March 21, 2023

Not at all «green» cinema: how the shooting of blockbusters affect the environment

Flights, props, special effects and many hours of equipment work – this is how the part of filmmaking that remains "behind the scenes" looks like. The carbon footprint of such activities amounts to tons of emissions in terms of CO2 equivalent.

The calculations are carried out by environmentalists and organizations from the film industry, for example, the Alliance for Sustainable Film Production – Sustainable Production Alliance (SPA) and the British Film Institute (BFI). The SPA includes the largest film studios and streaming services in the USA: Disney, Fox, Sony Pictures Entertainment, WarnerMedia, Amazon Studios, Netflix.

The average figures are as follows: 33 tons of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere in one shooting day, shooting one highly-budget blockbuster costs nature 2.8-3 thousand tons of carbon dioxide and its equivalents. To absorb it, 1.5 hectares of forest need to be "worked" for a year. 1 ton of CO2 is enough to melt 3 m2 of Arctic ice.

The filming of TV series and TV shows is no less destructive: according to various estimates, one hour-long series "costs" from 52 to 77 tons of CO2. If the same episode is filmed with 2 cameras, reducing the total time, the emission is reduced to 36 tons.The production of an hour of news or a TV show on average leads to the emission of 13 tons of greenhouse gases.

Most of the emissions are accounted for by the production of electricity necessary for the maintenance of the set and the operation of equipment. But with the end of filming, environmental pollution does not end, because it is also necessary to spend resources to broadcast the resulting content. Watching movies and TV series on TV has the least impact on nature – only 0.11 g / hour. The work of streaming services "costs" more, from 0.2 to 1.6 kg / hour, but the figures vary greatly from different agencies and are constantly being revised. For comparison, 1.6 kg of CO2 is emitted by a car for a trip of 6.5 km.

What measures are the giants of the film industry taking to reduce and compensate for the damage caused?

• Saving electricity on the set. For example, Warner Media uses LED lights during filming and turns off the equipment during breaks. This can also include the transition to electric vehicles, the use of low-carbon fuels and electricity from renewable sources.

• The use of recycled raw materials and recyclable materials (for example, compostable products, recycled paper) for the production of props and ensuring the operation of the film set. Collection and recycling of materials that have become unnecessary.

For example, on the set of Avatar, which actively promotes respect for nature, the equipment was supplied with energy from solar panels, drones were used instead of helicopters for aerial shots, and all catering for the crew and actors was vegan. During the filming of "The New Spider-Man" in 2014, they collected more than 49 tons of textiles that can be reused or recycled, donated almost 6,000 portions of food to shelters, planted trees in one of the parks in New York.

A new position has appeared on the film sets – an environmental compliance manager, and several agencies are working in Hollywood that help their clients – large film companies, reduce the damage to nature and at the same time save money.

How important do you think cinema plays in our lives? Is the production of film content worth the harm done to nature, or could we do without so many new films and TV series?


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