You’ll find frequently asked questions on the topic of sustainability in the cultural industry here. Although the focus right now is still on sustainable filmmaking, in future you’ll also be able to find the answers to questions about sustainability in other cultural sectors. Can’t find the answer to your questions in our FAQs? Then feel free to get in touch with us, as we frequently update this page.
What are the advantages of sustainable filmmaking?
Sustainably managed productions enable filmmakers to practise their profession without causing any harm to the environment or to people. Sustainable filmmaking also has a positive impact on the film industry’s reputation. By involving the entire film crew during the production period, including the cast, service providers and other contractors, the topic of sustainability can create particularly motivating dynamics. The high-profile film and TV industry is considered a disseminator, as the content conveyed in films is taken as an example by many people, both consciously and unconsciously.
Sustainable filming also creates economic advantages in the medium and long term, and will continue to gain significance in the near future when it comes to funding and awarding contracts. Overall, the added value of green filming is significant and it makes a significant contribution in all matters environment, climate and sustainability. (prismacoop | GreenFilmTools 2019)
How does environmentally friendly filming work?
In order to shoot in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way, a production needs to follow a systematic action plan with a step-by-step approach. Everyone involved is made aware of the topic before production has even started. The direction, camera, set and costume design creative departments, plus the production team, are already included in the planning discussions. Another key success factor is the film production company’s commitment to adopting a sustainable production method, which should ideally be part of the company’s mission statement.
The next step is to determine where resources can be used more sparingly and where harmful emissions can be reduced. Achievable targets are defined for those areas where major improvements can be made with little effort. The documented carbon footprint is based on calculations made using a carbon calculator specifically adapted for film productions. As a general rule, the following ‘hotspots’ are examined: the production office, transport for people and equipment, accommodation, technology and lighting, production design with filming locations ‘on location’ or in a studio, set design, costume design, catering and waste management. By analysing these hotspots, potential carbon reductions and optimisation measures can be identified, and unavoidable carbon emissions can be offset through compensation.
In consultation and together with the individual departments, suitable measures can subsequently be implemented. Any improvements made are compared with the planned targets on an ongoing basis. The corresponding footprint is regularly communicated to the team with the daily call sheet, thereby involving them in the process of implementing sustainable measures and keeping them motivated. (prismacoop | GreenFilmTools 2019)
What is a carbon footprint?
A carbon footprint is a measurement of the amount of carbon dioxide that occurs directly or indirectly in the manufacturing of a product or that an activity produces, and is measured in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO₂e). The carbon footprint is based on the concept of the ecological footprint. This represents the surface area required to produce the likes of food and clothing for a person and to provide the energy they consume. It also includes the land required to dispose of the waste produced and to bind the released carbon.
Carbon footprints are often expressed in planets. On a global level, humans consume resources equivalent to around 1.7 planet Earths (based on 2019 data), and the Swiss even consume the equivalent of three planet Earths. (prismacoop and WWF Switzerland)
The film industry’s carbon footprint
With its sizeable ecological footprint, the film and media industry is one of the most energy-intensive sectors, and the trend is rising. According to The Guardian, the average film generates an estimated 500 tonnes of carbon emissions (the equivalent of running 108 cars for a year). Depending on the budget, carbon emissions rise to as much as 4,000 tonnes.
The Sustainable Production Alliance (SPA), a consortium of film, television and streaming companies, is committed to reducing the entertainment sector’s environmental impact. In 2021, it published its first report on carbon emissions in the industry. The members of the SPA are Amazon Studios, Amblin Partners, Disney, Fox Corporation, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Participant, Sony Pictures Entertainment, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia.
The insightful report Close Up: Carbon Emissions of Film and Television Production (PDF) reveals for the first time the industry-wide production carbon emission averages for SPA’s member company productions in the years between 2016 and 2019. In its calculations, the report includes direct emissions, such as those from fuel, and indirect emissions from purchased electricity, air travel and overnight stays.
The key findings:
Tentpole films (blockbusters) had an average carbon footprint of 3,370 tonnes – that’s around 33 tonnes per day of filming. Major productions had a carbon footprint of 1,081 tonnes, medium-sized productions had a footprint of 769 tonnes, and small productions had a footprint of 391 tonnes.
For scripted one-hour drama series, the carbon emissions were 77 tonnes per episode. Fuel – used in production vehicles and generators, for example – was typically the major source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 48% to 56% of emissions for films and 58% for scripted television series. (The Guardian, Variety and SPA)
What is green storytelling?
Green storytelling is when environmentally sustainable behaviour is portrayed in the narrative of a film. The film’s plot, the characterisation of a role or the storyline in the script can take environmentally friendly behaviour into account and set a positive example for the audience.
What is the European Green Deal?
Climate change and environmental degradation are existential threats to Europe and the world. The EU is committed to becoming climate-neutral by 2050. The European Green Deal aims to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy.