Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Interview with Carol Comley (Greening Film)

As I was browsing the internet recently looking for information on the UK film industry I came across a company that tries to encourage film productions to consider their environmental impact.  I got in touch with Carol Comley, their Head of Strategic Development to find out more...

BFI Greening Film

Could you explain a little about how Greening Film got set up and what your mission statement is?

CC: Greening Film was initially set up by the UK Film Council, but since its merger with the British Film Institute (BFI) in 2011, it has been run by the BFI.  It aims to help professionals working in every part of the film industry – studios, locations, distribution, exhibition, special effects, post-production and archives – to implement a sustainable strategy as part of their business. Why should film businesses do this? I think for three reasons:
  • ethical responsibility
  • good business sense
  • legal obligations

If there was a mission statement for Greening Film, it might be that we want to help create a resource to support the industry in becoming more sustainable and reduce its environmental impact.

Your website mentions something called BS 8909.  What is it and whom does it affect?

CC: BS 8909 is a British Standard devised by the film industry with the British Standards Institute. It is a specification for a sustainability management system for film, and has been designed to help the film industry run its business in a more sustainable way. Launched in Cannes in 2011, it can be used by organisations working in all sections of the film industry.

BS 8909 uses the most widely adopted definition of sustainability as specified by the Brundtland Commission, which states “sustainable development is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. It takes three areas into consideration: social, financial and environmental. So sustainability can be considered to be an enduring, balanced approach to economic activity, environmental responsibility and social progress. 

What kind of things should amateur filmmakers be doing in order to make their projects more ‘green’?

CC: An easy place to start is by thinking about what we are all encouraged to do in our daily lives; re-cyling, how to save on energy use, transport considerations and so on.

Complementing BS 8909, BAFTA and the BBC have developed Albert, a carbon calculator tool for the TV industry, which calculates the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted as a direct result of making a television programme. They also provide guides to support ways television can be more sustainable thereby reducing greenhouse gases whilst also making financial savings. BFI plans to work with BAFTA to adapt the calculator for film production, but in the meantime it is a useful tool to know about.

BFI Greening Film
Carol Comley - BFI
What incentives are there for major studio productions to consider their impact on the environment?

CC: The main goal for all of us in the film industry is to ensure the continuing success of British film and the UK film industry and sustainability is a part of that story, and an issue of global concern. Environmental sustainability makes sense to business economically (through lowering costs), socially and ethically and the studios can act as a force for positive change. A sustainable approach will also help enhance their competitiveness.

Do you work with any other creative industries to undertake action or raise awareness about these issues?

CC: We can definitely learn a lot from other creative industries and sectors with regard to how they are approaching sustainability, and information sharing is essential. For example, it is really useful for us to hear how the music industry is approaching sustainability including in the studio and at festivals, and likewise how the Arts Council England has embedded sustainability into their funding criteria. I’ve already mentioned BAFTA and television.

People have slowly come to expect environmentalism at festivals.   Could you outline what a sustainable film industry would preferably look like in 20 years time?

CC: That is a really difficult question! Technology of course has a huge impact on sustainability, and who knows what developments will have taken place by 2024… I think it is safe to say that the combination of a growing awareness of sustainability and the solutions provided through technological development will mean the UK film industry will be much more sustainable in twenty years time. In the UK there are c35,000 people working in the film industry. In twenty years time, everyone in the UK in film should be proud to have played their part in contributing to an environmentally sustainable future.

Are there any companies or projects that you feel are leading the way?

CC: BFI is the organisation leading on sustainability for the entire film sector, but on the film production side, Working Title is doing some great work, for example the set on Nanny McPhee 2 was recycled up to 94%.

BFI works closely with BBC and BAFTA (thereby uniquely covering film, television and video games – the screen industries) in particular, we lead an Industry-wide sustainability group which is an excellent forum for discussion and information sharing.  We are also working with organisations on specific areas of sustainability, for example Eco Age is helping the BFI itself to fully comply with BS 8909 and Greenshoot is delivering ‘green runner’ training specifically for the film industry.

I’d like to thank Carol for taking the time to answer a few questions on an insanely important subject.  I hope they keep doing what they are doing!

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