Sustainable filmmaking

Carbon literacy

Carbon literacy is all about empowering individuals to make big and small changes – in both their personal and professional lives – that will contribute to protecting people, communities and ecosystems from the rising levels of greenhouse gases.

When we look at the enormous amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that our personal actions create, it’s easy to see where we can be a bit greener. Heating, lighting, refrigerating, cooking, entertainment, travelling, even the food we eat, all contribute to the global build-up of greenhouse gases.

Check your carbon footprint.

Carbon literacy in the film and TV industry

You might be thinking that you already do you bit by recycling your bottles and cardboard at home, or by cycling to work. And while it’s great news that you’re doing this, what if there were other things you could be doing that would reduce your carbon footprint still further? Things that can also save you (and potentially your shoot) money at the same time.

Have a look at the amount of CO2 that’s generated by some of the most common activities associated with being a filmmaker. Do you do any of these?

Production activity kg of CO2 produced
1 day of production office activity
112
1 day of filming in the studio
200
1 day of generator use
500
1 taxi ride 3
1 UK flight
90
1 train ride
19
1 EU flight
118
1 EU train journey
10
1 international flight 1000
1 night in a hotel 30
1 day in a post-production suite
15
1 set build 1

Source: BAFTA albert

Practical tips for being a greener director

When it comes to something as huge as climate change, most of us feel that we can’t individually make an impact – but we can!

Here are some practical tips we’ve compiled, specifically aimed at different types of director:

We know how hard it might be to instigate some of these recommendations, and we understand that not all of them will be appropriate for every production. But hopefully the suggestions will help you start to think about some of the changes you can make to ensure that you’re directing in a sustainable way.

Director

  • In pre-production, suggest using conference call technology rather than travelling to meetings.
  • If you must travel, use public transport where you can, and use a carbon-offset cab whenever available.
  • Turn your computer and monitor off when you’ve finished using it (don’t just put it to sleep).
  • Paper used in production should be FSC certified and you should aim for at least 30% recycled content. Plus remember to recycle the paper when you’re done.
  • Circulate a green memo to all cast and crew so everyone knows this is a green set, and that you support a green approach to filmmaking.
  • Lead by example; have a reusable mug and water bottle, be seen to recycle your waste and flatten carboard for recycling.
  • Make sure your HoDs and their teams are aware of the green policies on the shoot and encourage them to work with these considerations in mind.
  • On location, leave the site as you found it.
  • If the weather and schedule permits, consider shooting with available light.
  • Appoint a monitor for each department to check that lights and computers are switched off at night.
  • Don’t forget to recycle empty ink cartridges and toners, depleted batteries and waste electronic equipment (WEEE waste) from your office.
  • Ask to have the shooting power source turned off before you leave the location.
  • Share rushes and rough cuts digitally.

Self-shooting director

  • Choose hotels and apartments that are close to the location and have good public transport links. Houses and B&Bs tend to have lower carbon footprints than hotels and tend to be cheaper too.
  • On location, leave the site as you found it. Use the recycling bins provided.
  • Take healthy snacks like fruit and nuts with you and avoid buying fast food.
  • If you do order takeaway food, ask them to avoid using polystyrene containers.
  • Use rechargeable batteries in your cameras and equipment and ensure that they’re fully run down before recharging. If you can’t use rechargeable batteries, recycle regular batteries at designated collection points.
  • Take you own water bottle and travel mug with you.
  • If you have to hire a car to get to the location and carry the kit, choose vehicles with smaller engine sizes or, better still, an electric car.
  • Cameras are getting better every day, but shooting in 8K (whilst beautiful) is a data-hungry pursuit that uses more electrical energy to process the images than 4K does (and let’s face it 4K already looks awesome).
  • Share photos digitally and avoid printing.

Indie producer-director

  • Make a green plan for your production. What can the production do to be more sustainable, and how can that be measured? Communicate this to all of your stakeholders and HoDs – their support is key to making your production greener.
  • Comply with the standards outlined in BS 8909, which is a voluntary sustainability management system for film. Find out more.
  • Provide regular feedback for crew and note their green achievements. You may want to set up a green notice board at craft services noting the recycling rate for the month, or highlighting any interesting green facts or stories. It can be motivational to have a green award system to encourage crew members to think a little bit greener.
  • Ensure everyone on set knows this is a green set, and that you support this activity.
  • Try not to print call sheets, logistics plans and other production documentation. Emailing is quicker and cleaner. If you must print anything, try to print double-sided.
  • Assign environmental champions in each department who can encourage best practice and make sure that their department is achieving its departmental targets.
  • You’re responsible for your own waste, so consider having one bin for rubbish and separate tubs for glass, paper and plastic.
  • When sourcing props, use charity shops to find pre-loved items. And when you’ve finished with them, make sure you recycle, re-donate or even sell them on eBay to help the production claw back some costs (and give the item another life!).
  • Where possible, rent items for production instead of buying or making new. As well as being greener, this can also save you money.
  • If you’re feeding your crew, have reusable (or at least compostable) cutlery, plates and cups. Only buy what you need and shop locally where you can. Buy snacks in bulk to reduce packaging. And rather than using up (and paying for) more plastic bags, don’t forget to take shopping bags with you.
  • When planning a shoot, try to use local crew to minimise the amount of people traveling to and from set or using hotels.
  • Provide bicycles and pull carts, or hire rickshaws for travelling within a location (rather than diesel-run Gator vehicles). If you need to move more people and stuff around, rent low-impact, high-efficiency vehicles (such as those that run on used cooking oil biodiesel) as pick-up trucks.
  • If your budget enables you to build or commission a set, use salvaged material where possible; use nails not glue to hold parts together so they can be easily deconstructed for recycling; and recycle what you can when you’re done. (Tip: source contacts for organisations willing to accept donations and have them ready before you wrap.)
  • If you are considering using a generator, choose the right load for your needs and consider generators that run on alternative energy, such as solar power.
  • Consider using a lightweight drone to get that aerial shot.
  • Give your team a Green Driving Guide containing tips to improve their fuel economy and lower emissions.
  • Encourage cast and crew to use public transport and share lifts whenever they can.
  • Add a tiny (and it is tiny) carbon offset charge into the budget to cover crew and talent trips in planes and cars. According to the reforestation project Mossy Earth, it only costs £2 per 2 hours of air flight and £2.50 per 100Km in a car to offset your carbon emissions.

Writer-director

  • When writing drafts, make sure you recycle any paper you’ve finished with.
  • Encourage script conferences over Skype rather than in person.
  • Distribute drafts electronically.
  • Recycle empty ink cartridges and toners, depleted batteries and waste electronic equipment (WEEE) from your office.
  • Acknowledge the natural world in your script and, where you can, build it into the narrative.
  • Use green behaviour as a positive trait for characters, and wasteful behaviour as a negative one.
  • Try and depict green behaviour on screen. Showing people cycling or using electric cars or recycling their waste can help normalise this behaviour to audiences.

Adjusting how we eat and travel, and the money we spend on items like clothing and electronics, really does affect the amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere.

And remember that even the entertainment you consume as a viewer has an environmental impact. For instance, streaming consumes enormous amounts of electrical energy because of the computer processing power required.

Changing energy suppliers to those that use renewable energy sources like Good Energy can also significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

Training

Want to be a greener filmmaker, but don’t know how to make the change? The albert team at BAFTA have a free training course specifically designed for you.

Find out more and book your place.

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