Sustainability: Film Productions

The film production, some may call the money printing industry, has attracted many in different capacities. An average number 1000 Cast and Crew for a medium size Hollywood production is considered as a vital industry. Many governments and political systems understand the potential of the sector in which they have provided many tax cuts, benefits and support. In 2016, UK film and TV industry contributed £7.7bn into UK economy (Elliott, 2017). It is important to mention that the UK is the 7th most significant film industry in the world. These figures show the impact of the worldwide £207bn industry on economy growth beside the other impacts such as ethics, advertising, etc.

The Film and TV industry has a good track record of being used to provide information to the audience and be a successful tool to control or manipulate consumers behaviour. As cruel it might sound, it is impossible to divide the political system interest in Film Industry and the Film Productions. Even though there are films produced which we consider Art House Cinema and their focus is social-political issues caused by cropped systems, but, the majority of the industry focus is on the marketing and consumers behaviour. This approach generates some problems regarding Sustainability.

As recently revealed, the film industry faces allegations such as sexism, inequality and racism. Yet, it is essential to acknowledge that these issues are routed to the expectation of the audience, cast and crew as the part of the industry chain beside the marketing decision and the support of political systems. The main issues in the UK film industry can be categorised as follow:

– The percentage of the Female Crew in the Industry is just under 20% compare to 80% Male Crew. This gap is more prominent in HOD roles such as Cinematographers, Composers, Editors and Directors. The current figure shows the female cast percentage (30%) is lower than 1913 (31%). (Brown, 2017)

– The Non-binary gender is not considered for any statistic of funding applications. (Follows, 2016)

–  Sexism both facing male and female cast and crew as the result of the hierarchy structure of the industry.

– Direct involvement of the big co-operations in the story development, productions and distributions.

–  The non-environmental Friendly process of the film production. Luckily, there has been some research and development towards this, but unfortunately, the industry is well behind. (Unknown, 2007)


Lindsy Riley Comment:

Hello Babak,

I was interested to read about sustainability related to the film production industry from your insider perspective. I was surprised that 1000 cast and crew for a medium size Hollywood production is normal and hadn’t considered the non-environmentally friendly aspect of making films before. The film industry allegations of sexism and racism are very much in the public eye and cover ethics I suppose rather than sustainability.

You mentioned the air miles required to film on location in class and the Independent article you cited discusses lighting, electricity, food wastage through crew catering, celluloid and the film used itself, not to mention the props that are not needed after finished with on set. Actors and the industry are taking note to some extent and It induced me to hunt a bit further and I found some information on a film I had seen recently- The Revenant.

The Revenant

Leo Di Caprio called attention to climate change in his Oscar speech for The Revenant, but the film itself was far from green. 93% of the film was made on location in Calgary and Montana, but due to the lack of snow the production was moved to the frozen tip of Argentina, necessitating flights for over 400 cast, crew and production team leaving a huge carbon footprint in their trail. Planes were used to bomb an area on Fortress Mountain to set off an avalanche. Di Caprio himself claims to be a ‘Carbon Neutral Citizen’. He drives a Prius and his extensive use of private jets and vacations on diesel-burning yachts are offset through Future Forests who have planted thousands of trees in Mexico to compensate for the tons of carbon he is personally responsible for creating. However, in the same way that confessing a sin to a priest may cleanse the spirit, the deed is still done. It seems as if as long as you plant a £4.50 tree or two you can burn as much fuel as you like and it’s all ok.

Nick Parks on set of Early Man, Los Angeles Times.

I shall think far more about sustainability next time I go to the cinema. I am planning on seeing Nick Park’s Early Man that apparently makes use of a modest by Hollywood standards crew of 140 and I am already wondering what happens to all that Plasticine when they are done?



Katharine Hackney Comment:

A friend recently worked on a film with a well know actor director.

He insisted on all things ‘green’, No printed mood boards or scripts, nothing. However if you really needed to print something, he had flown some exceptionally environmentally friendly paper over from the USA they should use, oh and his favourite water!


Babi’s Reply:

Lindsy! Thanks for the reply and insight. Some may argue, Caprio is one, that making a film can create awareness. I’m not against it! But at what cost!! The film industry regarding the environmental sustainability is behind many other industries that might not even generate the same benefit. It is good to consider the large sum they make to improve the research and find solutions. But which rich person want to do that?! Harvey Weinstein?!?

Most of the props go to museums or cast and crew houses for decoration and remembrance. Many of them are possible to reshape or reuse. The electricity is the most prominent issue. And mentioning it as a cinematographer who is in charge of lights, well, is painful.

Also, regarding the sexism, I agree with you it is an ethical matter. But inequality and equity are both sustainability issues. This is more leans towards the Social Sustainability. Though there is a reason I put both in the same field as environmental issues and that needs to be discussed.

Kathrine! That’s true. It is avoidable and there are apps and software are designed to create a better enterprise situation to avoid the use of paper; e.g. Celtx. But that wasn’t an issue much. Not in the film industry. Most of the communications and documentations happen digitally anyway, unless, it is extremely important; e.g. contracts and invoices as they required to be printed because of the Law. I really want to see how your friend managed to sort the delivery of the water!! hope it wasn’t a plastic bottle. 😀


Work Cited

Brown, M. (2017, September 20). British cinema’s gender imbalance worse in 2017 than 1913, says BFI study. The Guardian.

Elliott, L. (2017, December 14). The force is strong with British film industry as revenues soar. The Guardian.

Follows, S. (2016, May 4). A major new study into gender inequality in the UK film industry. Retrieved from Film Data and Education:

Unknown. (2007, November 16). Emission impossible: Why Hollywood is one of the worst polluters. Independent. Retrieved from Independent:

Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted

This is a blup. Creating a link between Philosophy and other concepts might sound intellectual and some believe that it might be out of content. Bertrand Russell mentions “Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom” (Russell, 1999, p. 104). Though, the uncertainty in finding the solutions will provide us with an opportunity to creatively looking for solutions and constantly review the concepts behind the problems. Hence, the philosophical reading becomes an important tool for me to discuss the matters in teaching and learnings. The indication of “if nothing is true; everything is permitted” (Metzger, 2009, p. 66) can be referred to all the philosophical analysis of problems in which philosophy actively questioning the concepts and the creative mind would recollect data from the memory to generate temporarily solutions. The temporary solutions with not expiry dates are open to contradiction via other philosophical arguments. The organic movement behind these concepts would develop an opportunity to fluidly debate issues independent of time and space. This notion grabs my attention in academic practice; using philosophy to question not providing the ultimate solution. The provided readings caught my attention; notably, the Whitehead’s The Aims of Education and other essays.
University as the mean of change and progress is one of the main reasons for my involvement as a lecturer. As a student activist in Iran, I do firmly believe that the university can provide opportunities to the students to develop social-political concepts in which can create a change while they are studying and more importantly when they enter the working environment. The essay is an old one! The university culture has fundamentally changed in the past decades. The reasons behind this perhaps require further investigation. But as the University Lecturers, it should become a priority to understand the cultural impact the universities can make in the students’ lives and society changes. In the era that political understanding of the world becomes a job for elites and limiting students involvement used as a tool to control the changes in politics, the future of the univesities should consider dramatic changes to persuade students to face countercultural debates as the progressive graduates.
The Whitehead’s essay is a fascinating read regarding this matter and using Kan’t philosophical perspective creates fluidity in the subject matter. Although, his idea requires to be developed within academic members of universities to encourage students to take part in the social-political activities. Education at the university level should be further than providing required skills for the future jobs. It is essential that students learn to be a responsible person who can create changes. Margaret Mead states “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” (Mead, 2005, p. 12). Developing committed and thoughtful citizens at the universities should not be an aim; it is a responsibility.

Works Cited:

Mead, M. (2005). The World Ahead: An Anthropologist Anticipates the Future. New York, USA: Berghahn Books.

Metzger, J. (2009). Nietzsche, Nihilism and the Philosophy of the Future. London, UK: A&C Black.

Russell, B. (1999). The Problems of Philosophy. Dover, UK: Courier Corporation.