Green Screen - A Sharing of Best Practice

Green screen - a sharing of best practice

A seminar held at Hotel Riverton, Göteborg, April 23, 2012.
Arranged by North Sea Screen Partners/ Secretariat of Cultural Affairs and Secretariat of Environment - Region Västra Götaland

Melanie Dicks, founder and managing partner at London-based company Greenshoot, which simplifies and supports sustainable film making. www.greenshoot.com

Jo Nolan, CEO at NSSP member Screen South in Kent, an agency which promotes film and media in the south east of England. www.screensouth.org

Moderator: Neta Norrmo, journalist of arts and culture.

“What we found extraordinary was that the wealthy film industry has no specific duty or care towards the environment, no CSR government policy in the UK or Europe.”
(Melanie Dicks)

Film making - from pre-production to distribution – has a big impact on the environment. It may then come as a surprise to most moviegoers that the industry generally is far behind when it comes to sustainability. In her speech at the seminar Melanie Dicks began with some discouraging facts: In the UK alone, 200 000 tons of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere from filming activities. And that, she said, is a low estimate.

But things are beginning to change. People in the industry are becoming more and more aware of the challenges ahead.
“There's a movement for green sustainable filming. Especially among younger people”, said Dicks.

By raising international awareness to all filmmakers and government policy makers she hopes to see the implementation of a sustainability policy for the EU film industry.

The American film industry, Melanie Dicks continued, has a much harder policy. When filming in Europe, the American movie studios will reduce their efforts. But, said Dicks:
“The US studios find it encouraging that the benefits of a more environmentally sustainable driven industry are being discussed in Europe.”

Melanie Dicks told the audience about “Green screen” - a checklist for any film maker, from small production team to major film studios, who wants to run their productions in a more environmentally sustainable way. “Green screen” is developed by the British Film Institute (BFI) and is based on British standard 8909, the first standard ever for sustainable film making. The BS 8909 in turn is based on the ISO 14001, an international standard for environmental management.

Melanie Dicks explained how the BS 8909 is implemented in practice:
“At the earliest possible stage of pre-production we sit down with the producer to get an overview of the scale of the production, and specifically what is important to them in terms of reducing their carbon footprint. Where are they filming? What are their priorities? How can they reduce their waste? Do the actors fly in from America or Europe? Is it possible to donate props after filming instead of throwing it all in the bin? Leaving a community legacy is very important.”
Dicks continued:
“We submit a pre-production environmental and carbon audit and implement a comprehensive set of guidelines that we have developed over the past 3 years.”

After the first meeting, a sustainability plan is made. It is followed up weekly.
“It's good to keep a check on the work”, Melanie Dicks said. “And it also gives people something to talk about in the lunch queue!”

The best result, she added, is achieved when someone is working the “green issues” on the film set on a daily basis. Greenshoot has educated so called “green runners” with specific knowledge of how to implement sustainability. For instance, Melanie Dicks said, waste can easily be recycled by putting all the recyclable waste in one bin and sorting it later. Energy can be conserved by putting the machines in stand-by mode. And on one production plastics was banned on the set. So instead of bottled water, with its well known negative impact on the environment, everyone was given one plastic bottle which could be clipped to the belt and refilled. The environmental and financial gain was surprisingly great.

“At the end of the film production Greenshoot will submit a full environmental audit showing the final carbon footprint of the production and carbon savings and financial savings through carbon reduction strategies”, Melanie Dicks said.

Melanie Dicks and Greenshoot has used the “Green screen”-checklist on a number of films, including recent blockbusters “Johnny English Reborn” and “Sherlock Holmes 2”. They are currently working on “Fast6”, “Anna Karenina” and Colin Firth's next film “Gambit”. Demand for sustainable filming, Dicks said, has increased rapidly in only a few years.

“Every large industry has a duty of care or an corporate social responsibility (CSR) department. We hope that Europe and the UK will fully adopt 'Green screen' over the next five years as a robust system.”
In addition, there is a great need for an EU fund which supports sustainable film making.

Melanie Dicks emphasized that, in contrast to popular belief, sustainable film making doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive. It saves money. And that has made a huge difference in Greenshoot's collaboration with the major film studios.
“As soon as we were able to prove there could be a saving on the budget, we were asked to work with the studios in the UK to help train and educated UK crews”, she said.

For example, on one production thousands of dollars were saved on waste cost just by donating film sets to small independent film projects instead of having to order expensive containers.

The PR benefits in sustainable filming, Melanie Dicks added, can be very beneficial. Partly because actors are behind this move towards a more environmentally sustainable industry. It also matters to audiences that the industry take their environmental obligations seriously.

“Colin Firth was an initial supporter and champion of Greenshoot”, Dicks said. “So is Jude Law. Overall the actors are behind our initiatives.”

Jo Nolan, in her speech, explained the importance of making sustainable filming the norm, rather than the exception. In this work, a joint European initiative would be much welcomed.
“There are some very good practices across Europe”, she said. “But it is not being shared. My hope is that a sustainability policy is adopted across the regions.”

When carrying out this work it is important to cooperate and lead by example. Jo Nolan suggested that a group is formed in order to get an accurate overview: Where are we at right now? What is happening in other parts of Europe? Can we make “Green screen” a European standard? Could this work be publicly financed? And how can we ensure that the work is embedded on training and university level?

“I would like to see a single benchmark, a green management system that could be applied to every film, from student films to big productions”, Jo Nolan said.

Due to the closure of British regional film agency Screen east, the Screen East Green Fund – a part of the European regional development fund focused on sustainable industries – has not been continued. Jo Nolan expressed her hope for a European fund which would support green film making.

While pointing out that tougher legislation, in order to force the industry into green film making, probably would not be effective, Jo Nolan stated that since the film industry benefits from public money and tax relief the film studios should give something back in return.
“I can't see why every public money spent doesn't have a percentage set aside for green initiatives”, she said. Every company should have an environmental policy, but frankly, in the film industry we don't.”

Melanie Dicks added:
“We hope that the UK government make environmental policy part of the tax break in the UK, and that this could be adopted in Europe.”

At the end of their their conversation with moderator Neta Norrmo, both Melanie Dicks and Jo Nolan once again emphasized the need for a common European standard for sustainable film making.
“The communication net works are there”, Jo Nolan said. “The region has a chance to lead the way. Let's look at this strategically, and share the good practice that's going on.” 

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