The entire world today is focused on reducing carbon footprint across platforms. Going Green is the need of the hour and every individual/industry is doing their bit to contribute to this cause. So why should the film industry be an exception?

An alumnus of MICA, filmmaker Siddharth Nakai has taken a key step in this direction and created a study that can help filmmakers and studios go the green way. His not-for-profit organization G.A.M.E. (Greening Advertising Media & Entertainment) aims to reach out to and assist production houses to make sustainable and carbon neutral movies.

Read on to know more about this unique initiative.

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The issue

Every industry has environmental responsibilities and the film industry is no exception. When we talk about environment conservation, industries that first come to the foreground include steel, real estate, manufacturing and petroleum but never has our film industry been discussed on the environmental front. Film making at the end of the day is like any manufacturing activity. It results in a lot of fuel use, electricity consumption, manpower; raw materials (camera, film processing machines, lights, high-end computers) and also produces large landfill waste.

A two-year long study conducted by U.C.L.A titled ‘Sustainability in motion picture Industry’ tried to compare carbon emissions from motion picture industry vis-à-vis other industries like petroleum, semi-conductor and aerospace. The study ranked the motion picture industry as one of the top air polluters in the southern California region. The most important take-away from this study was that it broke the myth that motion picture industry is non-polluting.

The entertainment industry has one added incentive to be green, which other industries don’t – this industry is all about communication in one form or the other, a small change in its people and processes will go a long way in bringing transformation in the lives of many people, and more importantly enterprises.

Being a filmmaker, I have done a study using analytical tools (similar to those used for the UCLA study, which was a huge inspiration) to measure emissions per day of shoots in many productions in Mumbai. And the results have fascinated me. My study is intended just to improve the nature of the productions. We are environmentally conscious and all our films reflect that – this should be our philosophy. We are not here to create one green film marketing wonder.

How it started

Filmmaking was always very close to my heart. While I was completing my graduation school, I had enrolled for a film production class and during one of our projects we ventured out in the forest close to our campus to shoot our own short film. Our professor back then had narrated an incident, which stayed with me for a long time. He personally was shooting in a forest a few years earlier; the cinematographer was setting up the shot and the director happened to see the frame through the view-finder and instructed the assistant to subtly cut the branch which was taking a certain portion of the desired frame he had in mind. I wondered how someone could be so insensitive. It is surely not right to generalize an industry with an individual or a single incident. But this triggered a spark in me and there was this innate curiosity to study the environmental impact multiple productions collectively had on our environment and how could we better it.

Needed Indeed

With both emotional and academic motivation I decided to pursue this and get to the bottom of the matter. I realized there are hardly any regulations pertaining to the entertainment industry in India, especially the film industry. Infact our motion picture industry got industry status only in the year 2001, I would call it a relatively small industry. But if we measure the impact the industry has on masses, it is indeed not small.

I visited three production sets, one a feature film, a soap opera and a corporate / ad film, where in I tired to measure emissions per day.

Below are the c02 emissions per day of shoot for these three different nature of productions.

Production Category Co2 Emissions in tons
Soap Opera 1.7
Mainstream Feature Film 1.6
Corporate film / Ad film 0.4

The major reason for emissions from television production being higher than the rest as in this particular case was its duration as the shoot lasted for almost 12-14 hours while the other productions were wrapped up within eight hours. Usually the location for a soap opera remains more or less consistent and confined within a studio. But with motion pictures there are many outdoor shoots which require a lot of travelling and the emissions would likewise increase, especially for a film which has a shooting schedule outside India. A lot of parameters like hotels and housing were also not taken into account.

Throughout production of any motion picture, the vehicles and tools generate CO2 – cars, trucks, generators, air travel, trailers, and machinery.

First let’s understand certain parameters. All three shoots that were attended were indoors. The situation and numbers would completely change if the filming is done outdoors. Let’s assume a hypothetical situation. There are 90 days planned to compete the shoot of the feature film in consideration.

Assuming the entire day’s shoot takes place within the confines of a studio, which is unlikely to happen, this would amount to 144 metric tons of CO2 emissions based on pilot study. This number is the least approximate estimate as it excludes emissions from transportation, hotels & housing. Also basis the assumption that the shoot is indoors, it again excludes external variables like generator usage and additional fuel usage resulting from the same. Again this figure does not take into account the carbon footprint of the entire film, as it excludes pre- production, post production, marketing and distribution estimate.

In the year 2012, total films certified by the censor board was 1602. If you count all of them we have 2,30,688 metric tons of Co2. India also produces films in many regional dialects. And add to that the number of commercials shot by brands and also the event industry that is growing exponentially, then we are talking big numbers. 144 metric tons of Co2, which was taken into account for calculation is just the lowest estimate and it signifies just the production phase of filmmaking. The purpose of doing such an analysis is to put into perspective that the media, advertising and entertainment industry has a significant impact on the resources it extracts from the earth and we need to take note of it.

The idea – how to curb the carbon footprint in filmmaking


p style=”text-align: justify;”>Shoot films the green way. 
The basic principle behind creating environment conscious productions would be conserving water, fuel, energy and limiting landfill waste. Bringing such policies to productions where life is rapidly evolving and focused on meeting strict deadlines will be challenging.

  • Follow a green production guide tailored to suit Indian production design. The framework is based on the philosophy that some of the easiest changes have the greenest green impacts over the life of the entire film.
  • Carbon accounting would include recording electricity consumption, fuel usage, air travel, wastage produced. It would also include percentage of carbon successfully been offset by using alternative methods (Recycling). This would actually help us gauge where we stand and improve with each and every film of ours.
  • Live waste management for both indoor and outdoor shoots with the help of experienced experts.
  • Set green targets and achieving them.

About G.A.M.E

G.A.M.E is a not for profit initiative for the entertainment industry. We will consult the entertainment industry to carry out its processes in a sustainable manner.

The objective:

To engage in dialogue about how this industry can influence the environmental awareness of countless people and to set the green carpet for the future

To educate and offer practical guidance to the industry on how to go green ‘behind the scenes’

To create an international network for environmentally conscious celebrities, not-for-profit organizations, brands, film production houses, creative and media agencies and climate leaders.

How it aids you:

  • Availability of green guides and strategic partnership throughout the film
  • Live waste management for both indoor and outdoor shoots with the help of experienced experts
  • A comprehensive accounting of several parameters (Electricity usage, Fuel usage, Hotels and housing etc) will be done everyday
  • Once the carbon footprint of the film has been determined our team is into action to offset those emissions by undertaking various green initiatives and help the motion picture in question achieve a carbon neutral status

We have created a rating system specifically tailored to the Indian Production Standards. The process is developed in a manner to acknowledge even marginal changes made by a production. It is based on the philosophy that some of the easiest changes have the greatest green impacts over the life of the entire film.

Let the new wave director call. Lights Camera Eco-Action!

– Siddharth Nakai

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