Sustainable Sets & Green Filmmaking – The Future of Power in Film

Posted by Grant Patten on Apr 6, 2020 9:03:19 AM

Sustainable Sets & Green Filmmaking – The Future of Power in Film

Generator: Sustainable Sets & Green FilmmakingSource: Royalty-free stock photo ID: 657678478 (Shutterstock)

TRADITIONAL Generators for film production – the issues involved

Powering a film production is an expensive business. Your typical power set-up is a centralized grid, involving at least one or two 400A diesel generators. That number can rapidly rise to 20 on large, high-draw productions. This ‘overpowering’ of film sets has been the status quo for decades.

Diesel generators have made us pretty lazy with our math - we basically just add up the lights we have and supply enough power to turn them all on at once, all day long, with lots left over for heating up all the snacks”
Kerri Coombs, Vancouver Gaffer

A single generator emits a noise level of 73 decibels – louder than a standard vacuum cleaner – and 2.6 kg of CO2 per litre of diesel burned. As a result, they must be placed far enough from set to avoid being picked up by sound or damaging air quality and the health of the crew. This practice has a number of challenges.

Rigging crews spend days setting up hundreds of feet of three-phase seaway cable or 4/0 heavy gauge cable to transmit power to set, as well as mats to ensure traffic can pass over the cabling without damage. Due to the distances involved, this can lead to line loss and restricts set design to specific locations that allow access. Productions using generators must also procure costly permits and hire generator operators to bring in and monitor the units during shooting.

What’s more, even before the generator operators (a.k.a. Genny Ops) roll in the 400A generators to energize the grid, the pre-production crew often must use loud, noxious 6k and 2k gas generators for power until the diesel power grid is energized. All of this – the noise, the harmful fumes, the cabling and disruption – is in large part responsible for the growing friction between film crews and the residents of the world’s most famous film cities. This is leading to some neighbourhoods refusing permits for film crews to work there at all.

Powering the film industry’s grid with decentralized clean technology / Portable Electric / electric generators

Decentralization of the power grid is a growing trend within the film industry. Leading professionals, such as David Sinfield and his team – known for their work on No Time To Die, Wonder Woman and Venom 2 – have already moved to a hybrid model. This involves using a reduced number of 400A diesel generators to deliver overall set power, while bringing in clean battery electric generators for peripheral power loads and confined or restrictive locations.

As a result, teams around the world are achieving creative visions that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive or actually impossible. A recent example was found when a crew used Portable Electric’s VOLTstack 2k and 5k electric generators to create a 360° IMAX shot. Due to their emissions-free and silent nature, these units could be placed directly beside the Technocrane holding the camera. The production, in turn, saved the unnecessary double expense of laying out hundreds of feet of cable, only to paint it all out in the editor’s suite.

Some pioneering productions are going one step further by completely decentralizing their grids. A Vancouver-based indie production, The Victim, used only VOLTstack electric generators to park power wherever they needed it for everything from their video village and catering, to balloon lights and HMI lamps during a day and night shoot.

I had no problem convincing the producers this was a great idea. As far as producers are concerned, no cable, no noise, and instant power on demand is like a dream come true
– Kerri Coombs, gaffer on The Victim

This simply required a shift in their approach to energy budgeting. “The industry regularly uses 18,000 watt lights for night shooting, which is why most of the night scenes you see nowadays look weird and unnatural, with blue light where all the darkness should be,” explains Kerri.

Instead, they swapped conventional fixtures with LED Skypanels, a staple lighting solution that uses a fifth of the power while achieving the same effect as conventional fixtures. Consequently, not only did decentralizing their grid create huge cost savings on cabling, mats, fuel and production manpower, it also ensured they achieved a powerful creative vision.

The lighting looked great - we didn’t have to sacrifice production value to scale down our power needs. There were a lot of high fives.

Generators for film production / electric generators – risk management & insurance considerations

Whether you’re using a diesel or electric generator, there can be certain risks that come along with generator use on set. A specialized film insurance broker is best able to present the risks associated with your film production to the film insurance underwriter to ensure you receive the best coverage and premium for your production.

Front Row Insurance Brokers are specialized Film Insurance Brokers. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Guest post written by Lisa Gheysen, Copywriter, on behalf of Portable Electric Ltd.

About Portable Electric:

Portable Electric (PE) is a Vancouver-based tech disruptor that builds, rents and sells the VOLTstack Power Station, revolutionizing the way critical power is delivered. They provide film productions, event organizers, construction sites, disaster zones and more, an alternative to loud, noxious gas and diesel generators.

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Topics: Film insurance broker, film insurance underwriter, sustainability

The Sustainable Production Forum & Sustainability in the Film Industry

Posted by Grant Patten on Oct 17, 2019 6:18:03 AM

THE SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION FORUM & SUSTAINABILITY IN THE FILM INDUSTRY

THE SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION FORUM#greenproduction #greenfilm #sustainability #sustainablefilm #gogreen

“The average person generates about 7 tonnes of carbon a year. A single film technician typically generates 32 tonnes per year.”
Melanie Dicks, co-founder of Greenshoot

This post about sustainability in the film industry is a natural extension of the last two climate-related posts we wrote on carbon offsetting and the Global Climate Strike. As Front Row cares about the environment and improving sustainability in the entertainment industry, it only made sense to become a sponsor of the Sustainable Production Forum (SPF), which focuses on challenges and solutions to greening the motion picture and entertainment industry.

Sustainability Issues in the Film Industry

First, what do we mean by sustainability? The basic definition is “the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely.” But here, we’re talking more specifically about environmental sustainability, which is defined as “the rates of renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely. If they cannot be continued indefinitely then they are not sustainable.” –Thwink.org

“Entertainment, as a sector, has always lagged behind in incorporating sustainability.” –Zena Harris, President, Green Spark Group

Mountains of plastic water bottles or landfill-bound sets are not uncommon for big-budget shoots. A single mid-sized TV series can consume up to 57,000 water bottles and 810,000 sheets of paper per season.

A large TV series or film feature can be expected to consume construction material (over 900 tonnes for a large feature; 3,000 tonnes for a blockbuster) and gasoline (up to 175,000 litres for a large TV series).

All these numbers add up to a significant environmental sustainability challenge for the entertainment industry.

Examples of Sustainable Production Programs & Initiatives

In BC, sustainable production dates back to the 2006 creation of Reel Green, which provides tools and information for companies wishing to produce motion pictures in an environmentally responsible manner.

NBC Universal launched their “Green is Universal” initiative in 2007 along with a Sustainable Production Program and Green Production Guide. Green is Universal is NBC’s ongoing green initiative dedicated to raising awareness, effecting positive change to the environment and substantially greening its own operations.

In 2009, Green Screen Toronto published Green Practices Handbook [PDF], one of the first industry reports to note cost savings due to sustainable practices on large feature films.

Sustainable Lockup logoKeep it Green Recycling and Green Spark Group created the Sustainable Lockup in May 2017; the initiative has redistributed “well over 100 tonnes of set materials” — including windows, doors and flats. Sustainable Lockup also has a program to get leftover food from on-set catering to people who need a meal.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has been a leader in helping transition the UK’s entertainment industry to environmental sustainability.

The set of UK short film The Blue Door (2017) was designed and built using 100% recycled and reclaimed materials – even down to the screws. Once filming was over, all of the set was returned to the production designer’s prop centre, where it could be hired back into the industry and repurposed for future productions.

How Sustainability Benefits Industry & Society

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 employed an eco-manager who helped reduce bottled-water use. A typical 60-day film shoot can save upwards of $6,000 just by eliminating plastic water bottles. Similarly, Tomorrowland employed an environmental steward and achieved a 91% waste diversion rate from landfills by following a comprehensive zero waste initiative.

The Man in the High Castle’s third season reportedly saved over $50,000 by implementing sustainable production practices, including simply switching from single water bottles to larger ones and having people bring their own bottle.

Green Spark Group works with producers to establish and meet sustainability goals. On average, Green Spark claims to save producers it works with some $73,000. Working with Green Spark in 2015, The X-Files diverted more than 81% of its total waste from landfills, achieving US$41,000 in overall cost savings.

Zero-emission vehicles (ZEV)Environmental activists in the entertainment industry – including SPF – are pushing for the adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEV). The Government of Canada has even set ambitious federal targets for ZEV reaching 10% of light-duty vehicle sales per year by 2025. The use of ZEV instead of vehicles that emit exhaust gas of course benefits the industry and society as a whole through less pollution. In BC, 95% of electricity is generated from renewables – mainly hydro. It costs $2.10 to charge a Tesla Model 3 to drive 100 km. By comparison, it costs approximately $23 in gas to run a typical V6 sedan for 100 km. ZEV vans and light-duty trucks will save productions significant dollars in fuel costs.

Attend SPF (Sustainable Production Forum)

Interested in learning more about greening the film industry? The Sustainable Production Forum focuses on the pressing issue of sustainability within the motion picture and entertainment industry. Learn more at https://www.sustainableproductionforum.com/

As climate change becomes increasingly urgent, all industries need to take up the flag of sustainability and create collaborative solutions to reduce our collective footprint.

SEE ALSO:

SUSTAINABLE SETS & GREEN FILMMAKING – THE FUTURE OF POWER IN FILM

Citations:

Topics: sustainability

Front Row’s Carbon Offset Commitment

Posted by Grant Patten on Sep 11, 2019 10:24:55 AM

Front Row’s Carbon Offset Commitment

carbon offsets

“Canada declares national #ClimateEmergency. It’s great that more countries and regions are doing this. But remember: The fossil fuels must stay in the ground. Forget “climate neutral” and clever accounting. Our emissions must start their way to zero. Now.”
Greta Thunberg, teenage environmental activist | Twitter post (06.18.2019)

In this post, we’ll explain: the cost of a flight offset, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and carbon offsets, review some of the history of carbon offsetting, look at some examples of companies doing an effective job with CSR and conclude with a listing of some carbon offset vendors to consider.

What Does It Cost to Offset a Flight?

Front Row offsets all carbon emissions created as a result of flights taken for our business. The total emissions created for a flight from Vancouver to Toronto in economy is 1.294 tonnes. The cost for a gold offset is $32 per tonne, resulting in a reasonable cost of $41.42 each way.

The cost to offset your flight can be calculated in less than 30 seconds by using this link to Less Emissions.

Corporate Social Responsibility & Carbon Offsets

Corporate social responsibility (CSR): a type of international private business self-regulation. A company's sense of responsibility toward the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates.

Carbon offset: an action intended to compensate for the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as a result of industrial or other human activity, especially when quantified and traded as part of a commercial program.

Front Row Insurance is an organization that takes CSR seriously. We demonstrate our commitment to CSR primarily through the implementation of a carbon offsets program: all flying that is done by Front Row has a carbon offset through Less Emissions Inc. Through Less, customers can calculate and purchase offsets to help mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with air travel.

The History of Carbon Offsets

The carbon offsets idea likely originated with the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 by many countries (and which Canada withdrew from in December 2012). The Kyoto Protocol has sanctioned offsets as a way for governments and private companies to earn “carbon credits” that can be traded on a marketplace.

In June 2019, The House of Commons passed a motion to declare a national climate emergency in Canada. A report from Environment and Climate Change Canada released in April found that Canada is warming up at twice the rate of the rest of the world; this situation requires that Canada commit to meeting its national emission target under the Paris Agreement.

Although Canada officially withdrew from Kyoto, there are many grassroots initiatives across the country focused on promoting the reduction of emissions, such as Montreal’s climate march on Sept. 27 2019, which has invited Greta Thunberg (the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist) to participate. This event is part of Global Climate Week from Sept. 20-27.

Examples of Effective Corporate Social Responsibility

Well-known companies that seem to be doing a good job of CSR include:

  • Swiss Re: this reinsurance company charges its business divisions a fee based on their emissions, incentivizing them to reduce their carbon footprint while also raising funds that can then be reinvested in energy efficiency/used to purchase offsets.
  • Vancity: Vancouver City Savings Credit Union has increased its holdings of clean tech and renewable energy companies. The company has been integrating environmental, social and governance factors into its investment decisions.
  • Johnson & Johnson: this medical device company’s initiatives range from leveraging the power of wind to providing safe water to communities around the world.
  • Coca-Cola: they have invested in new alternatively fueled trucks and are intending to create a 25% reduction in their carbon footprint by 2020.
  • The Lego Group: in 2015, they announced plans to invest $150 million as part of an effort to make their iconic plastic building blocks better for the environment and make their packaging more sustainable (like cutting the size of packages).

Benefits of Carbon Offsets Program

There are benefits to both the general public and to companies when it comes to carbon offsets.

General public benefits:

  • Reduced pollution (in the future): the funds companies invest in offsetting normally go toward green technology projects that should, when completed, reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which obviously benefits the public at large.
  • Reputational benefits: people generally like having the reputation of being environmentally conscious and aware. People who buy offsets for their cars often receive a window decal to make others aware of their carbon neutrality, for example.

Company benefits:

  • Good PR & branding: offsetting carbon emissions engenders a certain amount of goodwill, both of the general public and certain investors; companies often like to take advantage of this opportunity to advertise their eco-friendliness in the marketplace.
  • Anticipation of regulation: companies can get “ahead of the curve” by proactively taking some measures to offset their carbon emissions and when government regulation inevitably comes, they will have something already to show regulators.
  • Tax deduction potential: if purchasing carbon offsets from a non-profit, under certain circumstances, the purchase could be considered a charitable donation and therefore tax deductible (depends on the carbon offset vendor).

How to Implement a Carbon Offsets Program

There are various carbon offsetting vendors that can be considered, including:

 

related:

FRONT ROW SUPPORTS THE GLOBAL CLIMATE STRIKE

 

Citations:

Topics: sustainability