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At Focus, Europe Rethinks Production Habits to Go Green

When industry leaders from around the world arrive in London for Focus 2019 from Dec. 3-4, the environmental impact of the film and TV industries will be a major talking point on the agenda. “Sustainability is undoubtedly at the forefront of everybody’s mind in 2019, and this is certainly true within the production community,” says Focus founder and director Jean-Frederic Garcia.

Three years ago, the annual confab partnered with AdGreen and BAFTA’s Albert network — a consortium of film and TV companies who are a key driving force behind sustainability efforts in the production industry — on the Green Zone, a dedicated space within London’s Business Design Center for certified green suppliers to engage with visitors.

During Focus, the Green Academy will host sessions by industry leaders offering advice to production pros about reducing their carbon footprint. The venue itself is carbon neutral, running on 100% renewable energy.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, as industry professionals across Europe are radically rethinking wasteful, decades-old production practices that are increasingly out of step with contemporary norms.

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“I think it’s an emergency. I think we have to respond to it as an emergen­cy,” says producer Tracey Seaward (“The Two Popes”).

In the U.K., the big players are stepping up. Pinewood Studios has set a target to reduce its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030, installing electric vehicle charging points at its Pinewood and Shepperton studios and outfitting several stages with solar panels.

Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden sources more than three-quarters of its energy from a renewable supplier and recycles 65% of its waste at an on-site recycling center.

NBCUniversal, Netflix, BBC, Endemol Shine Group and All3Media are among the members of the BAFTA’s Albert network, a key driving force behind sustainability efforts in the production industry.

It’s not just those wielding the most clout who are leading the charge. “There is a much larger recognition that we all have a responsibility in the industry, and actually, there are practical things we can do,” says Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission.

Film London and the consultancy Greenshoot partnered in 2016 to launch Green Screen, a practical online tool that enables productions filming in the U.K.’s capital to set environmental targets while providing them with a plan to meet those goals.

Two years ago, Green Screen expanded to seven other European countries as part of an E.U.-funded initiative to hit measurable targets in reducing the carbon footprint of the film and TV industries.

“It’s not just about strategy and policy and talking about it,” Wootton says. “You can change those light bulbs. You can get rid of plastic. You can recycle waste from sets. You can think about set re-usage or reclamation of materials from set.”

While lofty policy goals are necessary to implement wide-ranging systemic changes, he adds, Green Screen is focused on “that really practical, granular stuff, which, frankly, crews can understand.”

In 2017, Italy’s Trentino Film Commission launched T-Green Film, an optional program that allows producers to request green certification and access additional funding while shooting in the Trentino region. Among the first of its kind, the program, which has since been renamed Green Film, provides a point-based rating system in different areas of production, while offering a practical blueprint to adopt sustainable practices. Buoyed by the scale of its success, Green Film’s Luca Ferrario is now in talks with officials from other countries about how to use the program as a baseline for best practices across Europe.

“We almost have to revolutionize the way that we are able to make films,” says Seaward. Seaward is partnering on a Netflix project about climate change with Fernando Meirelles (“The Two Popes”), who executive-produced the documentary “The Great Green Wall.” From the beginning, Seaward says, the duo was studying ways to reduce the production’s carbon footprint, whether that meant sourcing local food for craft services, using sustainable building materials on set or rethinking how equipment and crew are transported.

Such sweeping efforts require buy-in from everyone involved. “I think that it’s something that no single producer can do on their own,” she says. “I think it’s something that studios, producers, distributors — I think everybody has to be onboard with this.”

Changing old habits won’t be easy, but the crisis seems to have triggered a collaborative spirit the likes of which the industry has never seen. “I think you’re going to see a huge reduction in the carbon footprint of film and television going forward, and I think that a lot of those [wasteful] practices are just going to be consigned to history,” Wootton says. “And I think that we’re going to be able to claim that we are one of the most technologically sophisticated, but also environmentally sensitive and sustainable green industries, in the world.”

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