While Trump is pushing the brakes on the Paris Climate Agreement, the train of the big players in the US movie industry towards a sustainable approach has gathered so much speed it can’t be stopped. This month, we’re browsing around to see what the Americans are doing on set in the field of ‘green’ and especially energy consumption.

One of the leaders in sustainability from the Hollywood studios is 20th Century Fox. Under the label of parent company 21st Century Fox (21CF), they launched a special department in 2007 that develops sustainability across all levels of the company. That year, 24 became the first CO2-neutral TV series ever made. At the start of the 21CF program, the focus was mainly on solar power. Easy choice of course: It never rains in Southern California.

Solar generators

Jason Bateman with the Solar Eclipse on the set of Bad Words.

FOX wasn’t the only one working with solar energy in the beginning. In 2006 a solar power system was installed on the roof of Warner Bros. Studio’s Mill Building. In 2010, Christopher Nolan’s Inception was already partly powered by solar energy with the generators from Pure Power Distribution. It seems that the company has since ceased to exist and the percentage of renewable energy for Inception was still small. But in 2013 they took a step further on the set of actor Jason Bateman’s first feature Bad Words. The production office and trailers, technology, communications and the light towers were powered by four Solar Eclipse solar generators. The Solar Eclipse consists of 10 panels, 2 SMA inverters and a battery pack. This saved the production thousands of gallons of diesel, reduced the total production time and improved the relationship with local residents.

EMA Green Seal

Since then, sustainability in the American film industry has risen to another level. In 2010, in collaboration with Producers Guild of America (PGA), Fox’s Green Guide morphed into the Green Production Guide, an online tool for sustainable production for the entire industry. This year, just after Trump pulled the US out of the Paris agreement, PGA announced a new version of the guide in collaboration with some of the biggest players: Disney, Amblin Partners, 20th Century Fox, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros. Entertainment. The guide has a database of 2000 eco vendors and information about sustainable products, services, experiences and locations and was developed based on experiences on the set of numerous productions of the studios involved such as Fifty Shades Darker, War for the Planet of the Apes and Beauty and the Beast.

Together with the Environmental Media Association arrived the EMA Green Seal. Productions analyse themselves how sustainable they work with the help of different tools. However, an invitation for EMA to visit the set increases the number of points that are awarded. Productions that received the highest scores are for example Better Call Saul and the latest Star Wars movie. Click here for a long and impressive list of well-known movies and series that received the label.

Fox Studios, Legion and X-Files

Hybrid trucks of FOX

But let’s go back to the case-study FOX and zoom in on energy to see how they tackle that. One of the first actions of 21CF was to provide the 20th Century Fox studio complex with solar panels. The roof of the Crafts building was completed in 2008, which had repaid itself in 3.5 years. Because of this successful investment soon all sound studios, car parks and even golf carts were outfitted with panels. Fox has invested nearly $ 6 million dollars so far, completing three new roofing systems this year, which has quadrupled the total capacity to 1.4 megawatts.

Also with sets on location, much attention is paid to sustainability. Let’s take the X-Files and Legion series as an example. Both series were shot in and around Vancouver, which yielded many benefits in terms of sustainability. 86% of the electricity in Vancouver comes from hydroelectric dams. A special sustainability coordinator was hired for both series, Zena Harris from Green Spark Group. From pre-production, with the guidelines from the Green Production Guide, Harris worked directly with each department during the 6 month long shoot. With this method and experience of the X-Files set, the Legion crew saved 55% of waste, 252 tons less CO2, saving a total of $ 48,000.

In terms of energy use on set of these series, LED light was used as much as possible in the studio. On location, generators were used with a 5% biodiesel fuel mix. Legion went one step further and started a partnership with Portable Electric using their new electric generators.

For video reports about the sustainable approach on these sets, click here for X-Files and here for Legion.

East coast

While the balance of sustainable developments in the movie business is mainly in the studios, initiatives to also support sustainable production outside of the studio are being developed, such as the NYC Film Green in New York that just started in June this year. Earth Angel’s eco-supervisor, Emellie O’Brien, partner of Green Film Making, explains in an interview for PGAThis NYC program is critical for the expansion of sustainable production beyond the studio level, because the local infrastructure needs to be in alignment. Largely recognition-based, NYC Film Green will engage people in friendly competition to build momentum for running sustainable productions.”

Are you shooting in the US? Look at the Green Production Guide website for green suppliers and other tools.