Sustainable Film Production: How to Make Your Set More Eco-Friendly

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

A film set is a tool for creativity. It involves teams of people collaborating to produce stories with the potential to capture the imagination of millions for generations to come. However, it’s also true that a crew and their equipment can harm the environment.  

This isn’t to say most productions set out to be actively harmful to the ecosystem. Rather, in an industry often driven by largely capitalist considerations, sustainability tends to be lower down the list of priorities. But we’ve reached a point as a society at which this is neither an acceptable nor practical approach to filmmaking. Your on-set choices have to actively reduce the harm you might cause.   

This isn’t always easy to achieve. After all, the production processes you use are likely to be those developed by more than a century of filmmakers and are by now well ingrained in the industry. So, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can make your film set more eco-friendly. 

Make Sustainability a Priority

You don’t want to make the mistake of treating sustainability as a simple case of tacking on some measures. This isn’t an especially effective or easily maintained approach to eco-friendly filmmaking. Rather, you’ll find it more impactful to make sustainability a priority on par with other elements of the production such as budget, story, and cinematography.

This needs to begin in the preproduction phase of your film. Make certain all crew department heads understand that sustainability is a priority for your production. Ensure this priority gets communicated to all members of production staff and cast accordingly. Engaging early on here tends to make it easier to design your processes with eco-friendliness in mind, rather than attempting to adapt activities for sustainability as an afterthought. Consider all actions for their environmental friendliness — from location selections to catering options.  

While setting environmental responsibility as a priority for other crew members, it’s also helpful to maintain your own motivations for doing so. There is, of course, the ethical imperative to protect the planet. But also when you’re early on in your film career, it’s vital to establish a reputation not just as a creative force but also as an ethical and responsible leader. Not to mention it shows you in a more positive light among increasingly eco-conscious audiences.  

Implement Resource Efficiency

Film sets tend to use a lot of resources. From foodstuffs in craft services to transportation fuel, there is a lot of potential for overuse and wastage. As a producer or filmmaker, it is in your production’s best interest to be more efficient with your resources. This is not only good for your environmental impact but also keeps your budget in a much healthier state

Your energy consumption can be a key focus here. Any production uses a significant amount of unavoidable electrical equipment. Going green with your energy can involve some relatively simple actions. Energy-efficient bulbs in both your practical stages and on rigs can be tools that both last longer and use less electricity. It can also be wise to research clean energy providers in the location of your shoot to make sure you can access sustainable energy resources wherever you are.    

Another primary area of inefficiency tends to be film sets’ reliance on single-use items. This may include props and set decorations and even filming apparatus itself. Rather than purchasing most items, it’s worth seeing what you can practically hire. This not only cuts down on the amount of potential wastage, it also tends to be a more budget-friendly approach.

Hire for Eco Expertise

Many producers overlook how important their hiring decisions can be to their set’s eco-friendliness. Yet, any successful film is the result of meaningful collaboration between professionals. Just as an expert crew can make for a creative and safe production, those with environmental knowledge can keep your film sustainable. 

If you have space in your budget, you could consider hiring an environmental consultant as part of your key crew. Sustainability specialists help businesses and project leads craft environmental protocols in line with the project’s goals. They have data analytics expertise to review the industry and crew’s activities to establish areas for improvement. They also have responsibility for communicating protocols to crew members and providing educational materials. For large productions, their insights can be invaluable.

But if you’re operating a small or independent production, you can still have an impact without a sustainability specialist. You should make hiring decisions that include consideration of crew members’ past eco-friendly experiences. Some may have a history of working on or leading sustainable productions. Even during interviews, you should make environmentally conscious measures part of your discussion. See what insights they have and the ideas or practices they could contribute to the set.

Minimize Impact

Having a lot of crew in a single area can have a poor impact on the local environment. Many productions already try to minimize unnecessary crew as a point of set safety, but it also has a role to play in keeping the production sustainable. Fewer crew members in the location mean less consumption of resources and less waste. See where you can minimize.

One of the more popular options that have become particularly accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic is remote operations. Not all members of the crew need to expend fuel traveling to the set and use energy sources while they’re there. Writers, script supervisors, rush editors, and even producers can operate practically from home. Indeed, high-resolution streaming apparatus can mean some cinematographers can work remotely. By planning to adopt reliable communications and project management software, you can reduce the negative pressure the crew puts on the environment.

Conclusion

Just like every other business, film productions have a responsibility to maintain environmentally responsible practices. To keep your actions consistent and effective, it’s important to make sustainability a priority. Be mindful of your resource consumption and wherever possible hire staff with insights into eco-friendly production actions. Remember that you don’t always need all crew on set having an unnecessary environmental impact. With a little extra effort and focus, your production can be eco-positive as well as a creative success.   

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