Greater Clarity Needed on Impact of Production on Environment, Nordic Industry Players Comment

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Finnish film productions, which tend to be small-scale, have some of the lowest carbon footprints in Europe, panelists agreed at the Finnish Film Affair industry event on Friday. But production companies still need to do better – and not just those in Finland, said Anne Puolanne, environmental specialist at APFI, the Finnish producers association.

“Finland is kind of the furthest [in limiting its environmental impact] at the moment but we have to aim for systematic change,” Puolanne said.

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Among productions filming in Finland at the moment is World War II action movie “Immortal,” from “Rare Exports” director Jalmari Helander (pictured).

Experts from Finnish and European industry organizations took on the issue in Helsinki at a panel dubbed “Beyond Best Practices: What Should the Next Steps Be for a Sustainable Nordic Film Industry?”

The discussion focused on the need for common data and measurement standards for determining the environmental impact of productions, with Puolanne citing several recent studies as good examples, while arguing the need for a clearer picture.

Puolanne identified three main problem areas: The lack of concrete data on how much the audiovisual industry pollutes, the lack of common standards for measurement, and the lack of anyone clearly in charge of keeping data or dealing with the issue.

Production companies need to know the cost versus savings of sustainability practices, she said, a consensus supported by other panelists, including Lauriane Bertrand, policy officer at Creative Europe MEDIA, Mikael Svensson, head of film commission at Southern Sweden Film Commission, and Anni Wessman, head of international at APFI.

The panel also featured video presentations by Marina Blok, head of drama at Dutch national broadcaster NTR, and Ellen Heemskerk, a producer at NTR. These two presented a short history of what started as an upbeat, ambitious program in the Netherlands to limit the carbon footprint of productions a decade ago, The Green Filmmaking Project.

It produced 1,500 green guides and set out a goal of 49% greenhouse gas reductions by 2030, but the plan floundered after a few years, said the NTR team, because of production companies concerns about “money, time, hassle and a lot of communication challenges.”

One problem was the voluntary nature of the program, said Blok and Heemskerk, who said another lesson from their experience is that productions need a dedicated sustainability manager.

Only a handful of studies have looked at the big picture with useful data tools that consider the multiple locations in Europe and beyond, Puolanne said.

One study Puolanne cited has calculated that the annual cost of productions going green in the European Union could exceed a billion euros, with vast numbers of lights made into LEDs and training needed for some 300,000 people. “We need to do this kind of research every year or every other year,” she added.

Puolanne, who founded an organization called NEMA to help Nordic countries implement standardized green measures and practices, also praised the newly announced partnership between APFI and the international organization Albert, which offers systems and training for charting environmental impacts from film and TV production.

Svensson of the Southern Sweden Film Commission said a key issue is whether locations can be minimized – and many agreed that the current system of tax incentives used to draw in production companies from abroad is driving up greenhouse gases by creating huge impacts from traveling film crews.

Bet even local production companies that are dedicated to minimizing impact should consider whether they really need to use as many locations as they currently do in shooting stories, panelists said.

Modifying incentives – or adding some to reward green practices would help, speakers agreed.

“Of course we should have a green tag,” said Svensson. “If you want the money, you should follow the rules.”

When considering what’s currently stopping Nordic countries from doing better on the environment, Svensson said, “We don’t know what to do.”

Training and education are essential steps, he said, which is an area the Albert partnership will help with.

Another issue is that productions in southern Europe may be completely different in their impacts and issues than those in northern Europe or elsewhere.

“We need to challenge our mindset,” said Bertrand.

And when audience members asked how stressed out and exhausted producers on location can be effectively given a new and difficult job in monitoring and minimizing carbon from their footprint, Wessman of APFI agreed the burden should not fall to those on the ground who are already working overtime.

Instead, green practices need to be implemented into the overall plan from the start, saving everyone both time and money – and incentivizing is the way forward, said Puolanne.

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