Along with advertising and other visual media, film since its inception has often presented certain lifestyle choices as being desirable. A high level of consumption is usually presented as being desirable and something to aspire to.

In 2007, Environment Room produced Your Climate Your Business. This publication began to look at the effect that marketing has on the collective psyche with its constant promotion of certain lifestyle choices such as car ownership, regular flights and high resource disposable products. The viewer often isn’t even aware of the constant barrage of images from film and advertising that suggests that they need the latest mobile phone, a new car and other wasteful items. The suggestions below take the same ideas and apply them to filmmaking.

Behind the Camera:

Some of these are obvious but easy to forget. Please note, we don’t consider either of these lists anywhere NEAR exhaustive – they are just to start you thinking!

  • Turn off lights on set when the are not going to be in use for some time
  • Use natural and available/practical lighting as much as possible
  • Turn off computers when not in use
  • Try not to leave equipment on charge longer than it needs
  • Minimise and Reuse media such as tape stock when possible
  • Minimise the amount of blank media (CD-R, DVD-R etc) used and disposed of
  • Travel and transporting rushes by public transport or bicycle courier where possible
  • Thinking ahead on shoots so as to minimise over packaged catering such as bottles of water or pre-packaged food such as sandwiches
  • Sourcing props from 2nd hand sources (Freecycle, charity shops etc.)
  • Choosing locations that are easy for you and your crew to access
  • Think local in terms of catering, cast and crew, equipment hire, prop purchase etc.
  • In urban or rural public spaces, leave them as you find them and dispose of waste responsibly including recycling when possible

In Front of the Camera:

These are examples of ways to think about presenting films in an environmentally conscious way. It is not always the case that you need to be heavy-handed by overtly showing environmental good practice. Sometimes it’s about leaving things out. Positive changes can often be quite subtle.

If you are portraying a successful lifestyle in a film, think about the following things:

  • How do the people travel about? Is there an alternative to the latest luxury car to be in shot?
  • When travelling further, air travel has always been shown to be glamorous. Is there another way to portray this?
  • Buying/holidaying locally is becoming more fashionable. If you are promoting products or services incidentally within a scene, can these be local?
  • If you are accepting product placement deals, are these from companies that take their environmental responsibilities seriously?
  • Does the narrative or mise-en-scene suggest a fetishisation of consumption and wasteful technology?
  • Do characters in your film consume wasteful time-saving products such as processed ready meals? These are often wasteful in packaging, use a lot of power to produce and have travelled a fair distance before they are purchased. (They are also expensive and generally unhealthier than freshly produced food).
  • Colour schemes, be they background colours, clothing or objects can have an effect on the audience. Earthy colours suggest a natural and non-toxic lifestyle. Day-glo colours and lots of lighting can appear excessive and acidic.

For more tips on ethical filmmaking please visit Filmmakers for Conservation.

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