What is eco-efficient audiovisual production?
Set, actors, lights, cameras…and action! This is what comes to mind for most people when they hear the term “audiovisual production”. Few people think of the term “eco-efficient”. And yet, around the world, more and more audiovisual companies are trying to become “eco-efficient”. From sourcing raw materials to delivering services and products, these companies are taking serious steps to reduce their energy consumption and minimize their impact on the planet.
But how and why are they becoming eco-efficient?
The eco-efficient company
An eco-efficient company is one that aims to combine environmental excellence with excellence in the quality of its services and products. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), companies that adopt the eco-efficient approach gain not only in environmental responsibility, but also in economic benefits. They waste less, save money and become more competitive.
Audiovisual production and eco-efficiency
In the world of audiovisual production, eco-efficiency affects every link in the production chain, whatever the size of the company. In 2014, Sony Pictures shows how a blockbuster like Spider-Man 2 was made with eco-efficient measures.
For their set sets, Sony Pictures has recovered and recycled more than 49 tons of material. For the rest of the production, no detail was forgotten: a reusable water bottle for each person on set, the donation of the surplus from the filming restaurant at the end of each day, and the donation of the costume fabrics. As a result, Spider Man 2 is the most eco-efficient production in the history of Sony Pictures.
If Sony Pictures and other production companies are taking so much trouble to make their productions eco-efficient, there’s a reason. Audiovisual production is a very energy-intensive field. The equipment used during filming is used for fairly short periods of time and a lot of things (food, film sets, costumes, plastic containers) are thrown in the garbage once the shooting is over. Whether it is for the production of a commercial, a feature-length fiction film, or a documentary, on different scales the audiovisual industry is a sector that consumes a lot and wastes too much.
So, like other sectors, the audiovisual field must face the facts: eco-efficiency has become essential for companies and professionals who want to remain competitive, spend less (by consuming and wasting less) and increase the quality of their service offer.
Becoming an eco-efficient audiovisual production
So what if you are alone or if you have a small production company and no “Environmental Manager” team to manage the implementation of this model?
Here are three things you can do to reduce your energy consumption while ensuring excellent production quality.
1. Calculate your carbon footprint
First you need to calculate your carbon footprint. Resources such as the Carbon Footprint, Good Planet’s Corporate Carbon Calculator or Albert (calculates footprint per production) are available online for individuals and companies. These tools calculate your energy consumption and your carbon footprint from information you provide such as your travel: flights/trains/ (dates, airports, transits), car journeys (car brand + year of manufacture, mileage), paper, phone, insurance etc…
The calculator gives you the carbon footprint of your production in comparison with the average carbon footprint of your country and the world. Once you have an idea of the size of your carbon footprint, you can take targeted measures to reduce it. Of course, if you have a team, you will need to inform them of this process, as their buy-in will be critical to making the necessary changes.
Even without a calculator, you can adopt practices that save resources and increase efficiency while reducing your impact on the environment.
2. Reduce your consumption
You can start by reducing your consumption. Here are a few practices you can adopt whether you’re in a small or large team.
- Preferably use LED lights. At Creativ Sün Films we only use LED lights or natural light. This allows us to travel with a light and compact kit for shooting abroad. In Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, 75% of the lights were LED. If possible, favor natural light and use reflectors and diffusers to work with the available light.
- Promote the versatility of your team. Working with people who are competent in several areas helps you to reduce your impact on the environment without losing the quality of your offer.
- Recycle. During the filming of director Spike Lee’s BlaKkKlansman, the production team went so far as to incorporate vintage recycling garbage cans into the set design. Lesson? All measures are good to reduce waste. Often simple practices can save you money on your production costs and reduce your consumption and waste. Then no more half-empty plastic bottle stacks without owners. Reusable water bottles for the whole team! No resources to offer to your team? Ask team members to participate and bring their own water bottles!
- Limit travel. Client meetings can be held via phone or video conference to save energy. It also saves time for you and the client, especially if the meeting requires several people to travel.
- Use email to communicate important documents to the team and send files digitally rather than on DVD.
- Turn off equipment when not in use. Unplug them to avoid “vampirizing” electricity consumption.
You can also use a simple checklist like the one from Sustainable Filmmaking to help you with this.
3. Countering your impact on the environment
We will never be able to reduce our carbon footprint to zero. Typically, our equipment is manufactured elsewhere, sometimes we have to fly across a continent to work on a project, and sometimes our suppliers have zero eco-efficiency policies. To overcome all this, there is a third solution: to counter the effects of our production.
This implies the implementation of other practices that aim to positively impact the environment.
- Hire locally. Whenever possible, give preference to local employment when production takes place in another region or country. In this way, you benefit from the know-how and knowledge of local professionals, reduce your production costs and contribute to the local economy.
- Work with professionals who also have eco-efficient practices. To find these professionals you can integrate eco-efficient practices in the job descriptions you post online.
- Be pro-active and proactive. Some companies adopt very proactive practices that have a direct and positive impact on the environment and society. After the filming of the movie Us (Jordan Peele), the production team donated over $7500 worth of toys that were used in several scenes of the movie. For the filming of Spider Man 2 Sony Pictures repaired benches damaged by a cyclone and planted trees in a park that was used for filming. The production team of the film Little donated the building materials for the film sets to NGOs. The crew also donated bicycles to a used counter. These are all ways to counteract the environmental impact of the production and also a good way to create other links in the communities and countries where the filming took place. In this way, you leave a positive imprint!
In conclusion, the principle of eco-efficiency is to allow individuals and businesses to prosper without harming the environment. This requires constant creativity and innovation to find the best ways to implement eco-efficient practices in business.
It should be noted, however, that for this model to be truly effective, it cannot be limited to the implementation of a few practices. Indeed, as the WBCSD points out, if eco-efficiency is treated as just another device for the company, it will not work. Rather, it will have to be an integral part of the company’s strategy and must lead to new processes and practices. Only in this way will it allow the company to increase the quality of its offer and gain competitiveness in its field while respecting the environment.
So, whether you produce documentaries or commercials, whether your films are for the cinema or the web, eco-efficiency is a term you should be interested in.
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Film & Impact is the blog of Creativ Sün Films, the Caribbean impact film production company. If you want to know a little more about what we do, visit this page.
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Zephrine Royer is a lecturer, author, producer at Creativ Sün Films and writer. She is the author of a series of short stories on “A glimpse of Life”. She has been writing for Film & Impact since 2019.