Everyday Enviro with Elise: the environmental impact of film production

Everyday Enviro with Elise: the environmental impact of film production

By Elise Catterall  October 26th, 2023

Have you ever watched a movie and wondered what they do with all those props and sets once filming is complete. Or what happens to the cars that get written off in a high-speed chase or blown up for the cool walk off scene?


If you have, it probably doesn’t come as a great surprise that making a film or TV show has a pretty significant environmental impact. 

That environmental impact goes far beyond just props though. When you factor in electricity during and after production, fuel, and even catering for scores of people, making a film packs a punch. According to if.com.au, a typical ‘tentpole’ film production consumes enough energy to “power Times Square for five days”, while the “fuel consumption could fill an average car tank 11,478 times and the air miles equate to 11 one-way trips from Earth to the moon.”

There is good news though! There are many ways the film and television industry can be more sustainable and lower its impact. And in even better news, a lot of production companies are doing all they can to lower their impact. 

According to a report released by UCLA, it appears that the main environmental impact in the television industry is from energy usage both during filming and in post production. To mitigate that, renewable energy sources are being embraced. In recommendations by UCLA in a recent life-cycle assessment, renewables like solar and wind are promoted as options for productions.

Lighting is an integral part of all filmmaking and there have beens significant improvements in energy efficient lighting. LED can help not only reduce energy consumption but also lower costs associated with film making. It has been reported that dynamic LED walls can make virtual production more commonplace in film making as they could eliminate the need for construction of multiple sets or the need to travel to different locations. And that change leads us to the next area of impact, transport.

Travelling to remote locations for filming has a significant impact due to fuel consumption. Filming locally, which the LED walls above can allow, is one of the biggest ways to reduce the environmental impact of film and television production. Similarly, a move to more fuel-efficient vehicles can minimise carbon emissions as call limiting travel for promotion of films.

The UCLA report also discussed the impact of props, and found that the focus by production houses should be on there use of props to minimise the carbon emissions from their manufacture. Happily, there is an increasing prevalence of prop warehouses that allow hire and reuse of props, which will go a long way to minimise emissions in that area.  

As a country, it has been noted that Australia is a big behind the times when it comes to addressing the carbon footprint associated with film making. Other countries have committed to film making being more sustainable, with studios in the US working to achieving net zero in the coming decade or so and projects across the UK committing to monitoring carbon emissions.

Support for similar change is gaining momentum in Australia however, and a guide to greening film making has been produced to inform and inspire more film makers to minimise their environmental impact. 

Created by screen Journalist Sandy George, and published by Inside Film, Green Screen, explores the impacts of film making, but also highlights the changes being made by many. It’s an interesting insight into an industry many of us are not familiar with. It also is heartening to read about the efforts of so many to get behind changes that can make a real difference. 

I thoroughly recommend checking out the work they are putting into this space. Hopefully in the near future, we can enjoy films without worrying so much about their long-term environmental legacy.

Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


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Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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