B.C. film industry debates sustainability challenges ahead

Sustainable Production Forum draws global experts to examine practices in B.C. film industry

Panellists at the Sustainable Production Forum debate whether efforts to green up Vancouver’s film industry could result in pushing away some Hollywood productions

Over the years TV producer Clara George has been pushing her team to come up with ideas to reduce the carbon footprint on their productions.

That means:

•no more plastic cutlery (a newly acquired industrial dishwasher helped divert almost 9,000 disposables in a three-week period);

•no more plastic dry-cleaning bags (the costume department now relies on protective materials made from recycled garments); and

•a switch in paper suppliers to get 100% recycled paper without any surcharges.

But the elephant in the room staring at Sustainable Production Forum panellists in Vancouver on November 1 was diesel generators.

The roaring, emissions-heavy machinery is a staple of location shoots, powering lights, cameras and trailers.

And over the summer Vancouver city council passed a motion from Green party Coun. Adriane Carr – another forum panellist – instructing city staff to work with the film industry to eliminate generators from shoots and develop electric infrastructure to plug in to.

Moderator David Hardy, vice-president of stakeholder affairs and sustainability at William F. White International Inc., asked the panel whether the motion risked alienating Hollywood productions and local producers.

“This is not something they’re fighting,” said George, the president of Vancouver-based Clarity Films.

“This is something they’re begging for, and they just want the city to facilitate it.”

She cited letters of support totalling 89 signatures presented to city council as indications of buy-in from industry, with the Directors Guild of Canada, the Reel Green initiative and throngs of local producers and production managers throwing their weight behind it.

“That strengthened the resolve and gave us confidence to move forward,” said panellist Geoff Teoli, the City of Vancouver’s manager of film and special events.

He previously recalled emails stretching back to 2008 chronicling efforts to make power tie-ins available to film crews in a bid to reduce reliance on diesel generators.

But it’s taken more than a decade for these efforts to gain traction, a timeline that George said has been frustrating.

“I don’t want a free pass; I don’t want film immunity,” she said.

“As an industry we have the strength, we have the money and we have this amazing advantage that we work on insanely quick timelines. We can change things faster than city councils.”