Michael Bloomberg’s Coal Documentary Examines Complex National Issue

From the Ashes Documentary
Courtesy of National Geographic Channel

Michael Bloomberg hasn’t been mayor of New York City for three and a half years, but the connections he and his team made at City Hall are still coming into play — especially in the release of “From the Ashes,” the environmental documentary that is the first feature film to be produced by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The company partnered on Michael Bonfiglio’s film with Radical Media, the production company that worked with the Bloomberg administration on projects including the Made in NY program. “From the Ashes” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, which the mayor’s office was instrumental in founding. The documentary, which airs on National Geographic June 25, is being promoted with screenings in partnership with an international network of city mayors, as well as with short-form content for social media.

“What we’re trying to do is leverage and think creatively about the ways that we can tap into this vast network of Bloomberg’s reach,” said Katherine Oliver, the Bloomberg Associates exec who executive produced the documentary. At City Hall, she served as the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, widely credited for the post-9/11 boom in the city’s entertainment industry.

When Bloomberg and Radical embarked on “From the Ashes” more than two years ago, no one much talked about the coal industry and its effects on the environment. Since the presidential election, it’s top of mind, and the filmmakers found themselves with a feature that had taken on a new urgency. The doc’s approach is to use the data-driven focus of the Bloomberg brand to bolster an evenhanded, human story that looks at a complicated issue from all sides — and from both sides of the aisle. “We wanted to go after a really broad audience who may not all agree with us,” Bonfiglio noted.

No other feature plans are brewing for Bloomberg, but the organization will continue to focus on using its wide net of media and tech connections to get people engaged with the causes it cares about.

Radical Media chairman and CEO Jon Kamen thinks socially minded content creators should take note. “I always said one of the greatest gifts Bloomberg [Philanthropies] could give the philanthropic world was a better set of tools to talk about the issues that they care about,” he said.