This week Claire and I attended the second day of FOCUS 2021 in person. FOCUS 2021 is known as the meeting place for International Production and is running from 7th-8th December in London and digital from 7th-10th. We arrived at the Business Design Centre in London, stepping in from the cold once we had shown our Covid passports on arrival.

The space was filled with international exhibitors, from suppliers to film companies, national filmmaking bodies to companies designing and creating new technology for the industry. We spoke to a huge range of people and made some great connections, and it was a real pleasure to be back in the room with so many organisations dedicated to filmmaking.

The event also run a programme of talks and workshops throughout the day. We attended one talk in the Green Zone, which focused on sustainable production. The panel discussion, entitled ‘Sustainability On Set – A Conversation’ was hosted by Khandiz Joni (Creative Sustainableist). She introduced the session by defining sustainability in broad terms from natural resources to human rights. “More than just green initiatives,” she said.

She then opened up the discussion with a question around the challenges of reducing emissions. Angus Light (Locate Productions) said one of their main challenges, as a company working internationally, was emissions from transport. Possible solutions he recommended were shooting remotely, or using local filmmakers to shoot the location material. Tony Hood (Location Manager) spoke about the challenges of time and money. It’s hard when kits costs more and takes longer to put in, he said. He extolled the importance of “education” and “a joined up approach”.

Time is often a huge factor when filmmakers and companies consider sustainable alternatives. Crispin Hardy (Location One) talked about the last minute nature of so much of the industry. So often he gets requests from people for kit they need on the day, so vans ending up driving with one piece of kit in to accommodate last minute requests. Angus added that it’s harder to use and support small cab and courier services without some notice. Tony cited an example of a film where the actors were given clean electric cars to drive around whilst filming, but these cars were charged by a diesel generator. Change needs to be dealt with from the top and from the start, the panellists agreed.

Khandiz asked what practical steps the panellists have taken. Crispin said a focus of their products is looking at the possibilities of waste disposal, and the importance of dealing with waste disposal in an efficient and environmentally friendly way, that reuses as many of the waste products as possible. “Vegetarian menus,” said Angus. Whilst he’s experienced some resistance to this, the feedback has generally been positive and he think this is the way the industry is going. For Tony it’s about looking at the big picture. Whilst sustainable kit might be more expensive, in the long run hidden costs such as diesel will go down. With something as important as the environment, “You’ve just got to move into it and take the hit,” said Tony.

It’s all very well doing great work around sustainability on set, but how do people communicate about it? The email with the call sheet is vital, said Angus, because it’s the one email everyone will read. Tony talked about the struggle of getting crew to read their emails and memos. But, he said, just as crew have to attend a course around Covid and workplace behaviour prior to the shoot starting, why couldn’t they also attend training around sustainability? Crispin added that the tendency to make a young runner responsible for sustainability on set was an absolute no go.

To end the session, Khandiz asked the panel for their final takeaways. “Be involved and ask questions,” said Crispin. Speak to your suppliers especially, he added. Locate Productions add an optional 1% charge on all their invoices, and all the money that is collected through that scheme goes straight into planting trees. “Book the right kit instead of just what’s easiest,” finished Tony, also cautioning against letting green issues fall to a runner who doesn’t have the power to make change.

It was an illuminating session, and just one of many in the packed programme at FOCUS 2021.

Find out more about FOCUS 2021 here.

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