Communities and companies have been on a mission to make life on Earth a more sustainable place by recycling, reusing, and reducing environmentally harmful products and emissions. Hollywood is no different as the efforts to make eco-friendly filmmaking has become more prevalent in the moviemaking industry.
First, what is eco-friendly filmmaking? Eco-friendly filmmaking or sustainable film production is an effort on movie or tv productions that is more conscious of environmental, economic, and social issues. To put these efforts in place, part of pre-production is resourcing and planning ways to reduce the carbon footprint of a film project. Much of the planning occurs by key stakeholders involved with the film’s production, such as the director, producers, costume and set designers, cast, and crew.
Forbes.com reported some interesting facts on the impact film productions have on the ecosystem. For example, Richard Whittington’s column “How Film Production Is Becoming More Sustainable And Profitable” wrote, “Blockbuster films with budgets of over $70 million produce an average of 2,840 tons of CO2 per production (it takes 3,700 acres of forest to absorb the equivalent in a year).” The Senior Vice President of Media and Entertainment at SAP continued, “Often filmed across several countries, 51% of these vast CO2 emissions are transport-related,” when pinpointing some of the leading causes of the issues with some studios.
Having an eco-friendly set is an excellent way for productions in and out of Hollywood to do their part in helping sustain the environment. Being sustainable might seem like a daunting task, but planning and using these methods can be beneficial in ways that will be long-lasting.
Planning for Green
During the pre-production, it’s a good idea to consider ways a production can reduce its carbon footprint. Take the steps to crew department leads to understand that sustainability is a priority for film projects and don’t stop there. Communicate to all staff and cast accordingly on the matter as well. Doing so will help establish the design and process of an eco-friendly mindful set early in the production, adapting the sustainable activities as an afterthought.
Another factor to consider is finding out if there are tax deductions and financial incentives for film sets going green at the shoot location. In addition, looking for resources like grants or reimbursements for any environmental measures taken can be helpful in your budgeting. Also, hiring a Green PA or an Environmental Steward will help if there’s room in the budget—more on that later.
Green Cast and Crew
Every effort starts with one person, and a set of people will multiply that effort. Buying significant amounts of individual plastic bottled water cases might seem reasonable, but it’s not environmentally friendly. Instead, ordering reusable jugs of water that are refillable will reduce the amount of plastic used on set and give the cast and crew the initiative to bring their reusable water bottles. To take it a step further could be getting on top of the infamous single-use plastic bottles issue, replacing them with refillable water bottles and water fountains. But, of course, doing so will resort to will help reduce the impact of polluting bottles, such as Jason Momoa offers through his company, Mananalu Water, for this exact purpose.
Car-sharing/pooling to the set is an additional method of going green. Figuring out where everyone will be coming from or seeing who lives nearby can be beneficial in staging a carpooling group. Coordinate with individuals who are willing to drive others and do as much as possible to fill up each car. A specified meeting spot for the carpooling group will do wonders in filming in remote locations. Multiple locations can be used if the film production requires a larger crew with multiple carpools.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three are required for the cast and crew filming. It’s easy to go to a fast food or franchise restaurant as a source but finding a local restaurant would greatly support an eco-friendly set. In addition, going local will lower the environmental impact of the food supply chain and support local communities in the areas where filming is. Finally, doing so will allow coordinated efforts from the production to the restaurant owner to reduce the use of Styrofoam and plastic dishware—be upfront with your cause.
Even the simple act of minimizing unnecessary crew is a way to save on energy. Keeping only those essential to that day’s production can lower the use of power used on set, less consumption of resources, and less waste. In addition, writers, script supervisors, rush editors, and producers can operate practically from home through Zoom, Skype, and other forms of telecommunications.
Digital alternatives will allow the less need for stacks of wasted paper by adopting digital policies for e-signature applications, backup files in the cloud, and sharing Google Docs links. A great example is using Revolution Entertainment Services products like SetKeeper and ProCal for your digital needs on set or off during production.
Green On Set
Film sets are constantly built at the start of production and broken and disposed of when shooting has wrapped. If the budget allows it, use greener sustainable methods for constructing the temporary sets’ structure. Green options like compressed wood products or hemp canvas instead of nylon can be resourceful. Each location is different and may require specific equipment, materials, workforce, and planning comes into play here.
Energy reduction can make a big difference on any set. A simple matter of turning off equipment not being used helps the environment. Another practice is using LED or low-energy lighting instead of the standard fluorescent or incandescent light. LED lights tend to require far less energy than other typical light bulbs and often last longer. Also, rechargeable batteries used for equipment can be beneficial. The cost may be high up front, but money will be saved long-term because of the lesser need to replace them.
As mentioned earlier, hiring a Green PA or Environmental Steward can be helpful while running an eco-friendly set. A Green Production Assistant or ECO PA’s job is to suggest ways to improve the environmental efficiency of production, keep track of its carbon footprints, and help direct people to recycle and compost bins after meals.
An Environmental Steward or Eco Expert’s job is to coordinate with production leaders to find the most valuable ways to implant conservation standards and practices before and during production. In addition, they can help calculate how much energy will be used and the carbon footprint for the entire film from start to finish. Once again, your budget will depend on what is needed or how to utilize these individuals most efficiently.
The Green Conclusion
Environmentally conscious and filmmaking working side to side was a rarity more than two decades ago, but there have been many strives for the two to go together hand in hand. For example, 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 employed the eco-friendly group, Earth Angel, to help make their sets more environmentally friendly. As a result, the production accomplished a fifty-two percent waste diversion rate from landfills and donated fifty tons of material to be reused for other future shows—saving $400,000 by going green. The days of thinking outside of the box when going green are here in the Hollywood studio system. It’ll only grow more as we become conscious of our impact on the environment and give the Earth a much-deserved help restoring plant life and breathable air.