First of its kind! Sustainability in the Production Managers Workshop with the Directors Guild of Canada
April 10, 2018
On Sunday, March 26th Production professionals from the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) gathered to undergo training to become successful Production Managers. This training was organized by Barbara Ann Schoemaker who is a 35-year veteran in the Film and Television industry and the acting DGC Training Coordinator and Assistant Business Agent.

Reel Green caught up with Barbara Ann to inquire about her thoughts in the workshop and the inclusion of sustainability in training the next generation of Production Managers.  

The workshop is the first of its kind and is a big leap forward in establishing resources for industry professionals. Workshop participants take part in the multi-day education series where they can listen to panels that focus on a range of important topics from finance and budgeting to sustainable production. “For us, integrating sustainability into this course made sense. Sustainability is part of a global initiative and we felt that we want to encourage and inspire our people to be part of this initiative” Ms. Schoemaker says.

The Production Managers’ workshop not only teaches participants about the facets of the role but also prepares them to be leaders in their field. Production Managers are the decision makers below the Producers unit and have the capability to instill positive change. Ms. Schoemaker feels that “The film medium is one of the most powerful vehicles for sharing stories and for opening eyes to new ways of being and highlighting outmoded pathways.  As filmmakers, we have a unique opportunity to provide content that can help shape positive perspectives on sustainability and planet stewardship.  Including Sustainability within our curriculum promotes those ideals at a grassroots level in production which in turn may help to change what we eventually see on the screen.

The panel on sustainability in the workshop featured four panelists: Yvonne Melville, Zena Harris, Bret Dougherty, and Mark Rabin. In a discussion led by Barbara Ann Schoemaker, the panel spoke about many ways to make the film industry more sustainable, and what production managers can do to help.

“There's a paradigm shift, globally, within the industry,” says Harris, the president of Green Spark Group, a sustainable production services consultancy. “People are paying attention, and we have all the tools and knowledge out there—it's now a matter of harnessing it, and making it happen.”

And production managers’ commitment to sustainability is key to making the industry greener.

“Production managers have the most influence when it comes to environmental and sustainable practices because we have the money,” says Melville, who currently works as a production manager on Man in the High Castle (Amazon Studios).

Melville acknowledges that production managers generally do not have time to deal with initiatives like recycling day-to-day, and emphasizes the importance of getting the studio on board with hiring someone like Harris (Green Spark Group) to help plan ahead in pre-production, and coordinate sustainable practices across departments.

While there may be an upfront cost of hiring someone to organize the logistics of sustainable practices, Melville says that cost can often be more than covered by savings reaped from green initiatives.

On Man in the High Castle, Season 3,  Melville notes that the production saved over $50,000 by implementing sustainable production practices, for instance, reducing fuel consumption.

There are lots of ways to reduce fuel consumption on a production, like encouraging drivers to turn off stationary vehicles, or using hybrid vehicles in the fleet. Tips like these may seem small, but the results can be staggering.

Melville also champions the use of Portable Electric’s VOLTstack Power Stations — mobile power systems that store energy in lithium-ion batteries.

Rabin, the founder, and CEO of Portable Electric fielded questions about the power stations from an audience eager to learn more. The stations are silent and have no emissions, so they can be used in places diesel generators can’t — elevators, moving vehicles, or parking garages. There are other perks, too. For instance, the power stations can ensure that each digital imaging technician (DIT) has her own power source, so generator operators don’t have to stay late to wrap up cable and shut down diesel generators when just one person needs to finish working.

Rabin emphasizes the importance of having a champion for the stations on the production, and that although it can be difficult to get staff on board initially, once people realize the potential “it is, like, ‘Wow!’”

“Often the first reaction to new technology is that it’s not going to work, or that it will replace people and jobs,” he says.

“But we’re not taking away someone’s job, we’re just allowing them to do their job better.”

Dougherty, the owner of MiniBins, a recycling and disposal company, spoke about how his business has changed over the last several years—productions didn’t use to have recycling bins, and now the recycling bins are too small.

“And it needs to change further,” he says. “Over time, we need to reduce the amount of material that will be going in that bin, too.”

But Dougherty isn’t afraid that helping people reduce waste threatens his job.

“I’m not afraid that my business is over... it’s going to evolve,” he says.

The panelists made it clear that green initiatives not only help the environment by reducing emissions and waste, but they are beneficial to productions in cost, convenience, and also public perception. And production managers can make sustainable decisions if they are motivated and know what is available.

During the workshop panel, many participants had questions and input on topics such as how to cut down on food waste (a fridge for leftovers: opt in to the food donation program through the collaboration, Sustainable Lockup), how to prevent contamination compost bins (make it easy, so that everything on a tray is compostable and goes in one bin), how to print fewer hard copies (iPad apps like Scriptation), or recycle sets (Keep it Green Recycling and Green Spark Group’s Sustainable Lockup).

The Production Manager course will now become a staple in the Vancouver film industry and a prerequisite for anyone looking to shift into the role of production manager. Ms. Schoemaker is excited that the sustainable production panel will remain part of the training module for upcoming production managers. In order to achieve change, she says, “all of us require education and understanding about what decisions can be made, what products to choose, and to share that mindfulness now.”


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