Ch01.B21 How green is your story?
Often we associate sustainability with environmental concerns: can something be maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage. But how often do we think of sustainability in relation to entertainment?
Q. Can we share great stories while leaving as little environmental impact on the planet as possible?
It’s taken me a while to fully turn my attention toward answering this question, and I am still very much on the journey. Making my own film last year I discovered that limiting the amount of bottled water and takeaway/pod coffee provided on a film set is just scratching the surface.
Inside Acting interview with Enci, an LA car-free activist and filmmaker, initially raised my awareness of green filmmaking and was a catalyst for deciding in September 2015 to make my shoot in a couple of weeks time as ‘green’ as possible. Which turned out to be a little too late to have as much of an effect as I would have liked, but did make me wonder what more I can do next time.
Delving into the history of entertainment even slightly you’ll discover that as an industry we have had a hugely negative impact on the environment. A two year study conducted by the University of California showed that special effect explosions, vehicles and diesel generators on Hollywood productions make the film and television industry second only to the oil industry in terms of polluting emissions.
In her article A Look Behind the Scenes: How Green is Hollywood, ‘tree hugging and amateur filmmaker’ Connie Liu, looks at the way the environment and wildlife are often compromised in the filmmaking process. Her premise, however, is that “being ecologically friendly and creating a compelling film are not mutually exclusive.” One example cites how production for Lord of the Rings transformed New Zealand into Middle Earth and back again. “Grass removed for construction was placed in a nursery and replanted after filming. River crossings were built to minimize impact on fish. The New Zealand army was used as extras instead of transporting actors from around the country to a remote location.”
Globally, positive action toward sustainability in the film industry is growing and the Green Film Making toolkit has a great list of resources from around the world.
So how can you green your film?
Start at the beginning. Get cast and crew involved in the sustainable ideology from the get go. Often an eco-consultant will be hired on studio productions to establish a sustainability agenda. Assuming that’s not an option on your first, self-funded short, it makes sense to have everyone in the same headspace to affect the way you all work.
Cut down on transport, eat local produce, drink tap water and recycle waste.
The Dutch sustainable production guide, How to Green Your Film Production (so far) is an amazing resource, although I found it *hard to read. I downloaded the Australian Good Green Production Bible instead, which effectively and accessibly outlines a number of easy-to-implement solutions to making a green production.
*I don’t speak Dutch
But even if you have personally ticked all of the ‘green film’ boxes, then there’s considering the companies making and supplying your equipment or otherwise involved in the outcome of production. How sustainable and ethical are their business practices? In fact, how can you ensure you are ever being 100% green? Which is where the weight of the sustainability question becomes potentially overwhelming.
A: It’s like any important challenge. Just because the road ahead is uncertain, and you may not achieve everything you want, is that a good enough reason not to begin?