Since the release of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, ecological messages have been pushed left and right on the silver screen. From eco-documentaries to end of the world disaster movies starring blue avatars, it appears that Mother Nature is taking the spotlight. But it also looks like a new generation of filmmakers are increasingly aware of a certain environmental issue -- the impact of making movies.
Filmmakers are the first to acknowledge that it takes a whole slew of resources to make a production. This includes time, labor, money, fuel, food, energy and materials, so depending on the project, it can have a significant impact on the environment. In its most recent member bulletin, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) focused on the efforts of union members on the ground, wardrobe heads who have stopped using disposable dry cleaning bags, sound designers who recharge all of their microphone batteries and film crews who have embraced car-pooling, mass transit, and composting. Whether you are making an animated short or a blockbuster film, each project has its own individual environmental concerns. When shooting on location, productions will run generators for 12-14 hours straight, use an average of 300-500 water bottles for a crew of 80, and depending on the story can use countless amounts of resources for set construction, costumes and props. The resources used are not limited to movies, but can be applied to television shows, commercials, concerts, theatrical shows and Vegas debuts.
The major motion picture studios, too, have stepped up and created departments specifically focused on environmental impacts. While some have retrofitted their studios with solar panels, other studios are generating active educational campaigns. In fact, Walt Disney Motion Pictures Production has created a new position -- environmental steward -- that is specifically assigned to coordinate and implement environmental practice on every live-action film. So whether it's a new solar base camp or composting stations, Warner Bros.'s Environmental website says it right, "It takes creativity to entertain the world while conserving resources on our planet."
One woman who got creative was Film Biz Recycling's Eva Radke. She began her career as a film art department coordinator in New York and after watching the waste generated during production she decided to start her own recycling business for the movie industry. Film Biz Recycling is a non-profit organization that helps productions donate their leftover materials in exchange for a tax write-off. The donated set dressings and props then become part of the inventory for others to rent. Her hybrid model of a recycling business and a prop house lets producers save money while saving the planet. And better yet, it is open to the public for rentals and purchases, so it's a win-win for everyone.
However, while everyone is excited about going green, sometimes the reality of a face-paced set can be short of the green dream. "There are a lot of materials in the costume department that are recyclable, but don't get recycled," says costume designer Kresta Lins. "People hear that you are trying to waste less and they are all for it, but it is another step to actually do something about it." But Lins is doing something about it. She created a visual campaign titled "The Sustainable Sirens" which consists of six characters made from the waste produced in various areas of the film industry, in order to teach costume designers and other crew members about the environmental impact that each of their departments has. From e-waste to composting, her work will help inform people of the actions they can take towards sustainability.
One filmmaker in particular, Miranda Bailey, has made greening the film industry the focus of her new documentary, Greenlit, which is premiering at SXSW this year - http://www.greenlit.org/. Greenlit follows the environmental impact of an independent film production and what it takes for it to be "green" and that perhaps it's not always as easy as we think. The difficulty with greening anything is that it is about change and people seldom want to change. Specifically, in independent film production, there is limited long-term planning. The project is not worked on until the money is approved, and then once approved, it is done as quickly as possible in order to save money. Sustainability is all about making choices, planning ahead, and developing practices that can be repeatedly applied and learned upon. "Being a filmmaker I was extremely curious about what impact the business has on the environment. Being green is something I didn't really understand, but now know all about after making Greenlit. Making a film environmentally friendly is complicated, but hopefully Greenlit will help raise awareness of the wastefulness that occurs and it will motivate people to be a little more 'green' when making their next movie" said director Miranda Bailey.
President, Reel Green Media - http://www.reelgreenmedia.com/
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