HBS 2012 Alum ‘Goes Rogue’, Quits his Job at BCG to Make a Film About Climate Change


Diogo Castro Freire (MBA ‘12) walked out of his job in management consulting and picked up a video camera to document the stories of the communities in the US dealing with the first impacts of climate change, and those of the people working toward sensible solutions. As Diogo launches an Indiegogo campaign to support the project, Managing Editor Steve Hind spoke to him about his decision.

Steve Hind: How did you come to decide to walk away from BCG to make a film?

Diogo Castro Freire: I have wanted to work more directly on climate change mitigation and resilience efforts for a long time. My five years of management consulting with BCG were great in terms of professional development and personal finances but the gravitational pull of working on a cause I cared so much about was too strong. Partner incentives at consulting firms make it hard for their to be a pipeline of interesting work in this field, so it quickly became apparent the two were, for now, incompatible. At the very least I would be swimming upstream.

I started looking at opportunities in distributed solar companies, being bullish on the technology and its potential impact, but the path I embarked on took me somewhere unexpected. In the end, I ended up going into film.

The trigger was watching the documentary chasing ice. It reminded me film is unique in its ability to develop topics in depth while simultaneously reaching a broad audience.

Given the scale of the challenge and what the scientific consensus tells us, climate change remains largely and dangerously neglected.

This made me realize we need to tell more stories and perhaps in a different way, one that makes climate change less abstract so it gets the ranking it should have among people’s priorities, and one that addresses the “this is bigger than me” syndrome that prevents a lot of people who do care from acting.

So we developed the synopsis for Adaptation Now, which focuses the camera lens on communities already feeling the first impacts and on everyday people pioneering tangible solutions (things that work, can really move the needle and aren’t regressive). This is about giving climate change a human face, reminding people this is a universal story that truly encompasses them and their communities, and providing a path forward they can follow.

Steve Hind: How does a consultant with an MBA put together a film?

Diogo Castro Freire: Documentary making turns out to be fascinating, it is at the cross roads of many fields including art, journalism, business and politics. It requires an entrepreneurial mindset but it is a unique enterprise in many ways, particularly, regarding financing and distribution.

Financing choices may quickly compromise distribution options later on that can conflict with the goal of reaching the widest audience possible in communities that are ill-informed and may self-select out of watching “another” documentary on climate change.

A tricky component is that documentaries statistically don’t make money. This has been a focus point from early on. As a former business student I am well aware running a project on love alone is just as unsustainable as an economy running on fossil fuels, i.e., I had to quickly understand how to raise cash.

We decided to start small and follow the lean startup mindset. We also decided to start with crowd funding on IndieGogo. We felt that option was the most consistent with the identity of the project, a story about, for and now by everyday people.

Steve Hind: How is the campaign going? What does the best case scenario look like?

It launched yesterday (November 18). It was several months now in the making. In less than 24 hours, we raised 5% which is most encouraging and the momentum continues to build. (Eds: Over 7% had been raised from 56 donors at the time of writing, 24 hours after launch.)

There is always the risk we don’t raise our minimum of 65,000 by the end of December. Then we get nothing and have to try new avenues, but that’s the reality of any new venture.

The ideal scenario that everyone wants is going viral. Broad public support would in itself be an important signal to legislators that people really do care and want more done when it comes to climate change.

Wish me luck!

You can contribute to Diogo’s Indiegogo campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/adaptation-now#home