Industry Report: Market Trends
Greening the film industry
by Birgit Heidsiek
- Sustainable film production becomes an issue in Germany
When the heads of the German film funds meet at the Berlin International Film Festival to discuss the details of film politics, there may be a new issue on the agenda. In contradiction with Great Britain, Ireland, Belgium and France, sustainable film and television production has not been raised in Germany thus far. The first film funding organization that is making an effort to change this is the Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein (FFHSH). With the introduction of a Green Shooting Card, they have for the first time established a set of recommendations for environmentally aware film and television production in Germany.
“I would like to convince my colleagues at the other regional film funds and the Federal Film Board that in the future sustainable film production should be considered a necessity and not just a nicety,” said Eva Hubert, FFSHS Executive Director. “The different approaches taken in Europe gave rise to the idea of initiating a Green Shooting Card. We are currently working on making green standards a reality.”
Most importantly, production companies must identify processes that can be changed. “Paying attention to waste separation, saving energy and eating seasonal, regional foods are part of this, just as they are in our private lives,” Hubert emphasized. “Our Film Commission tries to organize support from municipal institutions such as assistance for waste separation or free water tanks. There are many ways to make production more environmentally friendly.” The list of measures that can be taken to increase sustainable film production is quite long – key areas include production design, catering, production offices, transport and compiling an eco-balance sheet.
“Ecological sustainability pays off for film productions because sustainable management also directs attention to costs. The emission hotspots - i.e. areas where a lot of energy is used - correspond with high expenditure hotspots,” explained Marten von Velsen-Zerweck, CEO of Hamburg-based company Nserve Environmental Service, which acted as an adviser when the Green Shooting Card was developed. “A producer can't work completely sustainable from one day to the next and cut emissions by one hundred percent. Improvement is achieved incrementally from production to production.”
In Hollywood this message has been heard. The major studios Disney, Fox, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros. have supported the development of a Green Production Guide by PGA Green, the green department of the Producers Guild of America. Meanwhile, many productions in the US are using carbon calculators to ‘green’ their sets. Among them are big-budget films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Hobbit. „A major studio production such as X-Men: Origins generates 670 tonnes of waste, which can be reduced by 92% through recycling and re-use, which, in turn, significantly reduces costs,“ said Michael Geidel, co-founder of the Green Film Initiative in Potsdam, who will talk about the different methods of sustainable filmmaking at the Berlinale Talent Campus.
In Europe, the British film industry has a pioneering role in terms of sustainability. Melanie Dicks of the environment agency Green Shoot has advised more than 20 film productions on environment-related issues, among them Anna Karenina and Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows. Greenshoot was also involved in the development of the National Standard BS 8909 for sustainable filming in Britain.
In Belgium, ecology and sustainability are already a big issue. The Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) requires that every production applying for funding must submit a carbon footprint for their project. VAF is the first film fund to tie the approval of funds to the environmental engagement of a production. In France, the Ecoprod initiative has developed Carbon Clap to determine the CO2 footprint of film and television productions. “Germany, on the other hand, is lagging behind although the Germans have a reputation of being ecologically aware,” Hubert added. “We have launched a Green Regio subgroup within Cine Regio, an association of 38 regional film funds from Europe. Helmed by Screen South, we will develop a European carbon emission calculator that can be reliably used in co-productions.”
It may have a huge effect if sustainable production becomes part of the new Cinema Communication, which is the legal framework for all the regional and national film funds in Europe. When the European Commission publishes the new rules, the Film Funds have to implement them in their guidelines over the course of twelve months. But the need for sustainability has not yet been a big deal on the European level, nor has it been an issue in the discussion on the new regulations for federal film law in Germany.
Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick, who started his film career as Executive Director of the Film Fund in Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia is convinced that film subsidy systems should be modified towards more sustainability. “Whoever uses public funding should also take on public responsibilities,” he said. “Put it into the guidelines. Hardly anything ever happens voluntarily.”
The Berlin Film Festival not only promotes ecological and sustainable goals through programmes and panels but also optimizes its own carbon footprint. In 2011, the energy provider ENTEGA, which generates electricity with a net zero carbon footprint without resorting to nuclear power became a co-partner of the Berlinale. “Internally, we have introduced EMAS (Eco Management and Audit Scheme) to make our operation more sustainable.” The Berlinale reduced the number of print publications, uses sustainable merchandising articles and fuel-efficient vehicles with hybrid technology. “We also try to motivate the festival visitors from outside Berlin to act ecologically. They can calculate the carbon footprint of their voyage and offset the CO2 balance via certificates. Deutsche Bahn offers a Berlinale return ticket for 99 euro. Thanks to these efforts, we have already reduced our CO2 emissions.”
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