London – a city of entertainment, culture and iconic landmarks – has long been a popular location for producing films and television programmes, and whilst the film industry contributes significantly to the city’s economy and vibrancy, it also leaves a large carbon footprint behind it; an estimated 125,000 tonnes per year, roughly the equivalent of 24,000 homes. 

In line with its ambitious environment strategy to be a zero-carbon city by 2050, London’s industries are encouraged and supported to find ways to cut emissions. Taking up the challenge, Film London, the city’s screen industries agency, alongside municipalities, development agencies and other screen agencies from seven other countries, have joined forces for the Green Screen project, looking to develop and improve policy practices for greening the European audiovisual industry.

One area where Film London has identified significant opportunities for improvement is in unit base locations. Filming on location – outside of studios – requires a unit base, made up of a fleet of vehicles to provide facilities to cast and crew, and the power for these is usually supplied from diesel-powered generators, using an average of eighty litres per generator, per day.

Through co-operation in the project, Film London identified good practice from Flanders (Belgium), where project partner, the Flanders Audiovisual Fund, had performed a case study on a single location used for a TV series. This involved the installation of a temporary electrical distribution box for power supply, which was cheaper than a traditional generator and also allowed the production to subscribe to a sustainable electricity provider. 

Analysis performed by the Flanders Audiovisual Fund at the end of the seventy-three days of filming showed a 93% saving in carbon emissions, and cost savings of €20,000.

Additional inspiration was drawn from the region of Île-de-France, where efforts have been made to enable grid connections for on-location filming, and where generators must meet environmental standards. 

Film London has now launched ‘The Grid Project’, looking into how sustainable electricity can be supplied to eight of the most used unit base locations in London. The aim is to install permanent grid-connected cabinets in each location, with remote metering. A first case site is being developed in Victoria Park, in the east of the city, which is one of the most widely used unit base locations, but is also used for music festivals and concerts, which would also be able to use the grid connection. 

The project has explored the related costs and planning requirements, and worked with UK Power Networks to explore installation and connection to the nearest sub-station. Political support has been gained from the borough of Tower Hamlets, as well as the Mayor’s Office, and the project is now seeking the funding needed to set up the pilot site. 

Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy said: 'It’s vitally important that all businesses in London recognise and help address the climate emergency we are facing and the Green Screen project is a fantastic example of Film London doing exactly that. The Mayor is committed to working with the film industry and the culture sector as they take important action like moving their operations to green energy to reduce their emissions, helping create a more sustainable environment.'

Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission said: 'This is an exciting project not just for Film London but for the Film and TV industry and London as a whole. A move to electricity at key unit bases has the potential to not only significantly cut emissions and noise pollution from diesel generators when filming on location, but could also see reduced costs for Film and TV productions at selected sites in the capital. Switching to sustainable energy at the eight unit bases would lead to a 97% reduction in CO2 emissions, with further potential to inspire other cities with strong audiovisual industries to adopt such practice.'

The Grid Project has estimated that switching to sustainable energy at the eight unit bases would lead to a 97% reduction in CO2 emissions, and the practice could inspire other cities across Europe with strong audiovisual industries.

'Following a successful initial feasibility study, we are now seeking funding to take the Grid Project to the next phase and would be delighted to hear from those interested in finding out more about the project,' said Wooton.

Click here to access the full Green Screen report on The Grid Project

Image credit: Photo by Adrien Olichon from Pexels