Jonathan Victory continues his series of articles on green filmmaking by looking at investment in this emerging field thus far and the incentives in place to support it.
This series of articles has explored how film studios around the world are starting to see the sense in applying principles of environmental sustainability to filmmaking (part I) and how some are even hiring crew members with a specific role to oversee it (part II). Looking at the investment in this emerging field thus far and the incentives to support it should indicate that the time has come for a substantive transition to sustainable business practices.
In September, John Gormley will be launching GAAVA, the Green Arts & Audio Visual Association, as an advocacy organisation to promote green filmmaking in Ireland and throughout Europe. This is to further research on international developments in this field from groups such as the Netherlands’ Strawberry Earth who hold an annual green filmmaking competition and Germany’s Green Filmmaking Initiative, who publish an annual journal at the Berlinale Film Festival.
The broad international picture provides plenty of material for research but also suggests that Ireland is set to be left behind by more resourceful film industries if we don’t seize the opportunity to be world leaders in this field. With other industries moving towards sustainability initiatives, political, economic and technological momentum could see legislative frameworks emerging around them. Preparing for this shift would be beneficial for the film industry, as the British Standards Institute advises that staying ahead of changes in regulation keeps businesses competitive and reduces reputational risk.
Major Hollywood studios that are preparing for this shifting context through the renovation of their facilities include Universal (Green is Universal), Warner Brothers (Sustainability) and Sony Pictures (Sony Pictures a Greener World). This follows on from work the Producers’ Guild of America has done in bringing industry stakeholders in America together to advance energy-efficiency. They also set up a website (Green Production Guide) that provides information, publishes reports and produced an app that provides access to a database on green businesses that can support the US film industry.
Further north in Canada, the organisation Green Screen Toronto has been doing similar work in connecting businesses and publishing research (Green Practices Handbook), as have Greening the Screen in New Zealand. Meanwhile Australia has seen the emergence of Green Shoot Pacific, a company providing sustainability consultancy and training for the audio-visual sector. This includes not just media productions but music gigs and festivals, an approach which is very worth considering for the Irish context.
In Europe, countries are used to public investment in film industries and therefore a range of initiatives have taken place to encourage green filmmaking. International experience so far would suggest that such initiatives are most successful when there is buy-in from industry practitioners and clear guidelines for measuring progress such as the ISO 14001 or the BS 8909. But there must also be financial incentives as the goodwill from corporate social responsibility and immediate savings from reducing waste may not be enough to convince hesitant producers. Three approaches to funding incentives from the European film industry are worth noting.
The Green Shooting Card scheme from Germany’s provincial funding authority Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein appears to be promising, as it is a standardised way of assessing the green credentials of a film production. It is awarded to film productions that achieve a certain level of resource-efficiency, in much the same way energy ratings are given to buildings. In order to achieve this distinction and the rewards it comes with, film productions must submit reports on what efficiencies they have achieved in at least 3 of the 5 following areas: Production Design, Catering, Equipment/Transport, Production Office/Crew, producing an eco-balance sheet.
There is a variation on this approach to come out of Belgium from the Flanders Audiovisual Fund. Rather than assessing the environmental impact of a production after it has wrapped, the Flanders regional funding authority is asking producers to estimate upfront how much carbon emissions the production will produce and have made a section of allowable funding contingent on the submission of such a report. While it may be harder to estimate a shoot’s environmental impact before it has even started, this could well be an effective way of getting producers to consider such issues from the outset.
There was another funding scheme from the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur (PACA) region in southern France where producers received additional public funding of up to €50,000 if they signed up for sustainability objectives. Altogether, 36 productions took advantage of this green incentive, among them documentaries, shorts and feature films. Although this funding scheme ended in 2013, there has since been a Sustainability Development Training Programme for local professionals in Nice and Marseille which includes a workshop on stage lighting as well as sustainability training sessions for stage managers and production managers. So even though the financial incentive from the regional funding body is no longer there, there is still important work being done in that region to up-skill crews in how to conduct their shoots in an environmentally-conscious way, illustrating the persuasive impact the funding scheme must have had on professionals working in that region.
In terms of the Irish film industry, The Irish Film Board has produced a Green Production Toolkit with advice for film productions but so much more can be done. We presume to think that since we are associated with natural beauty and the colour green Ireland gives the fullest support to initiatives that are environmentally green. While we are well-positioned to develop renewable energy and the green sector we are in fact, in terms of per-person greenhouse gas emissions, one of the top 10 worst polluters in the world. Our holistic planning for sustainability is not up to speed with international best practice and there is much more we need to do.
The upcoming rebranding of the Irish Film Board as Screen Ireland is intended to facilitate more cohesive industry development between productions in film, television, animation and the audio-visual sector as a whole. If the expanded remit of this body will allow for more cohesive planning of industry infrastructure then this would be a golden opportunity to implement environmentally-sustainable business practice throughout the audio-visual sector.
Measures that Screen Ireland could take to position itself as a world leader in green filmmaking include:
- Promote Ireland internationally as a place to make ‘green’ films
- Assign someone with the role of fostering green innovations
- Produce a database of Irish businesses that can provide green services to media productions, aiding the economic development of green enterprise, both generally and in its collaboration with the audio-visual sector
- Encourage and facilitate the role of eco-managers, particularly on high-profile productions
- Renovate existing film industry facilities and plan future ones to be zero-carbon
- Consider recognising certain shoots with a Green Shooting Card, much like an energy-rating system for buildings, as practiced in Hamburg
- Consider making some funding contingent on submitting a report on the environmental impact of one’s production, as practiced in Belgium
- Lobby government, industry and communities to invest in green technology and sustainable planning
There is much that can be done to make green filmmaking not just feasible but standard practice throughout the audio-visual sector. As with many green issues, genuine investment appropriate to the scale of the challenge from government and business is needed. Public pressure to act on this responsibility is a defining challenge of our generation. Filmmakers can also contribute in the sense that they can begin normalising green filmmaking by taking practical steps on their next shoot.
Our next article will conclude this series with a list of 30 practical steps to make your shoot green so that you can start taking ownership on this issue.