American University’s School of Communication recently published a “Code of Best Practices for Sustainable Filmmaking,” helping those in the industry decrease their impact on the environment.
The code suggests filmmakers focus on four areas: calculation, consumption, travel and compensation.
Individuals in the industry need to know the actual amount of energy they are consuming, according to the code. Filmmakers are encouraged to use carbon trackers, and the code’s website provides two carbon trackers available for free use – one for small and the other for large productions. Links to other types of trackers are also provided.
The code outlines the following pattern as the best use of a carbon tracker:
- Calculate the amount of emissions a production will likely create before beginning.
- Make and put into action a plan to reduce impact
- After production is completed, use the tracker to assess the actual reduction of energy and resources
“We can reduce consumption throughout the production process, from using re-useable water containers to buying in bulk to choosing minimalist packaging,” according to the report. “We can build conservation into every production decision we make. We can involve our teams more firmly by incorporating their own best suggestions for minimizing waste, re-using and recycling material, and producing with sustainability as a core objective.”
Carbon debt and environmental impact can be decreased by making both small and large changes throughout the production process. One way to organzie efforts is to use checklists. The code’s website includes two downloadable checklists outlining basic actions that can be done in the planning stages to minimize a crew’s impact. Some items from the list include:
- Write a clear environmental statement and communicate it to the team
- Create clear waste plan which encourages reuse and recycling
- Choose an energy supplier which provides electricity from 100 percent renewable resources
While things can be done to decrease environmental impact, the code authors also recognize filmmaking is a “high-tech profession with fast obsolescence.” They further explain, “Sometimes we need to invest in technology that is carbon-expensive in order to do the best work possible or work that our clients demand.”
Travel is essential in the film business but can be controlled. “We can minimize and consolidate travel at every step in the production process, from trips to the supplies store to carpooling on the shoot to Internet conferencing in lieu of appearances at nonessential festivals,” according to the code.
Because a production crew cannot completely eliminate its footprint, the code recommends compensation through carbon offsetting, or funding an act of someone else that reduces the world’s environmental impact.
The code is based on the results of a global survey conducted by American University involving more than 175 filmmakers and companies. The survey was aided by national and international filmmaking organizations, including Filmmakers for Conservation, the International Documentary Association, Real Screen and the Producers Guild of America.