2019 Sustainable Production Forum Recap
The 2019 Sustainable Production Forum (SPF) hosted its fourth annual event November 1st and 2nd at Emily Carr University and the Centre for Digital Media. Over 200 registrants were in attendance for two full days of programming on sustainable production within the motion picture industry. 2019 represented the first year that SPF undertook its own unique branding from its founding collaborator, the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). VIFF and SPF remain strong partners in executing this event and promoting awareness of sustainable production within the industry.
This year’s main sessions included panels and industry-specific keynotes from Canada and the United States. Each day, attendees had two opportunities to take part in the newly introduced workshop sessions. These sessions were held in the main Reliance Theatre at Emily Carr University (ECU) and the Centre for Digital Media (the CDM). Workshops were added as a new program element for the 2019 event based on participant feedback in previous SPF years.
Click here to see the line up of 2019 workshops.
During networking breaks and lunch, delegates were able to connect in a welcoming lounge space built out with stage prop furniture by Vancouver Prop and Costume in the ECU lobby. Many participated in interviews held by Arkitek Creative in this social space.
On day-2, the CDM lobby was transformed into a reception space for an evening social followed by the Sustainable Excellence Awards and a screening of HBO's ICE ON FIRE documentary back in the Reliance Theatre at ECU.
The event opened with a welcoming and presentation from a member of the Musqueam Nation, Christie Charles, recognizing our place and the event being hosted on the unceded and traditional territory of the Squamish and Musqueam people. Prem Gill, the CEO of Creative BC followed by welcoming delegates to SPF and spoke to Creative BC’s Reel Green program with 17 industry partners and the program’s undertaking in Carbon Literacy training for the Greater Vancouver area.
Deputy Mayor, Colleen Hardwick was also invited to offer words of welcome to delegates from the City of Vancouver. The Deputy Mayor described her own years of experience within the Vancouver film industry and thanked the audience for being part of this critical change. Hardwick detailed how the Vancouver City Council collectively declared a climate emergency and noted that Council is aligned and behind SPF and its goals and aspirations for changing the industry in Vancouver.
Following these words of welcome, a Keynote presentation from Erica Priggen Wright focused on “The How and Why”. Erica is an executive creative producer who brings over a decade of experience in helping for-profits, non-profits, and government organizations create powerful communication. Her area of expertise is in cause-based messaging, with a special focus on brand narrative development, and the role and implementation of video content. She is the producer of award-winning projects such as The Story of Stuff video series, the Alliance for Climate Education national assembly program and the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop “Mr. Imagination” series. Erica expanded on the theme of “How and Why” with articulating the meaning of sustainable storytelling by asking ourselves:
whose story are we telling;
who has had access to decide whose story we’re telling and whose story we’re listening to;
whose voices we’re listening to;
who are the typical hero(es) and questioning this;
how do we embed healing choices in scripts and in production;
and how do we bring ourselves back into our bodies?
Erica concluded with the How and Why coming together to create hope. That this combination of efficiency and talent, combined with the why has an opportunity for a message for hope.
PANEL SYNOPSIS: COMMUNICATING FOR THE PLANET
Erica’s Keynote was followed by the panel Communicating for the Planet which featured moderator Dr. Joanna Ashworth, and panelists Anna Jane Joyner - Climate Communication Strategist, Erica Priggen Wright - Executive Creative Producer, and Roser Canela-Mas - Sustainability Industry Manager, British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
The panellists discussed messaging and storytelling within film and television, best practices and considering what the message should be along with who is the audience. Below are some speaking points from the panellists on this topic in response to moderator questions:
Anna Jane: 1% of TV and film have talked about climate change. So we need to be telling stories about climate change generally.
There are tropes that aren’t helpful, like annoying neighbour/eco-terrorist that are tropes that we can move away from.
Telling stories of resilience, collaborative heroes, there are so many powerful stories, seeing more diverse voices
Climate anxiety is on the rise, as this gets worse it is something that we are wrestling with, all of us, so building collective resilience is so important.
Big Little Lies did a climate change story, a character had an anxiety attack related to climate, people connect to it “I had an Amabella moment.”
Having activists who are relatable. Not stereotypical hippies or figures presented as up on a pedestal. We need to present realistic portrayals of regular people who care about the climate emergency.
The panellists shared examples of the work that they are doing that contributes to supporting a dynamic message on and behind the screen.
Erica Priggen Wright shared her work in developing a communications guide to help an organization that works with primarily women of colour who are leading climate objectives in their areas. Mentioned in this experience that journalists don’t necessarily know how to tell those stores, so Erica works to create a guide to help them tell those community-based stories. The more of those stories that can get covered in mainstream media and journalism, the more we are putting the right pieces in place to shift the status quo and speak to solutions.
Roser Canela Mas spoke about her work at BAFTA on the albert Project. She described albert’s two goals - one is focused on operational, but the other is empowering creatives to show sustainability on screen. The project has 40 channels over the UK and analyzed everything except news, looking at climate change, sustainability, vegan etc. Brexit was mentioned 70,000 times in the year, cats mentioned 40,000, climate change mentioned 3000 times. We don’t talk about it in any way, negative or positive. Planet placement is a tool, it is a platform for creatives to see positive case studies. There are different roles, on how you can introduce it depending on your work. Roser used an on production example of planet placement where a character (a really cool character) got an electric car. She described that effort was the production team, art department and the producers didn’t know. They didn’t know the potential of showcasing that story and demonstrates what can each department do to put sustainability on the screen.
Dr. Joanna Ashworth prompted the panellists to speak of specific examples of communicating for the planet to describe to the audience:
Anna Jane Joyner: There is not a lot in the fictional narrative space. Madame Secretary did a climate story arc that was phenomenal, based on my story somewhat, and a climate justice story arc about an island in the south pacific, climate reparations. The Affair has a rich climate story where the main character is a climate scientist. Succession - one of the characters says that if you add up all the people who the character Logan killed due to climate change denial he would be worse than Hitler. So you don’t need a whole plotline, even just one line can do it. But also if the story is set in this time, or the future, the characters would need to be grappling with climate change to some extent.
Erica Priggen Wright: Stories that showcase ways that we know we will build a connection with each other are interesting. Captain Fantastic, for example, pretty accessible version of grappling with questions we have to ask. I am concerned when I see stories that question whether the earth is our home. Where are the stories that investigate the way of being on this planet here in the same way?
Roser Canela Mas: The Mash Report - comedy satire. They put in so much content on climate change. It provides more context, it is more educational. On Years and Years, it shows how the world is going to be in 20 years, 30 years etc. People need to stop thinking that climate change is about polar bears - it is going to be about our lives, and years and years reflects that. Coronation Street has so many comedy moments about climate change. Weeds, there are so many moments on different seasons about climate change, so many electric cars. Drug dealer ends up buying a fleet of Priuses.
Panelists were also asked why they think there is the gap between climate science and action on climate change:
Roser Canela Mas: Scientists speak a different language from creatives and politicians. There isn’t a link between the science and the public, so there isn’t the complete understanding. But creatives can be that connection to help people understand. However, many times that connection isn’t there. It is about changing that attitude, to underscore that the industry has the responsibility to make that connection.
Anna Jane Joyner: Scientist are not great storytellers, and don’t invest in great storytellers. The number one thing we can do to fight climate change is to talk about it. We tend to look the other way when we are overwhelmed.
Erica Priggen Wright: A theme that is always present is that science doesn’t move people, stories do. But even more, we don’t react to things unless we can see and feel them immediately. From a narrative perspective that is the biggest challenge. How do you build enough urgency into the story so that people can latch onto something. It is really hard to try to avoid spending 70% of the time talking about the problem. But it doesn’t do anything about the problem. We need to increase the percentage of time and energy talking about inspiration and imagination and solutions.
To conclude the panel, Dr. Joanna Ashworth asked the panelists on what gives them hope:
Roser Canela Mas: The protests around the world, the young people. Seeing children understand it when adults don’t.
Erica Priggen Wright: Young people also, scope and scale of ideas and solutions that young people will present will be compelling. People’s ability and willingness to be uncomfortable and go through this.
Anna Jane Joyner: We don’t need hope, we need courage. But things that do give me hope is the beyond coal campaign. They have retired 250 coal plants all over the world, it is a success story. This conversation also gives me hope, working with writers and creatives to tell the story.
PANEL SYNOPSIS: CLIMATE EMERGENCY
This panel featured David Hardy from William F. Whites International as the Moderator and Adriane Carr, Councilor for City of Vancouver, Geoff Teoli, Manager of Film and Events at the City of Vancouver, Debbie Raphael, Director of Sustainability at City of San Francisco, and Clara George, Producer as panelists.
David Hardy started the panel conversation with asking panelists “Why do you think it is important for cities to create policy and work with the film industry to reduce GHG emissions?
Panelists responses to the question:
Adriane Carr: climate change is the biggest threat of our time. It is so important to work with partners, firmly grounded in the fact that we don’t have any time to waste. As a councillor I get letters from people who are worried about the future. 800 cities have declared climate emergencies, and put in plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Clara George: Spoke on what spurred her collaboration with the City of Vancouver. “I got very frustrated about the diesel generators, and it sounded like people had been trying to do something about it for years. Got into City Hall through an application by greening the built environment. Film is huge in Vancouver, and we’re running generators because we can’t get clean power.
Debbie Raphael: Feel at home here in Vancouver, BC is the northern region of the “Axis of Good”. When governments talk in “wonk”, no one listens. Everyone glazes over. None of those things tell you what you need to do. So we, at the City of San Francisco have been thinking about how we communicate with people on this topic.
David Hardy then asked the panelists about concerns that require the industry to act a certain way used to be a big deal. The new regulation is kind of in your face for the film industry. When declaring a climate emergency, was there any concern that there was a risk of alienating the studios, local producers etc. who have come up the chain and are used to the way they’ve always done things.
Adriane Carr: Clara drafted the motion and then garnered the support around the motion. We got letters from Reel Green, DGC, IASTE, etc. When you have that kind of support… they just wanted the city to facilitate it. It was so impressive. When this motion came forward, the staff said make it bigger. The industry leadership on that motion inspired our city to go even further.
Geoff Teoli: Other cities are looking at what we are doing here in Vancouver. We are investing in our infrastructure.
Clara George: any kickback from studios? No. The motion is that we are getting the city’s support to get off of the standard technology. It allows time for the suppliers to investigate clean tech. As an industry we have the strength, money, etc and can change things quickly.
Debbie Raphael: The story of this is so meaningful. Vancouver is not alone. When Vancouver takes a step the other cities are watching. And this is not all about GHG emissions. Breathing… there are so many benefits, noise, pollution etc.
What else can be part of the discussion?
Adriane Carr: In the city of Vancouver we throw away 2.5 million cups into garbage every week. Indicating more can be done in waste diversion and sorting.
Clara George: Toronto has reusable plates and cutlery at every meal. Here in Vancouver we have small food trucks etc. This year got a dishwasher and reusable plates on our production and tried it out. In the first week of shooting we hit zero waste. Every piece of single-use that is used however is 100% compostable. Which allows us to have no plastic on set.
Debbie Raphael: Leadership matters. And industry can move much faster than government. Government sets the baseline, but what makes it easier to change policy is to make leaps to raise the baseline. When you ask your city or film commissions, that is what they need to get inserted in the conversation and help you succeed.
David Hardy concluded by asking panelists their opinion on Carrot or Stick approach.
Clara George: I think you do need the resources. We’re an industry, not a permanent organization. But if we have the tools we have the creativity and we want to do it. The things we’re doing on the show are everyone’s ideas and it is nice to feel like the city has our back.
Adriane Carr: Sticks work. The reports there are that if it is voluntary, you get 20% change. So you need legislation (the stick) and carrots, like rebates to entice better behavior.
Day one of the SPF also included a number of workshops along with green vendor power pitches where sustainable businesses were invited to the main stage to pitch their service/cause/product and talk about how it aids in greening the motion picture industry. These vendor pitches were a new program for SPF and were well received both onsite and in the post event feedback.
Another activation highlight for the SPF was the introduction of test drives for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by Toyota Canada. Toyota was on site both days of the SPF providing free test drives and locally made hot cider for delegates.
Six idea blasts were also presented from the main stage across the two days of the Forum. These were 10 minute presentations on a single topic. Day 1 featured idea blasts from Grace Nosek, Founder and Student Director of the UBC Climate Hub and PhD Candidate in Law, Audrey Vinant-Tang, Manager of Supplier Sustainability at CBS, and Denise Taschereau, CEO of Fairware.
Day two of the event opened with Romain Paulais from the Quebec Film and Television Council followed by an armchair conversation with SPF host Zena Harris and Brittany Curran, actress on “The Magicians”. Brittany detailed her experience on sets and the status quo being waste and single-use; water bottles, food waste etc. She described that it wasn’t until recently that she realized that this culture of waste wasn’t normal. Clara George is the Producer on The Magicians and has inspired the whole cast and crew through efforts like reusable gift, no plastic in scenes etc.
Brittany described how this shift in culture on set has changed how she approaches her work “I can’t go back now. It drives me crazy - the idea of tossing something that is recyclable. Bring the food home. It has completely changed me. I feel bad… when I first saw all the bins I was so confused. It shows how brainwashed we’ve been to be wasteful. It was so selfish of me. But it is all about learning and getting better.”
From this armchair conversation, we moved into the next panel which was titled Diversity Drives Sustainability.
PANEL SYNOPSIS - DIVERSITY DRIVES SUSTAINABILITY
This panel featured Marnie Orr, BC Film Commissioner as moderator with Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, Actress and Head of Strategic Outreach at Pearl Street Films, Dr. Darnell Hunt, Dean of the Division of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology and Africa American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Doreen Manuel, Director of the Bosa Centre for Film and Animation.
Marnie Orr inquired with Fanshen about her work on the inclusion rider:
“It is a template for a-list celebrities to use when they are negotiating their contracts. It is a template so you can change it to suit your needs, but the bones are there to be able to advocate. In my first couple weeks in pursuing this initiative, I looked into who was doing the work, and met with them (Dr. Stacy Smith at the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative) right away and one of them was to include a clause in a-list actor contracts. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck at Pearl Street Films were open to it. We had no idea that Francis would bring it up at Oscar night."
Marnie Orr then inquired with Doreen Manuel to ask her what does sustainability mean to indigenous people:
“I am a residential school survivor and I was tortured in that school. They did horrible things to us in that school. So we come from a really hard experience of colonization. And what has helped me survive today, is our traditional values. So for indigenous people, we have core values that drive sustainability. We practice certain ceremonies that help us focus and connect to the universe.”
Dr. Darnell Hunt shared his perspective from the background of his experience and work:
“The telling of stories is central to the human condition. That has implications for what the media does.” Dr. Hunt authors the Hollywood Diversity Report. He detailed that the report is a mechanism to get people and the media to take notice of this important subject. "There is a clear need to tie diversity and inclusion into the bottom line. Some conclusions that were drawn from the Diversity Report were that shows that actually “looked like” America did the best in the box office i.e had more diverse actors and actresses represented on screen."
The moderator shifted the conversation to talk about “behind the camera” and the panelists thoughts on this topic:
Doreen Manuel: Indigenous people are trained so well but they need to be given a shot. Telefilm has an indigenous working group, and we meet 2 or 3 times a year, and we have made some shifts and addressed some things, trying to build indigenous cinema, which doesn’t exist in Canada. Working on a diversity tax credit, but there is some opposition.
Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni: We have people who have been running diversity programs, but what is the barrier when people are trained? Hiring. I hope that anyone in a position of power hires with inclusion in mind and without implicit bias. We have curated a database to point people to in terms of industry professionals from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. It is important when hiring to also not pigeon hole people to having them only tell certain stories or filling tropes.
Dr. Darnell Hunt: How do we achieve diversity is to modernize your worldview. Expand the figurative net and amplify women, normalize compensation, structure incentives.
The panel received a standing ovation at the end with much discussion and conversation post panel on how to do better to recognize inclusion and diversity within the industry and individual practices.
Day Two of the Forum closed with a final panel on Producing for the Planet which featured speakers Clara George, Producer, Gavin Behrman, Producer, Diana Pokorny, Executive Producer, Keith Woods, Shannon Bart, Director of Sustainability at NBCUnviersal, President of IATSE 891 and Head Gaffer as moderator.
Day two also featured three idea blasts from Ashley Evans, Women in FIlm and TV Vancouver and Communications Manager at Bardel Entertainment, Elizabeth Chick, Executive Director at Buy Social Canada, and Dr. Chris Carlsten, Division Head of Respiratory Medicine at the University of British Columbia.
The SPF closed out with an industry social presented by the Quebec Film and Television Council and the Sustainable Excellence Awards. Six winners were announced in total - five Sustainable Production Champions and one Sustainable Impact Award.
Sustainable Production Champion Winners:
Clara George, Producer on The Magicians
Roy’s Copier Service, Vancouver
Adriane Carr, Councilor, City of Vancouver
Joanne Morneau, Costumer
Eleanor O’Connor, SIM International
Sustainable Production Impact Award:
Man in the High Castle, Season 4, Amazon
The SPF was concluded by an exclusive screening of HBO’s Documentary Ice on Fire produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Lelia Conners.
Sustainability is at the core of the SPF. The event was committed to walking the walk and creating an experience that is also sustainable with little to no impact. In 2019 the SPF set out several targets for lowering the event’s footprint including planting trees with Tree Canada. SPF collectively achieved their sustainability goals with the cooperation of delegates who participated in proper waste sorting to reduce contamination.
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