Film sets are notoriously wasteful environments. Imagine that a city is built overnight to service 400 people for 3 months, and just as quickly as they arrived any person to hold accountable for the mess disappears leaving behind a city’s ruins. Film sets employ electricians who need power in often very remote areas which results in the need for old-fashioned generators. They need to house and feed the entire crew, which results in dozens of trailers, trucks, and commuters to set who can only get there by car. They do not have the resources to properly cook or wash materials, resulting in temporary and disposable cups, plates, and packaged foods. All of these materials turn into waste and often littering. Storage is a huge issue on film sets, so production companies rely on 18-wheeler trucks to store camera equipment, dry goods, props, gaffing gear, and every actor needs to have their own trailer, first-class accommodations if flying, and transportation vehicles as mandated by their union (1). Additionally, having worked in a production office, the amount of waste in the form of paper is astounding. All 400 crew members receives a “side”, or the pages from the script for that day’s shoot as well as a “call sheet”, an 11×17 legal paper with the schedule and list of crew. Both of these documents could easily be distributed digitally as everyone has a mobile phone, and members who want it physically pay a nominal fee for printing and paper. Generally, the longer the shoot, the larger the crew, and the more demanding on the environment. (2)
Currently, resources to motivate filmmakers from being wasteful are scarce. More importantly, they are suggestions and recommendations but have no impact on the P&L of the production. There are regional organizations that provide resources, such as Film London (2) or the Mass Production Coalition (3), in the form of guides, contacts, and tutorials on how to run a greener film shoot. These recourses help individuals who were interested in already having this type of film shoot, but does not motivate the majority of wasteful sets. The only way to truly change Hollywood’s habits is to tie together waste output and production costs. This could be done either through positive reinforcement, such as tax breaks, or negative reinforcement such as fees and penalties. Research should be done to discover the methods and effects of a more efficient set to share with film studio executives.
As climate change has a ripple effect on our environment, I predict film sets will begin to be held accountable for the disaster they leave behind them through regulation. Unions are responsible to represent the majority of below-the-line crew on set but they account for an equally large percentage of waste. My hope is that production companies are incentivized to run an environmentally conscious shoot. Production costs may go up but that cost could be shared by the unions representing the crew as well as the production company hiring them. Additionally, there are currently a lot of tax incentives to attract film shoots to individual states across the US (4). However, these incentives could very easily be tiered and associated with an equal responsibility to be environmentally conscious. For example, a film production could receive an increase in the rebate or tax break on their film by accounting for recyclable materials in tons of waste. If a film set recycles a certain percentage of their purchasing habits, they get a larger rebate. If they are able to run a zero-waste production, they could have access to the largest tax rebate that the state is willing to offer. By tying incentives to the bottom line of a production, company’s hiring the crew for this shoot will do so knowing they can save money with new processes and ordering tactics. Current executives are also not incentivized to clean up any littering or waste such as cigarette butts or plastics left over by the crew. Unions who represent below-the-line crew should offer tax breaks to their union members who account for waste. By offering tax breaks and aligning incentives for a more efficient set, film executives may actually be able to save money by running a greener set then the current method requires.
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- “Transportation and Location Expenses”. SAG-AFTRA. Web accessed Nov 3 2016. http://www.sagaftra.org/transportation-and-location-expenses
- “Emission impossible: Why Hollywood is one of the worst polluters.” Independent.co.uk. Thursday 15 November 2007. Web Article. Accessed November 3 2016. <http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/emission-impossible-why-hollywood-is>.
- Hartman, David. Mass Production Coalition Contact. Accessed Nov 3 2016. http://massprodcoalition.org/contact/
- “U.S. Tax Incentive Info.” Film Production Capital. Accessed by web Nov 3 2016. filmproductioncapital.com/taxincentive.html