“I’m guessing it’s the first time that a feature film or documentary has ever been made with Keynote as its basis,” says Lesley Chilcott, coproducer of the Sundance Film Festival hit “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Directed by Davis Guggenheim, the film eloquently weaves scientific facts with practical solutions — and spikes of humor from the likes of Matt Groening’s animated series “Futurama” — as it documents former Vice President Al Gore’s lifelong effort to reverse the effects of global climate change.

A longtime and respected advocate for the environment, Gore has given some 1,000 talks on climate change since 1989 — at first using slides in a carousel with easels and charts. He switched to Keynote on his PowerBook, Chilcott says, after Gore’s wife Tipper said, “Well, Mr. Information Superhighway, why don’t you put your slides on your computer?”

“An Inconvenient Truth” captures Gore’s “traveling global warming show” and punctuates it with filmlets of his personal journey to show why, out of the world’s menu of issues, Gore has remained so passionate about the environment.

A Genome of Slides

“When we were trying to figure out how to best film Al’s presentation,” Chilcott recalls, “we looked at a variety of options when designing multiple screens for him. Once we started investigating Keynote and its capabilities, we realized that it was best to actually film the presentation using Keynote on multiple screens.

“It’s just a phenomenal program,” Chilcott adds. “Al keeps what he calls a genome of all his master slides — whether they are charts or graphs or images or QuickTime clips — in Keynote, so he can tailor his presentation to different audiences.” Gore also downloads new photographs or animations while he’s on the road so he can include new information, often relating directly to his audience, the day of his talk.

Al Gore presenting

Al Gore reviews satellite images of hurricanes roaring toward the Florida coast in 2005.

Giving Earth an HD Look

When film production began, none of the filmmakers had ever used Keynote. Yet they wanted to polish Gore’s presentation with high-resolution graphics and video that could be projected onto plasma displays and a screen measuring 15 by 45 feet.

Within a few days, everyone — filmmakers, editors, researchers — were using Keynote to create and update material for Gore’s presentation. “One of the great things about Keynote,” Chilcott points out, “is that we could import and export video and images at extremely high resolution to give the presentation an HD look.”

When the production team needed to change some charts or graphs to accommodate new data, they used Keynote’s Inspector tool. “It’s quite easy to change these things with very little experience,” Chilcott says. “We were dropping, altering and adding slides less than an hour before we were to shoot. If we had used playback tapes, we would not have been able to make these types of adjustments and stick to our hectic schedule.”

Convenient Cuing

Keynote also gave Gore the ability to click through the slides at his own pace. “If we’d used a video server for the presentation,” explains Chilcott, “we would have had to pre-edit everything and have a technical director remotely cue all of these things from a room or truck. Al would have had little way to adjust the slides to his speech or to new information. Besides, most of these servers can’t handle HD.

Al Gore and the team editing

Producers and friends of “An Inconvenient Truth” huddle at a Power Mac G5; left to right, Dan Goldith (standing), Brian Buel, Kristin Gore, Davis Guggenheim (director), Al Gore, Lawrence Bender (producer), Laurie David (producer) and Lesley Chilcott (producer).

“But with Keynote, Al was able to do the cuing himself. If he decided he wanted to talk for 40 seconds instead of five, he had that control. He could go forward or return to a previous point if he wanted to.

“Had we gone away from Keynote,” says Chilcott, “we would never have had the versatility that we were able to have.”

Time to Make a Difference

For cutting, Chilcott’s crew exported photos, animations and QuickTime movies directly into Avid software on Power Mac G5 computers and PowerBooks for use in the final film.

Chilcott says, “An Inconvenient Truth” was produced in a record amount of time. “We decided to do it in June and we finished it in January for Sundance,” she recalls. “The whole thing took eight months. Without the help of this application, I’m not sure how we would have done it so quickly.”

Chilcott also doesn’t think the film would be as absorbing. “I can tell you this with 100 percent confidence: If we had chosen to do this another way, the presentation in the movie would not be as dynamic as it is.”

Instead, the inspirational look at Gore’s fervent crusade demonstrates: There is still time to make a difference.

Help Solve the Climate Crisis

(from “An Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore)
  • Neutralize your remaining emissions
  • Don’t waste paper
  • Carry a refillable beverage bottle
  • Modify your diet to eat less meat
  • Buy things that last
  • Pre-cycle — reduce before you buy
  • Vote with your dollars
  • Support an environmental group
  • Telecommute from home

In Theaters

  • Watch the trailer
  • Find a theater showing “An Inconvenient Truth”
  • “Log on to Fandango. Reserve some seats. Bring the family. It shouldn’t be missed.” — David Remnick, The New Yorker

Vital Stats

  • Title: “An Inconvenient Truth”
  • Release: Paramount Classics and Participant Productions
  • Director: Davis Guggenheim
  • Starring: Earth and Citizen Al Gore
  • Producers: Laurie David, Lawrence Benter, Scott Z. Burns
  • Executive Producers: Jeff Skoll and Davis Guggenheim
  • Co-producer: Lesley Chilcott
  • Music: Michael Brook
  • Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes