Instead of sending your production team around the world, why not hire locally?
Poppy Mason-Watts, chief growth and impact officer at Waterbear, thinks we’re a long way off sustainable content production. She offers some tips.
In today’s claim-to-be switched-on advertising, film, creative and marketing industry, surely green production and ethical filmmaking is the norm? That would be a naive and incorrect assumption, my friends.
Let’s start with the basics.
Green production means leaving as little environmental impact on the planet as possible while producing content, and ethical filmmaking means writing and producing with consideration of inclusion, respect and diversity.
I feel up in arms about the topic following a question from a producer post a panel session on green filmmaking - what should I do if I refuse to fly across the world to shoot because I want to lower my carbon footprint, but my company pushes for it?
And then another…
A major broadcaster talking on a panel about how far ahead it is on greening its productions – was asked by an audience member - what it wasn’t using the thousands of hours of archive content on polar bears and the Arctic has. Why spend millions to go and shoot more if you are championing a green production model?
If that’s not a lesson in practicing what you preach, I don’t know what is. Today’s consumers, viewers, and citizens are savvy and see through your greenwashing.
On to solutions.
What can the industry start doing to make a difference?
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For years, most Western filmmakers have made documentaries and films about social and environmental issues around the world. The industry has existed on a huge scale, flying around the world to film for months on end, and has neglected to consider the real-life social and environmental impacts of film production. Surely it’s time to flip the model on its head?
Let’s start thinking about how we transform the industry and practice what we preach.
The first step is to ensure productions follow the ALBERT certification guidelines. This ensures that the positive impact of films isn’t outweighed by the negative environmental impact of making them. Think local crew and equipment; plastic-free on location; sustainable or renewable energy sources; veggie food (it can be done) on shoot; and more.
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Once you’ve filmed, what happens next?
The distribution of content - via marketing channels or TV has an environmental footprint of its own. Consider responsible streaming: find a sweet spot between resolution, cost and sustainability.
It’s an industry that loves to fly around and travel (I am no exception), and each of us is responsible for reducing our own carbon footprint. Instead, consider working with local filmmakers and crews - not only does this reduce your footprint, but it also means more truthful, insightful and authentic stories. Build a network of producers, photographers and filmmakers to work with locally and internationally without us having to step foot on an airplane.
This also often enables working with crews in areas where production opportunities are rare, adding a chance for upskilling and amplifying our impact on the ground.
And if you’re really going to do it properly - rethink who you work with and why. We’re in control of changing the model of typically privileged filmmakers telling the stories of marginalized and minority communities. Start working with those with lived experience to tell authentic and ethical stories and champion marginalized voices.
At WaterBear, we worked with an incredible team of refugees and asylum seekers to share their lived experiences in the UK for our co-pro with Deadbeat Studios MATAR and Filipino filmmakers to highlight the intersection of basketball and poverty in Play Hungry. And if you want to take it further - we throw in an impact campaign per film.
S,o champion lived experiences and authentic ownership and ensure we have representation from the global South, the next generation of filmmakers and talent and more across all originals and acquired content).
We are responsible for moving away from the old content production models and opening up the space to those who have been sidelined and exploited. We have that power - let’s start using it.