Age Of Stupid, directed by Franny Armstrong, whose credits include McLibel and Drowned Out, takes the baton from Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and examines the moral, psychological and human consequences of mankind's current way of life.

British actor Pete Postlethwaite (In The Name of the Father, Brassed Off, The Usual Suspects) stars as an old man living in a devastated world in 2055. He watches "archive" video footage from 2008 and asks: "Why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance?"

Postlethwaite plays the founder of The Global Archive, a storage facility located in the (now melted) Arctic, preserving humanity's achievements in the hope that the planet might be habitable again one day. He pulls together archive news and documentary clips to build a message of what went wrong and why.

The Age Of Stupid is part-doco, part-animation, part-drama. The film-makers wanted to avoid traditional documentary styling as much as possible. In particular, this meant few expert talking-heads or commentary. Instead, animated scenes have been used to explain key concepts and background material.

The reason?

"We wanted to make a film that had an impact," Gillett says "We didn't want to be preaching to the converted. More importantly, I think there is a lot of research out there and people know about climate change but are just not doing anything, so we tried to make a film that engages people emotionally more than intellectually ... to persuade them to do something about climate change.

"You are always going to have people who don't like your film because it doesn't cover every issue they think it should cover, but the reactions have been incredible. I'm especially proud of the tabloid reactions in the UK. It wasn't your usual suspects of the left-wing, liberal press - the tabloids who have naked girls on page three really loved it."

Indeed, The Age Of Stupid has garnered plenty of glowing reviews. It's been quite a ride for Gillett (31). Having worked for Dunedin television station Channel 9 several years ago ("I did a sports show there called The Score and did a bit of news as well for a year or two"), she headed to London where she applied for 300 jobs in one year, eventually finding work as a secretary.

"I tried to get into TV and broadcast work. During that time I realised that if I was going to do this work I wanted to do something meaningful and interesting. I saw Franny speak and was quite inspired so I stalked her on the internet and started volunteering for her in August 2002 and - I can't believe it - I was promoted from posting out VHS tapes to producing a global documentary-drama-animation hybrid."

Armstrong and Gillett bought a high-definition video camera and set off to find their first character at the Paris Air Show. They wanted to snare one of the new breed of Indian entrepreneurs busily starting up low-cost airlines. After several weeks of research, Jeh Wadia, a 33-year-old Indian from a wealthy family launching a new airline called Go Air, was signed up.

Over the next 15 months the pair travelled to six countries and found the other stars of the film; Layefa in Nigeria, Fernand in the Alps of Europe, Piers in Cornwall, Jamila and Adnan in Jordan, Al in New Orleans.

The relentless schedule soon drained the bank balance of the independently produced film, so a funding programme was launched in February 2006, with 40 "shares" of £5000 each. More and more investors joined the project, with all shares sold within two years. More than 200 investors from Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Holland, Denmark and France have contributed to the film's £450,000 budget. The investors each own a percentage of the film, as do the crew, who are working for reduced rates and will be paid once a year for 10 years.

"It has been so difficult," Gillett says. "We've just had to keep working through obstacles as they come up: from difficult Iraqi border officials, to Nigerian hostage situations, to raising all the money ourselves, to making and producing animation, which I knew nothing about; to running a crew of 105 people in six countries for two years, to distributing and promoting the film ourselves, to public speaking."

The Age Of Stupid had its British premiere in March in a solar-powered cinema tent in the middle of London's Leicester Square, and simultaneously screened at 62 cinemas, setting a Guinness World Record in the process. The premiere was not plugged into any mains power, resulting in only 1 per cent of the carbon emissions of a normal Hollywood-style premiere.

Postlethwaite arrived by bicycle before posing for the paparazzi on the green carpet.

Other celebrities and high-profile guests arrived on foot, by bicycle, public transport or biodiesel cars (fat from local Leicester Square fish'n' chip shops was collected by youth volunteers to power the vehicles).

Says Armstrong: "We calculated the film's carbon footprint by recording every journey - by foot, bicycle, motor boat, rowboat, plane, train, car, rickshaw and helicopter - as well as all the electricity, gas, food and equipment used. It added up to 94 tonnes, which is equivalent to four Americans for a year or 185 patio heaters for a month. I definitely think our film is worth 185 patio heaters."

Who: Lizzie Gillett
What: The Age of Stupid
When: Opens at select cinemas today

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES