Berlin Panel: Sustainability on Set

Green Screen partners Film London, Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) and Ile-de-France Film Commission (IDF) discussed waste management options for film productions in a “Sustainability on Set” panel discussion during the Berlin International Film Festival.

Picture caption: L to R Joanna Gallardo (IDF), Adrian Wootton (Film London), Emellie O’Brien (Earth Angel), Tim Wagendorp (VAF), Birgit Heidseik (Green Film Shooting, moderator).

“We realised that productions are not dealing with waste, even though recycling services are available”, said Joanna Gallardo, Interim Director of the Ile-de-France Film Commission and coordinator of the Ecoprod collective. “A recent study by Ecoprod found that 40% of the waste on set can’t be recycled. It is not a problem of waste management; it is a problem of eco design.” Productions should think about waste management from the start of their project. Ecoprod teamed up with two eco-organisations that recycle light bulbs and batteries, providing practical solutions for film and TV productions. The joint project includes a free pick-up service for used power cells and batteries.

Tim Wagendorp, Sustainability Coordinator at Flanders Audiovisual Fund, sees a lack of knowledge of waste management within the audiovisual sector. “Flanders has been top of Europe in recycling over the last two decades but film productions don’t know the possibilities.”  VAF plans to launch a guideline to highlight the importance of waste prevention. “We will show crew members how to find existing channels to get rid of waste.” Although governments across Europe are developing circular economy programs, good practices such as waste prevention, eco design and recycling are not yet widely adopted in the audiovisual sector. Tim said, “It is my job as a coach at the film fund to inform members of the industry.”

In the UK, Film London is also promoting sustainable practice. “The Green Screen scheme we operate for London includes recycling and waste management. It is encouraging productions to recycle”, Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive, said. “But it does vary, there are still inconsistent practices.”

Photo credit © Paul Wyatt
Film productions can contract specialist companies to manage particular elements of waste. For example, the UK-based company Scenery Salvage works with productions to make recycling and reuse economically viable. It essentially harvests the sets and recycles everything possible. While some of the studios have developed best practices, it is more difficult for independent films. “It is not only about training green runners or production assistants but also Heads of Department”, concluded Adrian Wootton. “This is still very much a process of education and awareness.”

Look upstream instead of damage control
Waste management is also a key issue for sustainable film production in the USA. The Green Screen panellists were joined by Emellie O’Brien, Founder and CEO of New York-based consultancy Earth Angel. “We don’t have a good recycling infrastructure. We are looking upstream”, she said. “When you just have the waste in front of you, you are really in a damage control mode trying to keep as much from landfill as possible. But the ticket is really to look upstream and try to purchase products that don’t need to be wasted in the first place.”

“Waste is not sexy at all”, underlined moderator Birgit Heidsiek, publisher of Green Film Shooting, “but due to the value of resources, recycling is an option that may become economically attractive. There are already advanced waste management schemes in various regions but there is still little awareness of the needs for recycling and a circular economy in the audiovisual industry.”

Thanks to Green Film Shooting for hosting the panel in collaboration with the regional German film funds Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein and MFG Baden Württemberg.