Interview with Zena Harris on Sustainable Film Production and Reel Green
September 30, 2016
Zena Harris of Green Spark Group is responsible for the Sustainable Production Forum sponsored by Creative BC at this year's Vancouver International Film Festival. She explains the importance of sustainable initiatives, and how Reel Green supports sustainable practices in BC's motion picture industry.

GREEN SPARK GROUP HAS A NEW PARTNERSHIP WITH CREATIVE BC – HOW DID THAT CAME TO BE?

Yes, I’m thrilled to be working with Creative BC on strategic planning for Reel Green, an initiative started 10 years ago with the intention to provide sustainable production resources for films shooting in BC.  It was one of the early initiatives in the film industry that encouraged sustainable production. Since its inception, the industry has evolved. More and more shows are integrating sustainability strategies. Now seemed like the perfect opportunity to reinvigorate Reel Green as a hub for sustainable production tools, resources, education materials and programming.

WHAT ROLE DOES THE REEL GREEN INITIATIVE PLAY IN THE FUTURE OF THE MOTION PICTURE SECTOR?

Reel Green is an important initiative in our region and in the global sustainable production dialogue. BC is now a major global film destination. Because of this, Reel Green has the potential to inspire, and provide support and empower thousands in our local industry, from crews, producers, directors, and post-production services, to incorporate sustainable production practices and truly innovate in this space.

Before the Box Office ~ By Zena Harris

HOW HAVE THINGS CHANGED ON SET SINCE 2006 WHEN THE INITIATIVE FIRST LAUNCHED?

Many in the local motion picture industry came together in 2006 to form Reel Green because they recognized the environmental impacts of the industry. Their foresight on what makes a sustainable production laid the groundwork for what we’re doing today on set.  Since then, sustainable production services have increased, making it easier now for productions to go green.  Back then, recycling was just placing bottles and cans into bins. Today there are comprehensive recycling systems where everything from paper, electronic, ink toner, paint, construction wood waste and expanded polystyrene foam can be recycled. Crew are increasingly engaged in the integration of sustainable production practices on shows that are doing amazing things.  They can take their knowledge of sustainable production practices to their next show and continue the effort.  New technology, such as LED lighting, also helps to reduce our impact.  Sustainable production is a journey and we’ve come a long way. We’re improving more every day.

HOW DOES THIS BC MOVEMENT RELATE TO THE BROADER CONTEXT OF THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY GLOBALLY?

We have an amazing and thriving motion picture industry in BC. Stepping up and acknowledging the importance of sustainable production in our industry is huge.  Each country has its unique context as to how they make films: their landscape, climate, etc. We can learn from each other on how to grow sustainable production globally. Because the motion picture industry in BC is making sustainability a priority, we are serving as a role model. Being one of the Greenest Production centers gives us a competitive advantage in the global market.

WHAT KINDS OF NEW NICHE OPPORTUNITIES ARE THERE FOR ENTREPRENEURS IN THIS FIELD?

There are many opportunities! Climate change is recognized as a major threat to humanity and business operations in all industries. I encourage entrepreneurs to examine the risks associated with climate change and focus on providing solutions to reduce those risks. Look at how processes will be disrupted, how raw materials will be affected and find alternatives.  I’d also encourage folks to read the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations, and find solutions to these important aspects of sustainability.  For the motion picture industry, we have materials in and materials out. That upstream and downstream value chain process, including everything from wood, to generators and fuel sources, to how we reuse and recycle our materials, is one that will be affected by climate change and one that hosts many opportunities for entrepreneurs.

YOU’RE THE CURATOR OF VIFF’S SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION FORUM – THE FIRST ONE EVER! TELL US ABOUT THAT.

Yes, this is exciting!  The Sustainable Production Forum is the first-of-its-kind in Vancouver, and I believe North America, at a major film festival.  Sustainable production is the future of filmmaking and VIFF is a wonderful platform to showcase this.  We have an amazing line up of speakers for the day including Mayor Gregor Robertson, X-Files director Chris Carter, the sustainability executives from major studios in Los Angeles, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), Creative BC, the World Bank’s Connect4Climate, sustainability practitioners in New York (Earth Angel) and BC (Keep it Green Recycling and Green Spark Group) and the Vancouver Economic Commission and the green economy.  Wow!  And, we have training sessions to help those on set implement recycling systems, understand the supply chain and learn how to reduce greenhouse gas emission.  To wrap up, there is a wonderful “green carpet” reception by Creative BC. It will be a great day!  And if you can’t attend, we are filming it, so stay tuned.

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