Unsurprisingly, the most polluting stage of a film is its shooting. There are many examples of filming with a significant ecological impact. The carbon footprint of the French audiovisual industry amounted to 1.7 million tons of CO2 in 2018. That is the equivalent of a city like Reims. Initiatives are multiplying to counter it, like in Wallonia, where Benjamin Vanhagendoren has set up GREEN FILM Wallonia.
When and how did Wallimage set up Green Film Wallonia?
The system is in place since January 2021.
I started at Wallimage in 2019 where I immediately received the mission to green the sector. For a good year, I have been learning about everything existing at the European level and via our networks: CinéRegio, for instance, and various Interreg working groups.
Also, in 2019, the Cineregio association published the Green Manifesto, which we ratified, marking our commitment to work towards the greening of the sector.
There I was able to identify the GreenFilm model. The Trentino Film Commission in Italy created it and took several years to develop it. Therefore, we are several European colleagues to use the same system, and we hope to extend it even more.
The way it works is quite simple; it is a checklist of criteria on which producers commit to act during the shooting, allowing them to receive the Green Film certification, a guarantee of quality that producers can boast of. More and more festivals open environmental lines, so we hope that there is also a life that they can go there.
Our particularity is that to encourage the profession in this transition, we invite the producers to consider this device as a new essential piece to integrate into their application. We feared a backlash when we took this step, but the initiative was finally welcomed by many producers who told us, "finally"!
When you apply, you have to include a note of sustainable intent and a transportation optimization plan. I feel like transportation is one of the critical points that can tip the balance of a film's carbon footprint.
Yes, transportation is an important point, but all have a significant impact on production. Especially since the Covid protocol has unfortunately overturned this transportation criterion, it goes against what we advocate with Green Film: a maximum of people in a minimum of cars. In the Covid protocol, there can be a maximum of 3 people per car, which multiplies the number of vehicles. Some productions can afford to rent the vehicles for all the crews, but it is quite rare. Most of the time, the technicians come with their own car, which is not always the most recent. Therefore, we cannot intervene at this level. On the other hand, all rented cars must meet at least the Euro5 standard, and ideally the Euro6 standard.
What do you say to producers who think they don't have the budget to green their filming?
Today, it is mainly Covid that pushes to multiply the costs! Typically with the example of the number of people per vehicle. This cost is astronomical and is compensated for the moment by several funds that have released envelopes.
GREEN FILM is designed to prevent costs from exploding. The goal is to encourage producers to think about making their films without sticking to an established model or old habits. It's true that when I speak with producers who have 40 years of experience, they sometimes say, "yes, but the ecology doesn't matter; it will cost me more". Well, no! If we think upstream, there are ways to reduce costs. To do this, we invite producers to hire a professional who can help them choose the criteria and the existing possibilities necessary for their application.
The only item on which the ecological commitment could represent a possible additional cost would be housing. This is often an item that we want to crush by making everyone go home to avoid taking a hotel. The "rule" in our country is that as soon as there are more than 50km, it is better to take a hotel - sustainable, of course. It will cost you a little more, but it is well worth it. When we see the situation today, whatever our level, it becomes more than shameful not to act for the environment. We all have to do something.
As a Green Advisor, your role is to give advice. Do you also check their correct application on the shooting?
For now, yes. It's part of the process; we're going there to make sure that the commitments made are respected. After that, the objective is not to be the policeman. These are more courtesy visits where we can see their general commitment, and above all, provide support. As we explain it clearly, the first goal is not to complicate the work of the producers but to accompany them in their ecological steps by being present to answer their questions.
But for the moment, when we receive a file that requires a shooting abroad, we do not know how to go and check on the spot. We then ask for a commitment on the form, but which cannot be certified, the verification cannot take place. So we are exploring several avenues to compensate for this lack, particularly to call upon a network of independent certification offices. But this has a cost, and we are looking for a solution to not charge this cost directly to producers.
These ideas of support and cooperation are essential, even on a larger scale. We are trying to pool our efforts with Brussels and Flanders. We share our information, the implementation of good practices, common tools, allowing the Belgian film community to move in the same direction.
This is also one of the goals of Green Film... to encourage good ecological practices in co-productions. What does this mean in concrete terms?
The goal is clearly to simplify the certification through the regions. We are trying to promote GREEN FILM as a European standard with CineRegio because all our counterparts have ratified the system. We work a lot with the south of Italy, Spain, and a little bit with the north of Europe. Estonia could join the system in the medium term...
Since January 2021, have you already awarded the label to several productions?
We have had two shoots: Deep fear by Grégory Beghin and Des gens bien by Matthieu Donck, Benjamin d'Aoust and Stéphane Bergmans. They haven't got the certificate yet, but everything went well. Even if, of course, there are adjustments to be made, on our side as well as theirs. Again, the idea is not to impose rules overnight but to work together.
If they had not respected the rules, would this have had consequences on their funding?
When the application is submitted, it must include the Green film Wallonia documents, or it will not be accepted. This is one of the significant measures that initially made everyone shudder because we are the first to consider the system as a criterion for the admissibility of a file.
Producers who do not respect the commitments made or not enough will lose points. Indeed, Wallimage works with a points system in which the respect of the Green Film measures has all its importance.
The criteria of the checklist represent a total of 50 points. A project must obtain at least 20 points to be certified. We have decided not to reveal the value of each criterion, which forces producers to fill them in objectively, being as honest as possible with themselves and with us. However, as long as the checklist is taken seriously, all 20 points are within reach for all projects. Out of the 40 applications we received this year, only one project did not reach the 20 points; the average is even around 30 points.
We are in a continuous evaluation process with the producers. We often see the same people from one session to the next, and we ask these actors for constant improvement. For example, suppose a producer obtains 20 points for a first project. Then, when he comes back for the next one, we can ask him to reach 22 or 23 points so that he will be part of an evolutionary process without being satisfied with going for the 20 points that he now easily acquires.
The hardest thing is to change habits. The challenge is to make people aware of the impact.
You are also setting up training to become an eco-advisor. What is the content of these pieces of training, to whom are they open?
Today there are environmental advisors, but they are not trained specifically for the cinema. So we set up a two-day training course, initially aimed at technicians: the directors, assistants and production managers who are the central people of a shooting and who will follow up the implementation of the devices.
The first session took place in Liège in February and counted 20 participants. The second session will take place on October 4 and 6 during the International Francophone Film Festival of Namur (FIFF). These pieces of training were 100% financed by us.
For the future, we are developing a European training model that would be standardized, we hope, with the help of EAVE. We will then see if it is possible to host these European pieces of training in Belgium.
Here we are in the framework of Wallimage Tournage. But do you know if any tools can reduce the carbon footprint of films at other stages of their life?
There are different carbon calculators on the market, but they all work differently and provide different results. We are closely following the evolution of the Interreg Greenscreen project, which is currently developing a standardized calculator.
At Wallimage, we have set up the Green Film system dedicated to shootings.Then, soon, a system will be dedicated to post-production. We are indeed working on establishing standards intended for service providers, thus inscribing de facto the producers who select them as partners in a sustainable approach.
For the diffusion, we don't have any impact on the diffusers. Still, there is a network for the festivals set up by Maxime Dieu (from Mons International Film Festival), which gathers several organizers of festivals on issues inherent to their activities, including the environmental question. This is great for us and allows us to have an efficient communication channel to raise awareness among these festivals!
It's great; things seem to evolve!
Yes, we are moving in the right direction, even if it is slow and sometimes frustrating. There are still many things to put in place, but it's exciting! (laughs)