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Eco-friendly filming: independent initiatives pushing productions

Organisations such as Film London and Greenshoot are encouraging movie bosses to concentrate on energy reduction, waste recycling and other environmental issues during shooting.

While offices around the country are implementing recycling schemes or more efficient lighting in order for their work environment to become eco-friendlier, the film industry has a larger task to face, particularly when it comes to production.

With huge energy outputs, regardless of a movie being shot in a studio or on location, large teams of people working on each picture who all need regular food and water, and massive amounts of unwanted goods at the end of each shoot, it’s difficult for film production to be a green process. Or so it might have been, before three UK-based organisations collaborated to launch the Green Screen online environmental platform late last year.

“Greenshoot - in conjunction with the British Film Institute (BFI) and Film London - created and launched the initiative in 2016,” Greenshoot co-founder Paul Evans recently explained to KFTV.  “The programme has had 76 productions register so far, including high-end TV series, feature films like Lady Macbeth and advertising commercials for brands such as M&S, Sky and John Lewis. It has already been used globally too, in Tokyo, Cape Town, Los Angeles, Melbourne and Prague.”

But what exactly is Green Screen, and what does it provide productions with? According to Film London, “Green Screen is a practical online tool that supports environmentally friendly filming and enables productions shooting in the capital to set their own environmental targets, and provides them with an action plan to help them achieve their goals.”

In the end, Evans clarified, “a short report is issued for each production, outlining its achievements and a certificate is awarded. This makes it accountable.”

The productions have been a mixture of studio and location shoots. “The studio environmental strategies employed are based around energy reduction, water management, waste recycling and food composting and a donations programme whereby productions save money on waste removal by donating unwanted production assets like clothes, props and food to charity.”

The scheme is already having a significant effect on UK-based titles. Movies such as Film4’s Free Fire, Icon Film Distribution’s City of Tiny Lights and Netflix drama The Crown, which was filmed at Elstree Studios, are just some of the recent outings that have received a ‘Green Screen stamp’ due to the less-harmful methods they implemented throughout production.           

It’s just not the benefit of being able to declare themselves as green that has productions striving to be more eco-friendly either; it often works out cost-effective too. Before Green Screen, Oscar-winning Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, starring Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, managed to save around £1,200 by avoiding skip rentals and waste removal services. Instead, it donated its unwanted coats, jackets and blankets to The Upper Room, a London-based homeless charity, and forwarded parts of its sets to nearby film schools.

Working Title Films further economised by using water coolers and canisters rather than one-use bottles of water. The same method was used for one of Adele’s recent music videos, saving £450 and Edgar Wright’s sci-fi comedy The World’s End, which saved the substantial sum of £2,884.

The film shot predominantly at Elstree Studios, as well on location in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire – saved around £1,000 on paper by implementing an ‘always print double-sided’ rule. Numbers like that evidence how such a small, conscious change in the way a production is run can have a financial impact.

But Green Screen isn’t only promoting its cause in the UK. In fact, the initiative has several European partners based in countries such as France, Spain and Belgium. Beata Hulinka, speaking on behalf of Rzeszow Regional Development Agency, added that “Green Screen will be continued until December 2021” and that, in Poland, they “are going to push the new approach [through] workshops with industry representatives and key stakeholders, dissemination events, media support, promotion of good practices from other countries (i.e. UK) and by implementation of new pilot actions in the regions.

“The project is aimed at changing and influencing regional policies to generate long term effects,” she continued. “We have four more years to achieve that. National impact of the project is definitely expected and planned, but we start at the regional level.”

Outside of Europe too efforts are also being made in the name of sustainability. In October 2016, the New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment announced the launch of NYC Film Green programme.

Film Green provides an end-credit seal for each picture that meets its requirements. The mark can also be featured on the movie’s marketing and promotional material. Despite its many similarities to the London-based initiative, however, one big difference is that a production can choose to go above the requirements for “extra credit,” and make itself eligible for special recognition.

To find out more about ways to make your production more sustainable, take a look at this Guide to Eco-friendly Filming.

Within the scheme, education plays a significant role, as NYC Film Green sees awareness as the key to changing attitudes on the ground. All aspects of greening a production, from sustainable vendors to on-set best practices, will be discussed with department staff while training will be provided for producers.

British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) is another organisation that champions teaching industry colleagues about the importance of being environmentally-conscious. Through its Albert initiative, the UK-based charity provides free weekly training for programme makers and encourages professionals to create opportunities for audiences to engage with the climate agenda.

Some studios too are taking it upon themselves to become more environmentally friendly and Pinewood Studios is undoubtedly leading the way. Andrew M Smith, the group’s corporate affairs director, told KFTV: “Pinewood prides itself on its green credentials and endeavors to make the studio the most sustainable in the industry.

“Our environmental team implements a host of green initiatives, which include investment in energy efficient technologies like LED lighting and new boilers. Renewable energy and green electricity such as solar panels at Pinewood and a wind turbine at Pinewood Studio Wales are also being utilised.”

So, what does the future hold for green filming? As Green Screen is only supposed to be a five-year task, people may be questioning the organisation’s commitment to a more eco-friendly industry long-term. Some might even wonder whether this is merely a short-lived plan to get good PR. But that doesn’t seem fitting, given how each of the aforementioned initiatives emphasise the need to educate and change the attitudes of professionals. It seems more likely that they hope to make the sustainable methods they introduce now, common practice by the end of 2021. 


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