Can you imagine a day when films and shows have an audience rating AND production eco-certification displayed with the same importance? A kind of Green Tomato start rating to match the Rotten Tomato end rating.
That might sound a bit out there, but it's really now different to way we are viewing pretty much everything else in our lives. And the making of films and television programs can be an incredibly emissions-heavy and location destructive business.
An eco-manager was employed as part of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" crew and the results were staggering. According to Hollywood Reporter, around 193,000 water bottles were saved, the film achieved a 52% waste diversion rate from landfills, almost 50 tons of building materials were donated for reuse on future productions and nearly 6,000 meals were supplied to community shelters.
Ultimately "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" earned a carbon neutral certification and for their sustainability efforts, producers saved an estimated US$400,000.
In the same year Leonardo Di Caprio hosted Earth Fair 2000 alongside Al Gore (and simultaneously cemented his place as Hollywood’s Poster Boy for Climate Change), the actor also starred in one of the most environmentally disastrous film productions on record.
The Beach (2000) caused so much damage to its filming locations in Thailand that Thai villagers took 20th Century Fox to court suing for damages.
Production management also reportedly planted 60 non-native coconut trees, ripped out native vegetation and were accused of discharging paints and chemicals into the waters in Khao Yai National Park. (It's hard to imagine this level of environmental impact happening within eye or earshot of climate change champion Leonardo DiCaprio today.)
To add insult to the existing injury, the desire of tourists to visit locations used for “The Beach” has resulted in overtourism with disastrous consequences. Almost 20 years after production wrapped, Maya Bay continues to be inundated with tourists romanced by the film, to the point where the beach was closed to the public from June - Nov 2018 and still remains indefinitely closed to boats in order to recover.
Until recently, transparency in the film production business has meant releasing “making of footage” or “bloopers”, inviting the audience into the production world by breaking the fourth wall.
Sadly degradation to film locations, excessive waste generated from the production and negative impacts on local communities are not uncommon. And when A-List stars are involved and the production closes ranks to protect the secrecy of scenes, the public remains none the wiser as to the real story on location.
True production transparency is not about the efforts of Film Promotion, a multi-million dollar industry in itself, who orchestrate and produce the behind the scenes story of the film. Green practices are woven into the budget, the practices and the very culture of the production. There are a lot of criteria involved to determine if a production is actually reducing its carbon footprint.
British initiative Green Screen is an online tool used by filmmakers to help reduce the environmental impacts of all production activities. Green Screen has been employed on many production shoots across Britain and into continental Europe in France, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden.
The end goal of Green Screen is lower carbon emissions, and those productions that achieve their goals do receive official acknowledgement and can display a stamp in their end credits and promotional material. Something to look for! If you are a fan of The Crown, for example, Green Screen was used throughout the production.
Hollywood is also stepping up and improving its eco-friendly practices, in line with California’s generally environmentally conscious image. The sheer volume and different nature of productions and production companies makes for a difficult landscape to sustain long term goals, but as a whole the industry should be celebrated for its internal locus of control.
The Green Seal Award given to high achieving eco-friendly films is also displayed (buried) in a films credits, and while it's not worn up front as a badge of honour where eco-consumers probably think it should be, it's there! And that is the start of something good.
Locally, some of Australia’s State and Industry Film Bodies have their antennae up to green filmmaking. Some support to filmmakers wanting to reduce the impact of their production on the planet is available, for example, Screen Queensland’s Eco-Screen initiative. In addition, sustainability managers and consultants (the very definition of 21st century jobs) are becoming more common on film sets and locations of big budget productions. Watch this space. As producers realize the value consumers now attach to green practices, eco-certification could be closer than you think.