How sustainable is the Film & Television Industry?

3rd year Film Production student, Lauren Mistretta explores…

Whilst studying Film Production over the past three years, I’ve been proud of how my own personal lifestyle and consumption habits have become increasingly sustainable, but I often wonder how this approach can be implemented into my career choices, and how important the issue is to my chosen industry.

There is no denying that in recent times, a sustainability agenda has been pushed across a breadth of different industries, from the promotion of ethically-made fashion to a constantly expanding range of plant-based options in our supermarkets.

But has any impact for sustainability been made on the film and television industry?

Soon to be a graduate in this world, I decided to investigate.

Activism, Anthropology and Awards Season

This year, ethical and environmental activism ruled the awards season, with the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) ceremony, the Golden Globes, and the Pre-Oscars Luncheon opting for entirely plant-based menus, with the former pulling out all the stops to become a carbon neutral event.

Guests at the BAFTAs were asked to re-wear outfits that they already owned, opt for an eco-conscious designer, or use increasingly popular clothes rental services, and were spared their usual luxury goodie bags in favour of a recycled plastic ‘gifting wallet’.

Across all of the ceremonies, presenters and award-winners like Joaquin Phoenix constantly used the platform to raise awareness and provoke action on pressing sustainability and climate change issues, most notably the bushfires that were devastating Australia at the time.

This environmental sensibility is wonderful to see from an activism perspective – but it’s left to be wondered, what action is being taken in the wider creative industries to ensure sustainable practice?

Do you know Albert?

Did you know – the audio-visual industry in London alone is estimated to release the same levels of carbon dioxide as a town of 20,000 people?!

With most shoots, whether they be confined to a studio or out on a location, crews can often be hundreds of people, and up to 95% of materials used will go to waste. This article outlines some really interesting points about sustainability across the industry and some examples of initiatives that have been taken to tackle it.

“The audio-visual industry is very consumeristic. It needs a huge quantity of resources, which are not unlimited, and it uses them for just a very short time. If it is necessary to build a set, you use a lot of wood and a few days later it is no longer of any use, and often it has to be destroyed. You buy costumes, and then you throw them away. It is totally unsustainable” – Esmeralda Ruiz, head of sustainability at Fresco Film.

Albert is an organisation set up in 2011 with the objectives of eliminating waste and carbon emissions from the screen industries, and empowering the creation of content that supports a sustainable future. It is governed by a consortium of industry bodies, including BAFTA, BBC, ITV, Warner Bros. and Netflix, to name a few! Their online toolkit allows companies to calculate the carbon footprint of entire productions, with the largest proportion of emissions often coming from travel and transportation, and the biggest culprit being the international factual genre (your Attenborough documentaries). The very nature of these productions obviously means that extensive travel cannot be avoided, but the organisation provides plenty of advice for productions to reduce their footprint in any way that they can.

Towards a green film future: Sustainability and the global ...

They offer accreditations to productions implementing a criterion of sustainable measures, and their Planet Placement initiative advises how to incorporate a climate-conscious initiative on the screen as well, by encompassing sustainable messaging and content into the products themselves. Think, a little bit of Blue Planet in everything!

By creating content that normalises sustainable behaviours and helps people better understand and connect with the world we all depend on, you have the chance to tell new stories and reach younger audiences in meaningful new ways.”

For a more in-depth look at the lack of representation of environmental issues in British television, this article from BAFTA outlines some really interesting research.

The incredible 1917 was the first UK Film to achieve Albert certification, an incredibly accomplishing feat for a large scale, big-budget feature film! From banning single-use plastics and limiting printed documents, to turning food waste into biofuels and using generators powered by vegetable oil, they achieved the highest classification that Albert offers to credit their sustainable production.

Inspired? Train up!

The Albert website offers a plethora of resources for filmmakers, from tips for members of each practical department to implement more sustainable measures, to opportunities to attend free training courses.

Short training courses are currently being offered online, I attended one myself and gained a massive insight to the facts around climate change, emissions targets, and how the creative industries can practically work towards a more sustainable future! More information can be found here.

Albert also offer an education partnership, in which they provide a module to higher education courses and institutions. Teaching Applied Skills for a Sustainable Screen Industry allows students to gain an ‘albert graduate’ certification, and giving the institution access to masses of resources!

It would be great to see something like this in great range of media courses we offer at UOG, right?

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