"We had experts in the field from Europe and North America, and me"
By Nick Francis, Creative Director
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to take part in the Green Film Project as part of the Netherlands Film Festival. Sunny Utrecht had all the hustle one would hope for - bars, cafes and canal sides were filled with similarly sunny people. Boyfriends smiled by on their bikes, carrying blonde girlfriend panniers, sidesaddle on the back. The tree-lined cobbled streets around where I stayed had such a vibrancy, it seemed like the perfect place for a sustainability event.
In the morning, I met Marjolein, Dorien and Chai (kind of fittingly) at an organic café. A sandwich, coffee and a chat later and we were on the way to the venue. The array of people who had been gathered to talk about ‘greening the Dutch screen’ was impressive. We had experts in the field from Europe and North America, and me.
Chai Locher and Marjolein Sprenger have been driving the green agenda in the film industry in the Netherlands and started the Green Film Making Project to change perceptions in the minds of Dutch filmmakers. There was also celebrity backing in the form of Thekla Reuten, Dutch actress and project ambassador (you may recognise her as the hostel owner from In Bruges).
The keynote speaker, Emellie O’Brien, Eco Manager from New York, talked about her experiences with her company Earth Angel. She has worked on a number of large feature films including The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Gods Behaving Badly and Noah. Her work was responsible for TASM2 winning an award from Sony Studios for being the most sustainable film they had ever made (Great work Emellie).
Emellie spoke about the challenges that she had faced, and how over time she was able to get the crew onside, to the point it became a bonding force within the production; the crew really got behind it. Most of them they had simply not even considered the impact they were having.
For example she saved the use of 193,000 plastic water bottles – enough to fit end to end around the whole of Manhattan Island. They diverted 52% of the waste stream from the film – a total of 755 Tons. Having her on set not only achieved all of this, but actually SAVED the production an estimated total of $400,000. A real win:win and the kind of evidence which (in time) will help the whole of Hollywood to become more sustainable. It still has a long way to go – the film industry is the second largest carbon producer in LA for example (behind Oil and Gas). Of the 140 odd feature productions in New York last year, she was only to work on three.
"The film industry is the second largest carbon producer in LA"
I also got to meet Beth Bell and Lisa Dietrich from Green Product Placement – they run a two-tier business. The first part aims to help productions source their props more sustainably; the second to get specifically green/organic/ sustainable products on screen with a view to normalising them in the eyes of the audience.
Then it was my turn to run a seminar explaining what we have tried to achieve with our academy programme. Most of those who turned up had never thought that filmmaking could be used for such a tangible social benefit. It was great to be able to talk about some of our efforts and benefits and challenges we have seen. Hopefully some of them will be able to put some of these into action.
"Businesses can solve the problems we face if they decide to" We finished with a question and answer session up on the main stage, which was a little daunting. I was there to represent conscientious business. Businesses have so much power in the modern world that they can solve the problems we face if they decide to. Casual Films is a long way off that I hasten to add, but we shouldn’t be cynical about profit making companies having sustainable and social causes they back, in fact it’s essential for our future on this planet.
One day what we call sustainable business will be called business and what we call sustainable film production will be called film production. The question is: why wouldn’t you want to be involved in that as early as possible?
Thanks so much to Marjolein, Dorien and Chai for having me over. It was a great afternoon and a great cause.
Thanks to Michael Vervuurt for the use of his photography.
Spider-Man 2 sustainability film: