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"How Green is Green?" panel at Silverdocs

On June 18 I sat on a panel discussing green filmmaking with co-directors of No Impact Man, Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein. The panel was led by Amy King, a longtime Silverdocs associate.

We started with a clip from No Impact Man, a great film about Colin Beavan and his wife, Michele, who was in the audience. The film traces the year-long effort on the family’s part to create no carbon, or at least keep it to a bare minimum. While an "eco" film it really is all about a family and its dynamics as it seeks change in lifestyle.

Laura and Justin spoke about how Colin demanded that the filmmakers pay attention to carbon production and together they came up with some rules, including not lighting the scene for filming. Since there were a lot of scenes filmed at night under candle light this wasn’t an easy task. Justin claimed that several scenes couldn’t be film at all because it was just too dark.

Throughout production they used rechargeable batteries for their cameras (which most filmmakers do) and 9V rechargeable lithium ion batteries for their sound gear.

They both said that it would have been great to have the Code of Best Practices in Sustainable Filmmaking during filming as it provides a clear path for reducing climate change. They created their own eco-friendly plan for filming, but would have used the Code had it been available at the time.

I went on to present an overview of the Code, its evolution and components. I also discussed my own experience on using the Code for a film that I’m completing, Potato Heads: Keepers of the Crop, a half-hour film on two communities dedicated to the potato and keeping it healthy for the future. I used the Basic Tracker to complete details on travel, accommodations, office and editing (we're just finishing the film, so the carbon tracking is not complete).

I passed the Tracker on to Adam Scherr at Native Energy, a WWF-recommended carbon offset company. He put together the calculation, graphs, and costs for offsets that I presented to the audience. Along the way I emphasized that while many may fear that using the Code would slow production, cost time and labor, it actually saved money. On the Potato film we chose not to fly four people to Peru as we would normally do, and instead only flew two crew members and hired local fixers. It saved us several thousand dollars and made for a more efficient production, and, of course, reduced our impact on climate change.

The No Impact Man team and Amy King were truly enthusiastic about the Code, which gave me hope that slowly but surely we’ll make a difference.