Have you ever watched a TV show or film and thought “I’ve seen this before”? Well, you probably have! Hollywood has certainly reused sets and props, but unfortunately, it doesn’t happen as often as you’d think. It’s standard practice to build new sets for each new TV show and leverage the “fold and hold” method to keep sets intact when they’re not in use. While this makes consistency in filming easier, it also becomes costly to the studio.
- The average film costs $125 million with 25% of those costs going into production, which includes set design and construction.
- A single production can buy millions to tens of millions of dollars worth of products and equipment that don’t always get reused.
- Big movies can generate nearly 50 tons of construction and set debris, and each ton costs $55 in tipping fees.
While Hollywood isn’t generally thought of as frugal, studios are always looking for ways to cut back on production costs, and with more reuse and less waste comes far-reaching benefits to the environment and global sustainability goals.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the extent of waste generated on film and TV sets and ways that studios can reduce their environmental footprint while cutting back on costs.
Production studio sustainability
Before diving into impactful sustainability strategies, here’s an overview of the current state of waste in studios.
Waste in production studios
Production studios are waking up to the realities of climate change in very real ways. Set locations and the homes of execs, actors and crew members are being devastated by wildfires, floods, storms, droughts and pollution.
As a result, the Producers Guild of America has addressed their own contributions to this problem. The global entertainment industry’s carbon footprint is likely higher than emissions from the aerospace, fashion and hospitality industries. Each film production can emit anywhere from 391 to 3,370 tons of CO2e depending on its size. BAFTA estimates that a single hour of television produced in the UK can emit 13 tons of CO2e, which is nearly as much as the average American emits in a year. Some of these emissions come from the wasteful nature of sets, where a big movie can generate 225 tons of scrap metal and 72 tons of food waste.
The question remains, how can studios act more sustainably?
How to make film and television more sustainable
Having a more environmentally-responsible studio production is possible if sustainability is baked into the plan from the start. These are a few strategies that studios can prioritize to reduce industry emissions and cut back on unnecessary waste.
1. Transition to clean energy
A study by the Sustainable Production Alliance revealed that the largest contributor to production-related emissions is fuel consumption. Productions use fuel for production vehicles, generators to power sets, and air travel. To reduce fuel-related emissions, studios should prioritize transitioning to renewable energy sources. Eliminating diesel generators from use, installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations on set, and transitioning to fuel-efficient lighting and equipment are tactical strategies to make sets more sustainable.
2. Develop and stick to zero-waste initiatives
As we’ve addressed, film and TV productions produce an enormous amount of waste. However, if studios develop and stick to plans early, they can get close to achieving zero-waste productions. A resource exchange platform can help studios better reuse set materials across productions to cut back on expenses and divert waste from landfills. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is often cited as a set that successfully integrated sustainability initiatives to cut back on waste and save the production money. The film achieved a 52% waste diversion rate and saved $400K by donating 50 tons of materials for reuse on future productions. Other productions can accomplish similar green goals by starting with a plan and engaging the right stakeholders to enable reuse.
3. Track metrics and hold vendors accountable
You can’t manage what you don’t measure! Production studios that want to act more sustainably need to start with accountability. Understanding your current impact is the first step to setting achievable goals. A significant portion of a set’s emissions will fall under Scope 3, which are indirect emissions that the production studio does not have direct control over. To reduce Scope 3 emissions, studios need to engage their suppliers and vendors to join them in sustainable initiatives. Showing vendors the studio’s plan to act more sustainably can inspire them to adjust their practices and be more accountable.
By considering these strategies, your studio can cut back on unnecessary production costs while reducing the industry’s environmental footprint. Create a plan early and leverage existing resources to maximize the effectiveness of each TV or film production.