Carbon Neutral Film Production

Building for a Carbon Neutral Future Through Film Production

February 5, 2021
  • Shweta Raman
  • Carbon Footprint, climate Action, Ethical Filmmaking, Green Filmmaking, Climate Change, Film Production, Impact, History, Use

We sincerely feel that snow leopards, sea turtles, polar bears, coral reefs, fresh water/air and rainforests are AWESOME! Moreover, the time to secure the future of humankind and Earth is more urgent now than ever before. As wildlife and natural history filmmakers, we can’t help but wonder – is there a better way of capturing our natural world without adding more carbon into the atmosphere? Thus, we start our journey into producing carbon neutral films.


Understanding Climate Action

The term Carbon Neutrality isn’t new to most of us, but to get more context it means the action taken by individuals, businesses and organisations to achieve a zero carbon footprint. It entails removing as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that is produced while going about their work.

In the beginning going carbon-neutral can seem daunting, but one doesn’t have to do it all at once. Instead, look at what small changes can be tweaked to start moving you in the direction of being more green.

As we started exploring more into it, we are realizing that these small changes we make to keep our films carbon-neutral, will not just help the environment but can also save a lot of production costs!

Lights, Camera, Climate Action!

A carbon-neutral film compensates for the carbon emitted during its making through eco-friendly activities such as planting trees, ensuring the transport and energy consumed is thoughtfully calculated and minimised. Among the few such films produced in India Biswajeet Bora’s 2015 Hindi feature film Aisa Yeh Jahaan is India’s first full-length carbon-neutral film.

BTS still from ‘Aisa Yeh Jahaan’

The Mumbai-based CERE, a firm that specialises in environmental sustainability, analysed every activity of the film’s production and pre-production (the planning stages before a film shoot) through the environmental lens. The film’s carbon footprint – the amount of greenhouse gas emissions – was calculated by factoring transportation of people and equipment by air and road, catering, set construction, hotels, and so on.

With these calculations, the idea was to remove the same amount of carbon produced in making the film, from the atmosphere. CERE recommended offsetting the emissions by planting 560 indigenous trees of a mixed variety. The plantation was done in parts of Mumbai and Assam, where the film was shot, for under a fraction of the film’s budget. The trees were geotagged and monitored for three years as part of CERE’s Urban Afforestation Project. Check out CERE’s initiative that helps calculate carbon footprint.

The entire process of film pre-production, production, and post-production (e.g., audio/video editing) can work with some guidelines. “For example, in the pre-production stage, one could use eco-fonts to print scripts and documents. These fonts use less ink and save cartridges. On film sets, rechargeable batteries can be used for audio equipment. That saves a considerable amount of use-and-throw batteries that end up at the landfill and make the environment toxic. Waste segregation and zero-plastic bottles on sets are totally possible.”

says Siddharth Nakai, a sustainability consultant with a television network and founder of Greening Advertising Media and Entertainment (GAME)

Art by K E R B Y R O S A N E S

A 2006 UCLA study found that the US film and television industry created 15 million tons of carbon dioxide in 1999.

Zooming out to the bigger picture, sustainable practices could reduce the environmental impact of film production, which, among other things, uses energy, generates waste, and burns fossil fuels in multiple ways.

Making a process such as a film production sustainable is that production can be scattered across long periods and locations. So, it needs the continuous monitoring and support of all stakeholders involved. Nakai recollected, “I’ve once huddled the entire crew…actors, director, workers on set…and explained the rules and the reasons. But if someone decides not to follow something like waste segregation, the effort collapses.”

Dig Deeper:

You may also want to consider putting your work up for judgement in one of many festival competitions that exist to celebrate green filmmaking. Some of the more prominent ones to consider include:

  • Colorado Environmental Film Festival
  • Environmental Film Festival (DC)
  • Wild & Scenic Film Festival
  • Eco-Comedy Video Competition
  • 48 Go Green
  • Jackson Wild Media Awards
  • International Wildlife Film Festival
  • Wildlife Film Festival Rotterdam

More Green Filmmaking Resources

  • Greenshoot – A useful depository of tips on green filmmaking and tales from the field.
  • Green Filmmaking – Although the competition hosted here is solely for Dutch filmmakers, there are plenty of videos and workshops which are universally applicable.
  • The Wild Classroom – Need technical help on going green while choosing equipment and shooting? Hit these guys up.
  • EcoIQ – A list of resources and businesses that can help you make your production more green.

How We Did It?

When people know that they are helping to protect their planet with the choices they are making at work – generally, it’s a win-win.

When we first started making a carbon neutral film, our team members enthusiastically took part. Each crew member carried their own water bottles and food, making the production PLASTIC FREE! More than 70% of the footage used was stock of our own and others, and we only filmed the interviews and supportive b-roll for those sequences. Through this experience, we learnt that telling local stories can help reduce our carbon footprint. The crew size was minimal and we chose to film subjects close to where our team was based, so we barely had to travel!

With less environmental impact and low production costs on a green set, many directors, actors, producers and studios are getting on board with the alternatives. There are a ton of resources for filmmakers and other types of artists alike, from carbon-footprint spreadsheets to in-office, pre-production and post-production checklists to make sure your next film is as sustainable as it can be.


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