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Country Focus: Belgium

The Belgian film industry wants to be environmentally friendly


The Belgian film industry wants to be environmentally friendly

- Perhaps not everyone knows that the film industry is a highly polluting sector. Transportation, lights, sets, catering… Every single essential element contributing towards the production of a film has a big impact on the environment. Many continue to ignore this problem leading to belated efforts in making the industry green, especially when compared with other industries.

A handful of Belgian audiovisual professionals, convinced that there was an urgent need to address the situation, and wanting to raise the alarm among their colleagues as well as the industry in general, organised the Green Shooting Workshop which took place on Monday June 24 during the Brussels Film Festival. The event, moderated by Philippe Reynaert, included participation from well-known Belgian industry figures such as Nic Balthazar (a militant environmentalist and director of Tot altijd [+see also:
film profile
, the first Flemish film to have a zero carbon footprint), Joël Franka (director of Une chanson pour ma mère [+see also:
film profile
), producer Bernard de Dessus (Novak Production) and Siebe Dumon (Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds). The enthusiastic panel was completed by Sophie Cornet, an environmental consultant, and Olivier-René Veillon, general director of the Île-de-France film commission, also founding partner of Ecoprod, a collective aimed at developing and providing industry workers with a resource centre to reduce the environmental impact of their productions.

In the United States, Canada and New Zealand, the concept of eco-shooting has been integrated into film production systems thanks to a series of initiatives shared between institutions and large studios. Results are particularly visible with major companies Warner Bros, Disney and Fox who produce their films in environmentally friendly ways with “green” labels on their code titles. This is a good marketing strategy, which benefits studios as well as the environment.

In Europe, some entities such as Film London, German Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein (which recently created its own Green Shooting Card – read the article), Flemish VAF and French Ecoprod, have adopted systems capable of calculating the carbon emissions of a production in advance. Thanks to this data and support from environmental consultancy agencies, these organisations are able to help productions reduce their environmental impact in a relevant way. Olivier-René Veillon explained that such initiatives would only be useful if they were undertaken collectively: producers and filmmakers on a set are not enough to make a difference, an entire crew needs to be involved from make-up artists to light technicians, as well as service providers.

Soon reticent producers will have to respect recycling and energy saving rules. Olivier-René Veillon declared that subsidies from some of their members (like CNC) will only be allocated to productions respecting sustainability criteria. “Great times call for great measures,” as they say.

VAF intends to act in a similar way. Siebe Dumon told Cineuropa that now that carbon emission calculators were available, educating industry workers and teaching them to save energy and recycle is the only way to go. Once the coaching phase is over, more severe policies will be put in place, according to which some subsidies will only be handed out to the most deserving. The first ten films supported by VAF will be announced in October 2013 and will be made in a responsible way thanks to the support of a carbon emissions calculator. For Belgian Flemish productions, eco-shooting is already a phenomenon in course, while Walloon ones are only at embryonic stages in this capacity.  

Fortunately, eco-sustainable productions can be carried out without involvement from ad hoc institutions. Virtuous examples of this have already happened in Belgium. Walloon director Joël Franka, frustrated by the absence of institutions able to support him, asked for the help of an environmental consultant and adopted certain measures for the making of Une chanson pour ma mère: less polluting paint for sets, use of washable glasses instead of plastic cups, rental of electric cars, cost coverage for those doing car-sharing, use of organic and local food. Flemish Nic Balthazar took the personal initiative of using LED lights for his film Tot altijd, managing to reduce his emissions by 10% compared to his previous production, Ben X, which was already a purposefully low-budget film. 


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