The audiovisual sector emits about 1 million tonnes CO2 in the atmosphere each year. Us filmmakers have a role to play in these transition times.
Whether you’re fully committed to protecting the environment in your daily life already, or pretty much a newby to the ‘green world’ of filmmaking, here’s a few tips to get you started or on the right track.
1) Start by remembering the basics
Remember the 3 Rs : Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (and when you throw something away, sort it properly!).
2) Speak with your team and broadcaster as early as possible about going green
The earlier you have a conversation with them about filming green, the more convincing you will be and the easier it will be to keep your ‘green’ attitude consistent and coherent throughout the filmmaking phases.
3) Avoid using transportation
Host your team meetings online through one of the relevant services available (Zoom, Microsoft Team, Skype, Google Hang Out). Choose cycling and walking over driving when possible. When filming, make sure you house your cast and crew close to the filming locations. When I produced The Golden Age, which is a period drama filmed in 35 exceptional locations, mostly across the French Riviera, I housed the team in a beautiful villa surrounded by nature, with a spectacular view of the sea. It was a mere 15 -20 minute drive to virtually all of our filming locations in the region. Finding the right compromise in terms of distances is a challenge, but so very rewarding and worth the effort for the carbon footprint of your film. Besides, choosing a housing in the middle of Nature will encourage your team to love and respect her. And as a bonus, the reduced traffic keeps cost down, and dead time to a minimum. Time as we all know, is money !
4) Go zero-paper
Avoid printing your script and production documents, use any relevant app instead like Scriptation to go zero-paper. There are plenty of other digital tools available for each department, like WeAudition for casting, which also contributes to limiting transportation, and is a huge gain of time for your team and actors self-taping for you. If your team is housed pretty much in the same location and is not very digital friendly, you can also stand a board at the entrance of the location of your housing, where the 1st or 2nd AD can write the information for each filming day.
5) Substitute all plastics for eco-friendly cups and bottles
There are plenty of products available on the market at all prices, make sure to find one that suits you and your team. Plan ahead, and make a selection that can be shipped or delivered directly to your base or location, again reducing transportation, as well as time for a runner or PA to be out hunting them down in the locality at the last minute.
6) Use natural sets instead of Decor
As much as you can, try to use the natural set-up of your locations (and choose locations that actually match your vision), rather than re-transforming your locations completely and creating a whole new décor. You could keep the location exactly as you find it, but if you don’t want to go full Dogme 95 with this, common sense in keeping material purchases for the set to a minimum will reduce embedded carbon costs inherent in buying anything new. This will also save you budget and will make your film more authentic. Create and buy only what you must, and make sure to use eco-friendly material when doing so. If you buy second hand, then this again saves something being made just for your film. The Golden Age was shot in 35 exceptional locations that are entirely authentic. Of course, each location had to be adapted and set up to re-create the 60s time period, but we avoided building, and consuming material as much as possible. Where this was unavoidable, we maximised our use of recycled materials. It can be challenging to find all the locations that match your vision in the vicinity of each other at the best of times, let alone ensuring that eco-friendly housing is used, but with a little effort and research you can easily be open to making a green choice without compromising your vision.
7) The same applies to costumes
Instead of buying new products, why not try partnering with a brand for your costumes and even props? For The Golden Age, we decided to partner with Vilebrequin, Jean-Marie Legazel for costumes and shoes, also the Gibson Guitars. Partnering with such great brands enables cross-promotion and limits the carbon footprint of your film, Why purchase whole new kits for the sole purpose of your film when great alternatives are available ?
8) Use natural light
In terms of lighting, use natural light as much as possible, instead of systematically lighting with projectors. Of course, working with natural light isn’t always possible, as it tends to keep changing all day, and lighting is essential, but don’t make the use of artificial lights automatic. There are plenty of opportunities to work the natural light and film at the golden hour, which will only add credit to you as a filmmaker from an artistic point of view. Have a discussion with your DP or gaffer early on about it and adapt your material list. If it’s unavoidable, then low wattage lights such as LEDs are going to use a lot less energy as well as stop everyone melting beneath them.
9) With regards to your HMUAs, support them in using eco-friendly, suistainable kits
A lot of HMUAs don’t necessarily know how to approach the topic of organic kits as some productions or cast members are afraid of them for different reasons – from increased budget costs to allergies. Initiate a discussion early on with them to alleviate their concerns about you being reluctant to using eco-friendly products. Keep in mind that some filmmakers or key cast do prefer certain brands because they’re used to it or simply intolerant to some substances, so encourage communication around this topic to find the best eco-friendly match and make everyone feel comfortable working with what they have.
10) Work with eco-friendly partners, whether they’re locations, filming partners, your crew or cast
For The Golden Age, some of our film partners like the mythical Byblos Hotel, have their own sustainable Chart and eco-friendly restaurant, which is a very exciting achievement. By encouraging suistainable initiatives, you’ll get a lot of appreciation from these innovative partners and crew members, and will be very likely to attract new very exciting partnerships along the way.
11) Name someone in the team that’s responsible for any eco-friendly questions
Make sure those ‘green rules’ are encouraged, while making everyone feel responsible. Of course, following any guidelines can feel very daunting at the beginning, especially when everyone is already very busy with all kind of constraints. But as we’re going through a global pandemic, now can actually be an ideal time to pause and take the time to encourage everyone to feel more responsible about looking after our planet. This person in charge can be one of your ADs, but not necessarily. The person in your team that’s the most passionate about filming green or has already extensively filmed green in the past may actually be your best advocate on your set. They should have the kind of personality that gently nudges people to make good choices, and they should make it fun, rather than being a green traffic warden.
12) Keep trying
Change and going green can appear to be difficult, but a few key changes can make a big difference, so try your best! Don’t blame yourself or your team for not being 100% green, the road to change is a marathon and if you’re trying and practically achieving some of these points during production, that’s already a great success that you and your team can be proud of.
13) What next?
You can ask your production to be certified by Ecoprod, which is a fantastic achievement and adds credit to you as an ethical filmmaker. Plus the satisfaction of being a filmmaker that takes action and is practically being part of change. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Not only that, you have to have an eye on the future, where funding is likely to come easier with the green stamp of approval, so it’s worth getting your head around adapting to these changes now.
Share your success, tips and achievements, and contribute to raising awareness about filming green with us! Make sure you take pictures of your success in going green, whether it’s during the development phases, using the apps, during filming, with your team waving at the camera with an eco-bootle. Use the hashtags, and be proud of your achievements ; this is great PR. Be proud of yourself and #FilmGreen