Sustainable film sets could make the movie industry greener


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Film and television have the power to transport viewers to strange and wonderful places. But with that cinematic immersion, often comes a huge environmental cost.

As well as the carbon emissions that come from fuel for transport, production and housing, there is an environmental impact from the waste generated from the making and tearing down of film sets. Sets are made from many different materials, including nails, plywood, wood, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which often end up in landfills after a set is used.

According to a report by Albert, an organization that offers environmental certification for the UK television industry, a typical tentpole film production, with a budget of $70 million or more, uses enough plywood to fill 2.5 cargo ships. Can be constructed of plywood Associated with deforestationDepends on how it is achieved.

“These incredible sets take days, or sometimes weeks or months, to build,” says Chris Gilmour, director of Vector Project, a production studio in Manchester, England. “They’re filmed for two or three days, and then they’re just destroyed, there’s no way to reuse them.”

Related: Hospital ward made from trash highlights Arthur Huang’s mission to revolutionize recycling

To solve the problem, Vector Project creates fully recyclable sets using boards made from cardboard and paper.

Vector says the boards are made only from wood waste, for example sawdust and branches left over from wood production, and use primarily water-based adhesives, rather than chemicals like formaldehyde. which are often used in wood-based boards.

According to Vector, its boards have a carbon footprint 90% lower than MDF and three times lower than plywood. Because the boards are much lighter than MDF, Vector says they use less fuel to transport, which helps reduce their carbon footprint.

“We can produce it locally, it’s very light to transport, it’s quick to go together,” Gilmour said.

Although they’re light, Gilmore says the boards are strong enough to hold a person’s weight. While some production designers believed the sets would look like “some kind of horrible 1970s sci-fi show with polystyrene rocks,” Gilmour said, the material was “indistinguishable from the wooden sets until you picked it up. .”

Much of Vector’s recent work has been for commercials for companies such as male grooming brand Old Spice and UK chain store JD Sports. It also recently developed sets for the long-running UK soap opera Coronation Street and has begun building sets for a major Hollywood production, which Vector did not allow to be named.

Recently, the environmental impact of the film industry has been increasingly scrutinized. According to Albert, an average tentpole film production creates 2,840 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s equivalent to the energy used by 358 average American homes in a year. Affiliated with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), the organization is working with the film industry to reduce its carbon footprint.

Some productions have committed to using solar power for generators and banning plastic bottles on sets. However, film productions are still trying to find more ways to become carbon neutral, says Gilmour. “There is an awareness that there is a need in the industry, but there are not many easy solutions,” he adds.

Vector recently won BAFTA’s Makers and Shakers Awards for sustainability, as well as the Greening All Work prize at the Ashden Awards, which are run by a UK climate action charity.

Zasofia Semeredi, Albert’s international manager of film and TV production, says that one of the advantages of Vector’s lightweight film sets is that they are easier to build than using traditional wood. “You don’t need that many people,” he explained. “You’re saving … on energy, human resources. And that really contributes a lot because it’s the biggest part of your carbon footprint,” he added.

Vector says the boards it makes are strong enough to hold a person's weight.

Vector isn’t the only company trying to reduce the environmental impact of film sets. in Los Angeles, Recycled movie sets Productions rent out used sets donated by productions that are no longer needed and Ecoset Also works with productions to reuse and recycle sets

This is a sign that the film and television industry is looking to improve its green credentials. In 2019, the film “1917” became the first major British film to receive the highest certificate from the Albert. Netflix born around that 1.1 million metric tons Announced 2020 greenhouse gas emissions target Net-zero emissions by the end of 2022 (Netflix does not include Internet transmissions or emissions from electronic devices that viewers use to view the platform).

Gilmour believes that vector sets have an important role to play in the industry. “It’s not the only thing in film and TV that needs to change,” he said. “But it is, for now, the only permanent solution for set building.”

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