This year came with the first major broadcaster neutralising their carbon emissions. Sky, leading media and entertainment company in Europe, is committing to carbon-neutral production, with an ambitious goal of achieving net-zero carbon by 2030. The behemoth is also underway in developing Sky Studios Elstree – one of the most eco-friendly film and TV studios in the world.
So, commitments to the preservation of our planet, and actions that align with consumers ecological standpoints, are well underway. The question remains: how is it done?
And further – how can film production be eco-friendly and remain profitable?
Here are actionable and practical steps you can take to achieve this for your next movie or TV series.
Creating a more environmentally friendly film set, encompassing such areas lighting, costumes, catering and transportation, utilities, location work, cameras, sound, post-production and visual effects. So let’s dive in!
Ligting can be tricky area to improve upon – LEDs are improving continuously but don’t quite provide the same warmth in temperature to conventional tungsten bulbs. Many rental studios do not even offer LED lights, given that the camera crew need to adjust a lot to get a closer final result.
Warner Bros. has installed new “house lights” equipped with energy-saving technologies on our stages. These induction lights are 240 watts compared to conventional 400 watt metal halide lights typically used in high bay applications. Also, these innovative lights turn on at only 40 watts to provide instant low-level light. Then, each light has a motion sensor that, when activated, increases to full light levels. So, only stage areas in use are fully lit. It is estimated that this technology will save about 35,000 kWh of electricity per stage, per year.
Innovation is really just a fancy word for thinking outside the box is often the best way to lessen carbon emissions, and lighting is no different. Get your lighting team together and brainstorm how your production can get great results while making reducing the environmental impact.
In a nutshell, the more scenes you do from a single or handful of locations significantly lowers your overall impact. Travel and the air pollution and emissions that accompany this and it’s still one of the leading causes of a production’s carbon footprint. Air travel especially can contribute up to 40% of carbon emissions.
So it makes sense that the more localised your filming, the greener your overall impact. It’s useful then to research areas that have the diversity you need for your scenes and have quality filming studios. Ireland, for instance, has really improved its overall investment in the filming industry. Even the government now provides tax relief for all stages of filming in Ireland to international filming studios. Drawing the entire filming process into a single country vastly improves impact.
Costumes are a huge part of what draws people into the world of the plot. However, especially if there are a lot of extras, then you can be looking at an extraordinary amount of waste that ends up in the landfill. So how to fix this…
Start with how to creating a more sustainable approach. Can you rent costumes? Perhaps you can use environmentally friendly textiles. You might think that this simply means switching over to organic, natural synthetics; however, this tends to be an oversimplified approach.
According to a study from the University of Nottingham, “The production of cotton is incredibly water intensive, and the methods used to process natural fibres often introduce a myriad of harmful chemicals into waters used for bathing and drinking”.
Start wit researching into alternative sustainable fabrics and their sources. Also, take a look into rentals and methods of increasing the use of these clothes beyond the filming set. These two approaches will have a significant impact on the carbon footprint of your production.
Your crew have smartphones, tablets and laptops – use them! Once you begin to commit to PDF’s, you’d be surprised by how little needs to end up on paper. A ream of paper is equal to roughly 12 pounds of carbon dioxide not removed from the atmosphere. Another simple way of reducing printing is to either nix the set printer or stick a polite sign that says: “Do I really need to print this?”.
In film production it can be really easy to get bogged down with the more technical challenges of lowering the footprint. Getting everyone on set actively participating in the green movement really helps the overall positive impact. And with the ever-increasing rise of legends like David Attenborough, it’s easier than ever to rally the troops behind this particular cause. Virtual Events are a great way to keep the carbon footprint low.
Head of Industry Sustainability at BAFTA and founder of green production platform Albert says that “the average television programme produces tens of tonnes of carbon dioxide, a feature film is in the thousands.”
The simple factors also apply on set too. See if you can create facilities so that crew don’t need to avail of water bottles and other single-use plastics.
Filtered water cuts down on bottles and having on-set catering that provides vegan options and reusable crockery is also a big step in the right direction. Using throwaway cutlery, plates, bowls results in a very considerable pile of rubbish at the end of the filming day – multiply this by the number of filming days, and it’s obvious that this is a reasonably easy place to reduce your environmental impact.
There is no way in 2020 that you can bring carbon emissions down to zero. Your team have done their best, and the impact has been vastly reduced your footprint. What you can do now is to offset the remaining emissions. We’ve included a really helpful article comparing the various carbon offsetting companies so you can find one that works for you.
These are just a few of our recommendations; if you’re looking for more advice like this or help with filming in Ireland, you can contact us here.