Guiding filmmakers to green their production

Last week at the Realscreen Summit, a guide to pro-environmental practices was unveiled. Co-author Larry Engel details the creation of The Code of Best Practices in Sustainable Filmmaking, a document with checklists and carbon dioxide trackers to use on documentary productions.
February 12, 2009

Documentaries on the environment are certainly plentiful these days, but that’s what’s going on in front of the lens. Larry Engel and Andrew Buchanan, along with the Filmmakers for Conservation (FFC), the American University’s Center for Social Media and the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, have put forth a guide to help doc filmmakers be green behind the lens.

The Code of Best Practices in Sustainable Filmmaking is a guide for small and large independent doc filmmakers, complete with checklists and carbon dioxide trackers. An array of small and simple activities and considerations are included in the checklist, from encouraging the use of SKYPE instead of traveling to meetings, to replacing disposable cups with refillable ones.

The useful guide happened quite by chance. Environmental filmmaker Larry Engel attended the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in 2007 and caught Andrew Buchanan’s session on carbon neutral filmmaking. Upon meeting, they got to talking but it wasn’t until half a year later that Engel realized that Buchanan was working on a similar endeavor – a code of green filmmaking that everyone could use. The respective heads of the Center for Social Media, Pat Aufderheide, and the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, Chris Palmer, were at the time encouraging Engel to create his own code for students and professionals and realized that Buchanan had the same goals. They decided to collaborate and a year later produced The Code. ‘We had to have not only a set of principals but also very clear checklists and spreadsheets to allow individual producers to assess, plan and monitor their carbon contributions and critically we wanted to make sure we had scientists behind us,’ says Engel.

Among their short-term goals are to get The Code translated into other languages and find funding for working with a carbon calculator company to design a filmmaking-specific carbon calculator.

Meanwhile, Engel is trying to practice what he preaches. The group didn’t print a lot of hard copies and instead only printed enough for archival purposes and for demonstrations, relying instead on Internet access and distribution. And when it comes to traveling, Buchanan, who lives in England, attended Wildscreen while Engel appeared via SKYPE to eliminate the effects of travel.

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is a special reports editor at realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.