Sustainable Film Making

Recently, We Try This At Home profiled Griffin Theatre director Sam Strong who discussed the creative exploration of sustainability and sustainable practices in theatre production. In this week’s post Katharine Rogers looks at the rise of sustainable practices in film production and uncovers some little known facts about the damaging excesses of the industry.

By Katharine Rogers

Sustainable film-making – what’s that? In recent years some filmmakers have been carbon offsetting or ‘greening’ their productions.  However, carbon offsetting, though a step in the right direction does not actually mean the film was shot in a green way and is often about assuaging guilt after an environment has been badly damaged or destroyed.  A number of films such as ‘The Beach’ and ‘Titanic’ were famously criticised after filming for destroying the ecosystems in which they filmed.  In the case of ‘Titanic’ the production dumped chlorinated water into the sea destroying the local fishing industry for several years.

Dr Beatrice Pegard, who has just finished teaching a new sustainable film-making course at Metro Screen believes green film-making is the way of the future.  The course which was subsidised by the NSW department of Education and Training is a first time initiative for Metro Screen.  Dr Pegard believes it is important to get across the message that sustainable film-making is both necessary and affordable.  She says the myth that green certified films do not make money is simply not true and sites many examples of films which were green AND made money, including Oscar winning ‘Black Swan’.

In Australia, Sarah Watt’s film ‘My Year Without Sex’ was one of the first films to go completely green.  Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ which is currently in production is also rumoured to be following a green protocol, although the extent to which this truly happened will only be known once shooting is complete.

There can be difficulties getting busy production crews to follow green protocols and ‘Greenlit’, a documentary short by Miranda Bailey (the Producer of ‘The Squid and the Whale’) highlights some of these issues.  ‘Greenlit’ suggests that for green screening to work well it needs to come from the top down and be reinforced by the producer, director and production manager and other heads of department.

It may not be much of a surprise to learn that the film business in LA is one of the highest polluters of any industry.  For instance they throw away billions of plastic water bottles every year which then end up in landfill sites and will not biodegrade. The need for this industry to take action seems to be coming more and more urgent.

Take heart however, there are any number of practical ways, both big and small, that a production can be made green.  The main thing is be organised and creative about how to green the set. Put simple, practical measures in place, like on-set recycling, reusable water bottles and car pooling. These simple but effective measures can go a long way to reducing the footprint left by film.

For more information on green screen issues check out: