Picture this: you go to the movie theatre to watch the next big blockbuster. You’ve got your popcorn and soda in hand and as the movie starts and the action begins, you start to think “Wow, this is a lot.” There are countless A-list movie stars and elaborate sets, some of which we only see for a minute or two. How much did this all cost — and more importantly, what’s the environmental cost?
When it comes to carbon emissions and the over-consumption of resources, the film industry is anything but impressive. On average, a film with a budget of over $70 million produces 2,840 tonnes of CO2. That’s a lot of money and carbon for a two-hour experience.
Of those emissions, 51% were related to transport, with the majority being land transport. This might include bringing trucks of heavy and expensive film equipment from one set to another. Flying or driving the cast and crew to and from each location is also financially and environmentally expensive. To make matters worse, carbon emissions for production don’t just start when filming does. During the post-production for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the crew took a variety of trips to plan shots and scout locations. This included a four-week trip to Barcelona, a cross-country road trip in the United States, and scouting trips to Peru and Ecuador. There were also sets designed and built in England and Hawaii. You don’t need to be a mathematician to work out that that is an enormous amount of air and land travel for a single production– regardless of its $300 million budget.
Deforestation is also a huge problem in the film industry. Building one soundstage can lead to 4,000 hectares of deforestation. Lightweight plywood called lauan is incredibly desirable in the industry. It’s easy to move around, which makes building then relocating sets convenient. However, the regulations surrounding lauan anre subpar. Usually, lauan is gathered from rainforests, rather than carefully controlled and monitored forests which would help regulate and monitor the film industry’s excessive lumbar consumption.
While the Green Production Guide was established in recent years to minimize the industry’s emissions and environmental impact, it’s just that: a guide. What the film industry needs is real regulations with real consequences.
On a more positive note, the Sustainable Production Alliance, which is made up of several entertainment industry companies, released its first carbon emissions report in 2021. The information was released with the understanding that to make changes, studios must first take an honest look at their impact.
Netflix has also released its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by the end of 2022.
It’s not unusual for an industry to push environmental responsibilities on the consumer, but when it comes to the entertainment industry, it has very few places to hide. It’s going to be interesting how the industry minimizes its environmental impact… or if it will at all. We may begin to see a significant shift in the way films are produced, or we may simply be bombarded with another form of carefully-marketing greenwashing.
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