Green film production is central to responsible filmmaking.
Making movies can be an incredibly wasteful process. From thrown out food to abandoned sets to massive energy needs, filmmaking isn’t exactly known for its positive effect on the environment.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We understand that as an indie producer, you may be more focused on just getting a movie made than sustainable film production. Hear us out, though.
In 2022, it’s never been easier to practice green film production. With organizations like the Sustainable Production Alliance now leading the way, productions of all budgets and sizes can follow tips for green filmmaking.
With a commitment to sustainability, you too can do your part to minimize your production’s environmental footprint. How? By following Wrapbook’s Go-Green Checklist that offers easy-to-implement tips from our comprehensive breakdown of how to make your next film a green one.
As you go through our checklist, make sure to also confer with your COVID-19 compliance officer about best practices. Keeping your cast and crew healthy is the primary priority, but it doesn’t have to be at the cost of sustainable film production.
Before we get started, make sure to download that Go-Green Checklist. It offers a straightforward green guide to help make every stage of your production more environmentally friendly.
Be sure to refer back to it as we detail some of the most common green film production practices!
You might be wondering what exactly constitutes sustainable film production.
Because of the historically wasteful nature of film production, several of the major entertainment studios and production companies decided to take action. Green filmmaking could no longer be an optional part of making movies. Out of this initiative both the Sustainable Production Alliance and Green Production Guide were created.
Though the Sustainable Production Alliance is made up of global companies such as Disney, Netflix, and NBCUniversal, any production of any size – even one headed up by an indie producer – can take action to help our environment.
In short, all filmmakers can make sure that all aspects of their productions result in as little detrimental environmental impact as possible.
Some aspects of green filmmaking include actions you take in your everyday life, such as recycling paper or using reusable water bottles. Others might take a bit more work – think renting solar-powered trailers or donating sets. Big or small, all of these procedures point back to minimizing your production’s environment footprint.
The Green Production Guide is fantastic in that it addresses the many ways you can enact green filmmaking practices. It can also feel a touch overwhelming for the exact same reason. We've broken down those general aspects of filmmaking into actionable tips and strategies you can use for a sustainable shoot.
So if you're ready, grab your Go-Green Checklist and let's learn how to protect the planet.
Green filmmaking should be front of mind when you begin crewing up for your production. Because here’s the thing. No one is expecting you as an indie producer to singlehandedly oversee every single green film production practice.
Just make sure you bring on people that do.
Make it clear to every department head that they are responsible for the implementation of the green filmmaking practices that are relevant to their department. Moreover, they must communicate to the rest of their team that following these practices is not optional.
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite part of filmmaking… the food.
When vetting craft services companies, make sure they adhere to the sustainable film production tips below. And for any food needs not handled by craft services, like the stocking of your office kitchen, have your office manager or PAs follow the same guidelines:
Instead, install water dispensers in the office and have them set up on set or on location. Buy condiments in bulk and dispense in reusable containers.
Have food that’s no longer fit for consumption? If possible, compost it for a local community garden or other compost-friendly destination.
Some foam items are now recyclable, but to avoid confusion, stick to paper items that can be recycled or composted if disposable dining products are a must.
In the office, have on hand reusable dishes and cutlery. When possible, do the same on set or on location.
Never throw away food. Any items that you won’t be using for your production, donate to a local food bank or other organizations that could benefit from those food goods.
Filmmaking can be highly wasteful specifically due to the number of sets, props, and costumes made for a production. All these physical items are often thrown away after just a few days or even hours of use.
You have options when it comes to reducing this kind of waste. Among those options are:
No matter what you’re filming – a futuristic sci-fi or Middle Ages period piece – odds are a prop or costume house has what you need. Before you purchase or make a brand-new item for your production, see if you can instead rent what you need.
No luck with a rental? If you must build or create what you need, source your supplies from companies that sell recycled or recyclable materials.
When you wrap a project, don’t throw out those set pieces or costumes.
If you have the space, store them for a future production. If you don’t have the space or know you won’t be using them again, sell them to a set, prop, or costume house. Or you can rent or donate them to other productions.
Lighting. Cameras. Computers. Generators. A film set requires quite a bit of equipment and energy for its needs. Do what you can to make it a more green film production with these tips:
LED lighting draws less power and radiates less heat. Yes, you likely will pay more upfront for them, but that cost will be offset by their average longer operation.
A win-win all around when you can use them. Just don’t forget that when comparing the brightness of an incandescent light to that of a LED, the latter is measured in lumens – not watts!
Whether it’s for your headsets, microphones, computers, or other smaller electronics, keep them powered with rechargeable batteries when possible.
If you’re working on a film that necessitates trailers for your cast, look into your solar-powered options. Solar-powered generators might also be an option for your general power needs.
Sustainable film production practices aren’t just for on-set or on-location needs. There’s often substantial transportation needs. As any Angelino knows, the exhaust from all those cars, vans, and trucks adds up!
To cut down on the use of gasoline and the air pollution that results from it, follow these guidelines:
No one is asking your lead actor to ride their bike to set – unless they want to! If your filming location is bike-friendly, you can also pass along that information to your crew.
If it makes sense for your production, providing public transportation options for your cast and crew might also result in less people on the road.
It may not always be feasible to use public transportation or cycling alternatives during a production – especially for tasks such as transporting props or set pieces. If you’re providing transportation for your cast, though, many car rental companies provide green options.
When both public transportation and electric vehicles are not options, you can still implement green film production practices with a no idling policy. Instruct all crew members with vehicle access to shut off those vehicles when not actively transporting cast, crew, or production items.
There are sustainable film production practices specific to particular filmmaking phases, as well as those that are actionable at any point of a production.
The following tips are easy to execute at all times:
Don’t give your cast, crew, or in-office colleagues an excuse to throw away anything that can be recycled. Put out bins for paper, plastic, aluminum, and other recyclable materials.
Cut down on single-use bottle waste with water dispensers in the office, on set, and on location. To make it even easier for your cast and crew to use them, give out personalized reusable water bottle swag if your budget allows.
In addition to buying recycled or recyclable materials for production construction, make it a habit to purchase recycled materials for all aspects of your filmmaking needs. That means anything from recycled paper for printed documents to gently used furniture for your office.
Many electronic items require special handling when thrown away. Never allow items such as batteries or monitors to go out with the rest of your garbage. Instead, either recycle or have them properly disposed of.
It’s great that you now know about the many actionable green film production practices. But reiterate their importance to your cast and crew. These practices make a difference only when implemented widely and often. Make sure your colleagues know that green filmmaking is a priority on your set and practice it regularly.
Green film production can absolutely go hand-in-hand with COVID-19 safety.
To maintain your commitment to sustainable film production while also making sure your cast and crew stay healthy, keep in mind these tips:
Instead of single-use wipes that immediately go into the landfill, have on hand sanitizing dispensers that you can keep and refill when needed.
If approved by your on-set COVID-19 compliance officer, encourage your cast and crew to wear reusable cloth masks rather than the single-use variety.
Depending on its ingredients, some cleaning solutions can be highly effective at sanitizing surfaces, but they can also be damaging to the environment. Ask your CCO about effective sanitizing alternatives that are also planet-friendly.
For the sake of cast and crew safety, it may not be possible to have reusable cutlery or other commonly shared items on set. If so, look for single-use alternatives that can be recycled or composted.
Resources like our Go-Green Checklist make it easy to have green filmmaking become a habit. As with any habit, it simply takes a will to commit and encouragement for others to do the same. The best time to start thinking green is at the beginning, when you're doing your script breakdown.
The second best time is right now. Together, we can ensure that the art and business of entertainment doesn’t detract from a healthy planet.
At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice. You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.