“I would love to see more producers…think about how to change old production methods to help alleviate this global crisis” — Diana Donaldson

From companies like Screen Siren Pictures to bigger productions like Freeform’s Siren, the motion picture industry is making strides towards becoming #ReelGreen. At the Vancouver Film Studios, the team on Siren shared cinammon buns and coffee in reusable cups at their first condensed Carbon Literacy Course where lively discussion ranged from idling vehicles, curbing food waste, and implementing green practices on set.

With Siren entering its third season, Unit Manager Diana Donaldson corralled team members from every level of production, from location managers to transport to participate in this course. In three seasons of the show, the BC-team behind Siren have made incremental changes to become greener on set from using reusable containers for food, the costume department reusing garment bags, to cutting down on plastic water bottles on set. With 24 people from the production in the room, it was Reel Green’s largest carbon literacy course so far. The carbon literacy course is made possible through the collaboration between the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and Creative BC to share tools and knowledge on going green in the motion picture industry.

We spoke to Diana about the challenges of going green on a busy production and how greener production practices can become the new normal.

What sparked interest in taking your production through Reel Green’s carbon literacy course?

It started as a scheduling conversation on the difficulties of facilitating this globally relevant course faced with the long and unpredictable hours inherent in film production. While ActSafe was on the VFS lot giving away coffee and cookies for the AIP Week Safety Cafe campaign, I took the opportunity to discuss my concerns with one of their representatives. ActSafe were encouraging and agreed to look into it, which ultimately led to the idea of an onsite visit.

In what ways have you seen Reel Green’s influence emerge?

Back in 2009, offices were mostly doing paper recycling with some collections of cans and bottles. I watched as Keep it Green went from a single woman hauling the bags out to her truck, to having helpers, to employees who provide not only a removal service but an organized bin system, separating the different materials right at the source whilst keeping the office space tidy.

How has Siren been going green throughout the three seasons of the show?

Siren gives its crew members reusable water containers at the start of each season. Catering and Craft Services on set carry compostable cutlery, paper plates and wooden stirrers, and provide a compost bin for rubbish. There are also cardboard and compost bins on the lot for disposal.

The office uses Roy’s 100% recycled white paper at the printers. They source environmentally-friendly options for detergents and soaps, and use reusable grocery bags. Office lunch is served on reusable plates and cutlery. Leftover food is stored in the office fridge for crew to eat or take home after lunch. The props department uses fake food instead of real whenever they can (fridge stock, under fresh topping, for wide shots whenever possible).

The costume department reuses their shopping and garment bags. They use scrap fabrics when possible and have a textile donation bin. Clothes are washed with biodegradable laundry soaps, bought and stored in reusable dispenser containers. Rubber balls are used instead of dryer sheets and reusable tape if necessary. Siren uses Keep it Green recycling services as well as their set waste management program, Sustainable Lockup, which donate sets, construction materials and flat pieces to other productions.

What green practices have you adopted as part of being green?

Like several crew members, I bring my own lunch container to work as well as my water bottle and coffee flask. I use the compost bins whenever possible and minimize my vehicle from idling as much as possible. At the start of each production I ask the office to not send me paper versions of anything I can receive electronically.

How do you think specific training relevant to motion picture will make a greater impact than general environmental training programs?

Probably the biggest issues for the film industry are power and waste management. We use lots of transportation devices and consume a large amount of fossil fuels. I believe training for the film industry will help us move toward electric vehicles and charging stations. I think the film industry still relies excessively on paper and that education will result in a dramatic reduction. I’d love to see us give away lunch containers and offer a washing station at catering to support the waste reduction of disposable containers.

What do you hope your team will have gained from being at the course?

I hope everyone leaves more aware of the pressing climate issues and our potential to create new environmentally-friendly habits. I would love to see more producers, PMs, LMs or transport leaders think about how to change old production methods to help alleviate this global crisis. We need to put more pressure on the networks to allow us to budget and schedule the use of green alternatives to transportation and waste management such as: electric vehicles, power drops, or tie-ins which provide power from the city grids. We should have water stations in all our sets and scout vehicles. The change needs to happen from above and with our vendors to make the greatest impact.

Have you seen increasing green practices as a key priority on productions?

I’ve seen both an increasing number of crew members push for more green operating options as well as a more positive response from the production side. Right now, I think the offices are undertaking most of the green initiatives and I’d like to see this mirrored on set.

In your opinion, what are some of the obstacles to going green in the motion picture industry?

Part of the problem with motion picture production is that our timelines are constantly moving at a rapid pace. Often the reality of a heavy and intense workload takes priority over any planning or implementation of green ideas. Finding time to have the relevant meetings or schedule training is incredibly challenging. For us, it meant scheduling the training session on the first day of prep for our even episodes with our odd episodic crew; it was a small window in our schedule, but the condensed version of the course made it possible. I think once the ideas and plans are in motion, they’ll become easier to maintain.

And how do you hope the Reel Green initiative can help you overcome them?

Putting green initiatives in place requires time to plan and respond. I feel this course would be very valuable paired with the anti-bullying and harassment seminar we do with all ABC shows at the beginning of the year. If this conversation took place annually at the start of each show, it could help us implement changes quicker and start off each season on the right foot towards making our shows greener overall. My hope is that this course becomes not only mandatory but also recurrent so that the motion picture industry can be updated as new information becomes available.