Watch the full NAB Show 2023 session, “Hitting 2030 Sustainability Goals from Prep to Wrap” above.
- The 2023 NAB Show assembled a panel of industry experts to discuss strategies for achieving the PGA’s ambitious call to action to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by the year 2030.
- Moderated by the ICG’s production technology specialist and business representative Michael Chambliss, panelists included Green Spark Group president & founder Zena Harris, MBS Group’s senior director of sustainability Amit Jain, DP Cynthia Pusheck, and Koerner Camera Systems rentals manager Sally Spaderna.
- Fuel consumption, the panelists agreed, is the biggest carbon emitter for most productions, but even small, subtle changes can have a major impact.
As a significant driver of global culture, the media and entertainment industry is now confronting its own role in climate change, with sustainability emerging as a paramount concern across the sector. A recent panel at the 2023 NAB Show tackled this critical issue head-on, discussing the path towards achieving the PGA’s ambitious call to action to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by the year 2030.
The panel discussion, entitled “Hitting 2030 Sustainability Goals from Prep to Wrap,” was presented by the International Cinematographers Guild IATSE Local 600 and the Production Equipment Rental Group (PERG), covering the steps that producers, department heads, suppliers and studios can take to meet the industry’s sustainability goals. The session was moderated by Michael Chambliss, ICG’s production technology specialist and business representative, and featured Green Spark Group president and founder Zena Harris; Amit Jain, senior director of sustainability at production service provider MBS Group; Cynthia Pusheck, ASC (Good Girls Revolt, Sacred Lies, Our Flag Means Death and Beacon 23), who serves as co-chair of the ASC Vision Committee; and Sally Spaderna, rentals manager at Portland, Oregon-based Koerner Camera Systems. Watch the full session in the video at the top of the page.
Fuel consumption, the panelists agreed, is the biggest carbon emitter for most productions, but even small, subtle changes can have a major impact.
Pusheck recounted her experience working with production sustainability consultant Green Spark Group. “It’s very top-down. We were lucky to have a producer who really cared about this,” she said, recalling how each department was tasked with finding ways to reduce fuel consumption. “Telling your camera team, like, ‘We can’t do rushes to get equipment, they’re gonna wait and do three or four runs.’ Every department was keyed into ‘How do you reduce fuel?’ from me asking for green car chargers to encouraging the crew to bike. It was great. But not every show is that committed.”
The panelists also emphasized the importance of calculating carbon emissions in the industry to understand where to focus sustainability efforts.
“A very first step is to understand what your carbon emissions are,” said Harris. “So if you’re not calculating your carbon emissions as an organization, as a production, you need to be doing that so that you can understand where to focus your efforts, so that you’re not spinning your wheels and doing a sustainable practice that you think is great [but] really doesn’t have an impact overall on your total carbon footprint.”
LED walls enabling virtual production have allowed productions to greatly reduce their carbon footprint, the panelists observed, but aren’t necessarily an ideal creative choice.
“Nothing beats shooting on location, but it is detrimental to the environment,” Spaderna said. “And as we’ve seen with what’s happening to the environment, you can get boned by the weather. You know, we’ve had productions shut down for weeks because of the smoke from forest fires, or extreme heat, or hurricanes and wind storms. And, unfortunately, it’s just getting worse.”
Requiring reporting on carbon emissions, Jain said, allows media companies to align their sustainability goals with on-set production practices. “A lot of the larger entities now require that reporting for their productions,” he noted. “So now they have baselines, they have targets, they have data to analyze and say, ‘Okay, well, how do we reduce our fuel use? How do we reduce our electricity?’”
Digital scouting is another solution productions are employing to reduce their carbon footprints. “It can be great,” said Pusheck. “And I think we’ve all learned what COVID ramped up was this ability of like, ‘Oh, we can all have meetings, we don’t all have to drive the spot or the location.’ Scout can go into video, and we can all watch it back here. We don’t all have to get in a van because we don’t all want to be in the same van right now.
The adoption of digital scouting has also led to other to other solutions for reducing travel emissions, she added. “Digital scouting, it’s fantastic. There’s just a lot of solutions that I think everyone’s opened up to. It’s like, ‘what does everybody really need to drive the studio for one meeting today?’ Or ‘Can we have a Zoom meeting?’ and stuff that wouldn’t have been accepted before, it’s now becoming normal.”
Spaderna emphasized the importance of driving a cultural shift in the industry by having ongoing conversations that cross departmental lines. “For instance,” she said, “Camera’s going to want to have their hot batteries in the morning. But they don’t have to leave the generators on all night charging those batteries, they’ll charge in 90 minutes. And then they can turn the generators off that are powering those banks of battery chargers, they’re done. So if someone could set a timer, once Camera’s gone home, and whoever is monitoring this, they can turn that off and they don’t have to stay on that charge. There just has to be an ongoing conversation where people are all engaged and all excited about driving this cultural shift.”
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