NextGen Pilot: Sustain and be able

Film & Television event at NCL’s COP26 venue in Glasgow

“In my opinion our use or misuse of resources the last 100 years or so, I’d probably rename that age, something like The Age of ignorance, The Age of Stupid!!!” 

Alain DuVerney, The Age of Stupid  2009

The Earth is a mere 4.5 billion years old and in our arrogance, we have failed to see past the last 200 years of industrialisation and evolution within this context. The lens we look through is smeared by events which take place in the here and now. The natural world, ancient, with its delicately balanced of eco-system, has been side-lined. We are at war with nature and every war we have waged inevitably makes reference to the human cost. The Iraq war was arguably the first to bring into focus the impact war has on the environment and it took the visceral images of burning oil wells on our TV screens to do this. We have been raging a war on the Earth’s natural resources and the ultimate cost of climate change will eclipse every war we have ever read about or watched live on our TV screens. 

What does this have to do with us in Scotland? How can we possibly make a difference in our local communities within North Lanarkshire and beyond?

During COP26, the burning question for us in Film & TV Education is how can you be sustainable?

There is a huge effort within the Film & TV Industry to acknowledge the impact that content creation has on the Environment and in turn, the future of the planet. How does this translate into the provinces? 
At NCL we have taken small steps to address waste and its impact. Recycling batteries and moving to re-chargeable ones was the first step. AA and AAA batteries (600 million find their way into UK landfill each year) are a particular bug bear as the NPF and LP batteries we use are excellent and some we have now been using for over 5 years. Also, not all packaging is recycled. Soft plastics are a particular problem as only a few shops actually offer this service. The Carbon footprint is also another area that is of huge concern. One exercise we carried out in August was to map the postcodes from where students were travelling from and put them in the same class. The idea behind this is that they could potentially car share if this was an option. Or at the very least, share a bus or train journey and chat about life in general. Some great friendships have resulted in this.

We have also set the Film Noir projects brief where the students must film within a 1 mile radius of the college, utilising the college itself and the surrounding brutalist architecture. All logging is now done electronically on phones so students are now being encouraged to log shots on location using their mobile phones. This cuts down on paper printing. The students were also set a task to look at how sustainable they could make a script by looking at aspects of production such as travel, catering, carbon offset and recycling. There were some really interesting and insightful pieces of work handed in as a result.

Finally there is the awareness raising around sustainability and the role we have as individuals to make a difference. From recycling clothes, buying less plastic, eating less red meat, using the car less, walking more and crucially having grown-up conversations about the future of our communities in the context of climate change.

The Film & TV industry are making strides to address climate change and the impact Production has on the Environment. Recently, BECTU, the trade union that represents those working in Film & TV, advertised for a fixed term Screen Sustainability Manager in Scotland. We shared this information with the students in order to let them see that the sector is taking this very seriously and the role itself will invariably look at policy and practice in tandem with Scottish Government net-zero emissions targets on Greenhouse Gases. An important part of the job is to establish a Sustainability Hub where serious consideration needs to be given to how we include and represent the views of young people.

Elsewhere, Albert are the major players when it comes to Sustainability in Film & TV. They have a small dedicated team which is set out to educate and inform the industry on good practice when it comes to looking at production and how it impacts on the environment. Using the carbon calculator, Production companies must register their carbon footprint. BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Netflix are amongst the major companies who have signed up. In order to achieve Albert Certification you need to complete a Carbon Action Plan. For this, companies must offset their carbon emissions.

During Cop26, we hosted a range of guest speakers which included brilliant Film Maker and more importantly, brilliant Film Activist Cameron MacKay talking about Greenwashing, the renowned actor Charlotte Riley discussing her venture Wonderworks and the issue of childcare in the Film & TV industry and Stage 50 who specialise in building modular sound stages in under 4 months…the genius of these sound stages being the fact that they can be dismantled and re-assembled in another location.       

Charlotte Riley presentation on childcare in Film & TV
Stage 50 presentation on sustainable film production

So educating Film and TV students on the measures that are being taken and the actions that are being put in place is of huge importance. We need to move from being passive observers to active participants if we are to roll back the damage that has and is being done. We need to do it now!!!

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