Finnish producers are hailing a new partnership aimed at combatting climate change on projects shooting in the country, says Anni Wessman, head of international at APFI, the film and TV producers’ association in Finland.
The initiative, done in concert with the Albert international environmental nonprofit focused on the film and TV sector, will give producers a set of tools and metrics already embraced by 20 countries for measuring everything that factors into a production’s carbon footprint.
“One of the key points of this initiative is to offer concrete practical tools for productions,” Wessman says. “Sustainability policies only make a difference when it’s clear that it’s more than a credo. And the impact of such tools can only be measured if it’s a systematic toolkit used by everyone. Only then is data reliable and can we really tell if we’re making the right impact.”
“This new relationship led by APFI and its partners will put sustainability at the heart of the Finnish audiovisual industry,” says Roser Canela-Mas, international manager for Albert, “and will support it by taking the necessary steps to measure and reduce the industry’s environmental footprint, as well as inspire audiences through on-screen content.”
Finnish film production is well suited to a new green focus, Canela-Mas adds, because the mix of government bodies, film commissions and broadcasters who are usually stakeholders “will ensure that the whole industry has access to the tools and education needed to achieve our global Net Zero goal.”
Wessman says the initiative grew organically from concerns of local producers.
APFI began speaking with Albert in 2019, she explains, “after a couple of our member production companies had said sustainability is an important issue and APFI could be the one to address it more widely across the Finnish industry.”
Talks and panels on the subject followed, including one on sustainability during the 2019 Finnish Film Affair, which Albert participated in, and APFI later invited a group of key decision-makers in the film and TV industry in Finland to plan “what we need to do as an industry in terms of sustainability.”
They agreed on the need for common measurement tools, choosing to licence the Albert environmental system and toolkit for use across the entire industry. “APFI would run this broader initiative, where we will also create a strategy for the industry,” Wessman adds, “that will focus on all the key tenets of sustainability, not just environmental matters.”
Producers have responded with enthusiasm, she says.
“It’s clearly become a more important issue for filmmakers in recent years – for some they’ve come to it on their own and wanted make sustainability an integral part of their business and productions and for the rest I think it’s something they’ve realized will eventually become a mandatory aspect of their work so they need to embrace it.”
Projects such as upcoming children’s feature “Detective Agency Henkka & Kivimutka,” produced by Fishcock Films Company and based on the children’s book of the same name, indicate Finnish bizzers are already on the right wavelength, says Wessman.
The film, shot last year in Lahti over 28 days with a cast and crew of more than 400, with the support of the city’s Green Lahti initiative, employed sustainable development and circular economy goals by minimizing distances between locations, using recycled materials and real locations in the stage and costume design, and vegan catering. Distribbed by Future Film, the project will bow next year.
The tracking tools from Albert build on existing progress, Wessman adds. “To be honest, these days anyone who does larger international co-productions are already presented with mandatory quotas and tools they must integrate into their productions.”
She cites one APFI member production company who reports that for their co-production with the U.K. they already must ensure their team both in front and behind the camera has a certain level of diversity.
“So quotas are already firmly a part of some productions. But rules and quotas are received fairly well by production companies since it’s far easier then on a practical level to require things from suppliers.”
Production managers will now be able to tell any supplier that green practices are required by their broadcasters or commissioners, she points out, rather than simply because it’s part of their production’s ethos.
The biggest challenge to implementation, Wessman says, will be “learning to use the full Albert toolkit.” At first it might take time to enter all the data into the online carbon footprint calculator, she says. “But once these things are learned they become routine, just as with any other part of production. Plus, I think any resistance any producer might feel will be a thing of the past once they’ve realized that green practices in productions statistically speaking clearly save money.”
The new policies go further than the current mandates of most Finnish film funding bodies, though most do encourage best practices already.
“For some, though, they already require environmental plans for the production if not hard data on emissions,” Wessman says.
She predicts that within about five years “it will be a stipulation of pretty much any state funding body. Considering Finland’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2035, no sector will be exempt from green measures. You can’t fight city hall.”
APFI is not new to environmental concerns, of course, having helped publish “Ekosetti” in 2019, a guidebook to sustainable audiovisual production with practical tips on more environmentally friendly work from pre- to post-production.
“On a policy level, we’re working to incorporate more green policies and practices into our own organizational strategy,” says Wessman. “And of course as part of our broader initiative we will write a sustainability strategy for the entire industry.”
APFI will consult funding bodies, broadcasters and other “who will hopefully be able to then incentivize green policies. It’s always easier to entice people to use something when it’s incentivized.”
Ideally, she says, productions might receive a higher level of support or a higher incentive percentage if they incorporate the Albert toolkit and abide by APFI green strategy.
The green policy complements APFI’s larger sustainability strategy, Wessman says, alongside economic, environmental and social cornerstones.