After our report on our French colleagues at Ecoprod last month, we got curious to look across the border more often to see what our different neighbors are up to. This month: the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF) and their e-Mission program. We reported on their groundbreaking initiative in the past when it was still in its infancy. These days they are many steps ahead and still with the frontrunners in Europe in terms of sustainability.
Since 2013, the e-Mission program encourages all film and media productions supported by VAF to produce sustainably. Starting from pre-production, they are counseled by a sustainability coordinator. The support consists of a sustainability training, workshops and set visits. In order to receive the last 10% installment of a VAF grant, each production must follow this sustainability program and use the carbon calculator. The results are impressive: back in 2013 a Flemish film was emitting an average of 83 tonnes of CO2, but by 2015 this was reduced to 54 tonnes.
On a sunny morning we call with Tim Wagendorp, VAF’s brand new sustainability coordinator. What distinguishes him immediately is that he originally comes from a completely different background. As an agricultural engineer with a specialization in land and forest management, he worked for years as a scientist at the University of Leuven. Through a craving for work with a greater concrete social impact, he switched to KOMOSIE, an umbrella organization for environmental companies in the social economy (including second hand shops, energy reducers and companies that work with food waste). Among other things, Tim worked on circular economy policy and was responsible for sector reporting. He also coordinated ‘Perspective on Recycling’ (a European project on the registration of recycled goods with partners from Flanders and The Netherlands). Experience that will prove very useful in his future at VAF, but more about that later
Tim also has a creative side. In his spare time he is a knife maker (www.wagendorp.biz). It makes perfect sense then when he speaks about ‘the intersection between environment and culture’. When the vacancy at VAF caught his eye, he immediately felt a connection. Specifically because of his background in environmental issues, he can address the questions of sustainable production from a fresh and practical perspective. And thus he finds himself at the Brussels office a little over two weeks now. It was ‘hit the ground running’, with a trip to London for an international meeting at VAF partner Film London straight away. But Tim has adapted very quickly and knows exactly what he is talking about.
Approach and ambitions
In order to get Flemish producers into the idea of sustainability, Tim makes the environmental impact visible in the following way: an average production emits approximately 80 tonnes of CO2 in about one month. An average Flemish family emits 7 or 8 tons in one year. Reduction in a production has therefor a much greater potential. Planning and communication are of great importance and therefore Tim is involved from the pre-production phase. With such measures, it’s possible to reduce the emission of a production to 50 tonnes.
There is a noticeable difference from person to person and between generations though. For some, carpooling and vegetarian food are self-evident, others shout ‘over my dead body‘. For example, students at the film academy RITCS took the initiative to work with food waste. They contacted an organic supermarket and provided a whole crew with meals from discarded food. “From an environmental point of view, it is in fact logical that all parties supported by the Flemish Government also contribute to the realization of Flemish policy on sustainability and the environment. However, it’s still a challenge to built bridges between the various relevant policy areas (culture, environment, economy)“, Tim explains.
Mission for e-Mission
Even though he just started, Tim already has several ideas to strengthen the e-Mission program. Such as to further investigate the issues of waste and use of materials. Or making the available sustainability tools more accessible. In addition, he wants to give more insight into what you really save in terms of budget. In other words, to show the benefits of sustainability as clearly as possible. Of course it should always be taken into account that creativity requires a certain degree of flexibility. The mission is not to push for maximum sustainability at all costs. A case-by-case assessment is made, which is a nice challenge.
In addition to workshops and showcases VAF also gives courses at colleges to prepare the future generation for a sustainable career. Because the earlier the start, the bigger the effect in the future. Students are now supervised by VAF at three levels: through general courses on sustainability, followed by a workshop where their graduation projects are being examined and finally a set visit by VAF.
“We have already progressed a lot, but there is still room for improvement,” says Tim. Several genres such as short films and documentaries still need to be incorporated into the e-Mission program, as well as a more systematic collaboration with Flemish broadcasters. Tim’s contacts from his previous job, like at OVAM (Flemish Public Waste Society), prove to be very useful in this new context. There are numerous links with, for example, circular economy, sustainable purchasing policy, sustainable festivals, etc. Also a better collaboration between the audiovisual sector and, for example, second hand shops is an option. Nowadays there are second hand shops that rent and lend materials that may be interesting for set design. But co-operation can also be reversed: by donating reusable goods, you as a film maker can also reduce your carbon emission.
VAF and the Green Screen project
Tim’s predecessor Siebe Dumon was hoping back in 2014 for a standardization of sustainable production regulations at a European level in the future. And that future is here now; VAF is, like Ecoprod, a partner in the Green Screen project, a 5-year program funded by the EU with the purpose of sharing best practices and formulating policy recommendations between the international partners. At the end of February there was a first meeting at the offices of project manager Film London. An assessment will be made into the possibilities of developing a common European policy. The VAF specifically has the task of further exploring the link between sustainable film and finance and to develop a best practice guide on sustainable production. More information about the project: https://www.interregeurope.eu/greenscreen/
The Green Screen partners will involve local stakeholders and policy makers throughout the project. These stakeholders will, in various meetings, give input to the partners’ findings. It’s also very relevant for Green Film Making to participate in these meetings. For example, in Dutch / Flemish co-productions, there are no clear agreements about which regulations are followed, those of the Netherlands or of Flanders. If there is funding from both countries, but the regulations for sustainability differ, which path do you follow? So agreements should definitely be made in the future.
Siebe and Els already shared knowledge about developments in energy on set and lighting. Evert, Tim’s other predecessor, participated in the Green Film Making post-production workshop and Tim accepted our invitation to attend the workshop Green Film Making for Art Departments, which he praised a lot. The enthusiasm about continuing our cooperation with each other is mutual. And there are plenty of opportunities for collaboration between VAF and Green Film Making in the future!
Social engagement is clearly very important at VAF, both at national and international level. And with Tim, the e-Mission program has taken a new turn. They certainly cut ice, in Flanders. With a knife by Tim.
Would you like to contact Tim? You reach him here.