London Film Academy

#SustainableSundays ‘1917’; the biggest sustainable film production to date

07 November 2021

How would you act if no-one was watching?  

In order to hold ourselves and others to the highest standards, it’s important to be held accountable to an external force. When it comes to the environment, it’s more vital than ever that organisations and institutions are praised when they act in the best interests of the planet, and act as role models for other institutions, setting a positive precedent for reducing environmental damage. 

Image credits © We Are The Mighty 

Albert is the foremost organisation for promoting sustainability within the film industry. Founded in 2011, Albert aims to facilitate restorative environmental change within the film and TV industries, by encouraging productions to reduce their wastage and carbon emission outputs, as well as providing them with the tools and training they need to do so. Their website says: 

The creative industries offer the greatest opportunity to mobilise positive action for the planet. We are leading a charge against climate change; uniting the screen industries to make a positive environmental impact and inspiring audiences to act for a sustainable future.

Albert

 

Albert provides education on how to reduce the environmental impact of a film production, as well as a range of active resources like carbon calculators, production toolkits, carbon action plans and carbon offsetting schemes. These tools are available to film productions all around the world, no matter how big or small they are.  

Image credits © 8FLiX PiX 

On top of this, Albert wanted to celebrate the successes of productions that manage to achieve a sustainable level of wastage and carbon emissions from their shoots, to set positive examples, and create incentives, for the rest of the industry to work towards. Therefore, Albert introduced a certification tool which acknowledges when a production has made a significant, provable effort to reduce the waste and carbon output of their shoot and neutralize the environmental impact of the production through carbon offsetting. 

In 2019, Sam Mendes’ epic, one-shot war drama ‘1917’ became the first large scale UK production to gain Albert sustainability certification. The primary production partner, Neal Street Productions, had worked alongside Albert to ensure the sustainability of their TV shows, and wanted to bring the same approach to this $95 million film, which went on to be nominated for several Oscar and BAFTA awards.  

Image credits © Albert 

In order to achieve certification, a production must meet a number of requirements for tracking sustainability, which can be viewed on Albert’s website, here. For ‘1917’, a team of carbon footprint and environmental assistants were hired, specifically to plan, implement and report back on best sustainability practices, both during pre-production and on location for the shoot. The team had to evaluate each department in the production from an environmental perspective, which is no small feat on a production as large and complex as ‘1917’. 

Some of the methods that were introduced to reduce carbon and waste output were: 
 

  • Providing fully compostable plates and cutlery for catering, as well as reusable water bottles for all cast and crew.  

  • Teaming up with Bio Collectors; a waste disposal company which collected food waste from set and converted it into biogas, electricity and fertiliser.  

  • Using generators which run on waste vegetable oil, rather than traditional diesel. 

  • Shooting primarily on locations within the UK, and using train travel to transport cast, crew and equipment, to avoid fuel-guzzling air-travel. 

  • Reselling and recycling materials from the art and costume departments, as well as the prosthetic team. Many of the skilfully crafted corpses were used in Neal Street Production’s TV series ‘Britannia!’. 

  • Conducting full surveys into the land used for shooting, to reduce damage to the ecosystem, and ensuring that the land was returned to its’ prior state once shooting had finished.  

Image credits © YMCinema 

These measures, and many more, meant that ‘1917’ received a three-star certification from Albert, making it the first feature film distributed in UK cinemas to achieve this award for film production sustainability. Albert hopes that this milestone will encourage other big-budget productions to take on the challenge of implementing sustainable practices on set and pave a lasting example for large-scale productions to reduce their environmental impact.  

Pippa Harris, one of the producers of ‘1917’ and co-founder of Neal Street Productions, had this to say about how the film industry can continue to foster positive change: 

People like me, other producers, have to start shouting more loudly about sustainability, and about what they want for their productions when they go to a studio, and the support they want from the people who are funding them. We need everyone to step up to the plate. It can’t just be left to producers and line producers and production managers to reinvent the wheel each time they set up a production.

Pippa Harris

 

Image credits © Wimbledon Times 

We can’t wait to see which big-budget film will be next to follow in the footsteps of ‘1917’! Keep an eye on our blog for the latest updates on sustainable productions within the film industry, and head over to the Albert website to see how you can limit the environmental impact of your next production. Don’t forget to share this post with a friend to keep the conversation going! 

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