by Els Rientjes – Six months after the shutdown of our film sets. Now we know we will have to continue to keep the 1.5 meter distance for the foreseeable future. Recently, most production companies have started back up again, we’re finishing previously suspended productions and new films can be seen in the still rather quiet cinemas. But we’re running again! And everyone tries to follow the new Covid protocol as best they can.

Many thanks to the Netherlands Film Fund, who really went out of their way to lighten the burden on our producers. There was extra money for productions and producers to weather the blows of the crisis. This meant that more shooting days could be afforded, because the normal pace of filming was seriously slowed down by all the extra measures to guarantee the 1.5 meters.

During the spring months, a lot of work was put into a special Covid protocol, to ensure that everything went smoothly upon return to the set. Several workshops have already been held to prepare the appointed Covid managers to organize the “new” logistics. Green Film Making collaborated on the protocol and came up with additions that would also ensure a step towards a more sustainable production at the same time. Yet these tips did not end up in the final protocol. It was perceived as too much extra pressure in this crisis. After all, we already have to change so much. Unfortunately, this is a time where everyone wants to play it safe and even much more packaging materials (plastics) are used to avoid contamination as much as possible. Everything must be sterile.

So half a year later we can now evaluate the implementation of these new measures. It is clear that if the need is big enough, it is possible to quickly make significant changes. Apparently we can do more than we think. So isn’t it the time now to work more intensively on sustainability on set as well? Some Covid adjustments are actually very similar to sustainability measures. We now have to wash our hands more often and better, so clean water on set is a must. And with water available, it is also easier to refill our water bottles. For example Harm Bredero’s Setsink, a mobile washbasin, is now indispensable. And the extra person on set to ensure safety and hygiene is very much like the sustainability managers we advocate for. Wouldn’t these jobs be easy to combine?

The Setsink ready for washing hands and refilling water bottles.

Meeting remotely via video conference has now become the new normal. We really don’t go to the office or visit a location with the whole team anymore. We share the information via the internet and help each other. This makes it easier to connect different Heads of Department in pre-production and find out together what the most efficient way of shooting is. Without intending to, we are slowly taken steps towards more sustainable production. And it also saves money. Less CO2, less need to throw away unused materials. After all, we have already been able to coordinate a lot with each other digitally and been much more efficient.

Post production is now automatically involved at the beginning of projects. The post-production coordinator reads the scripts and involves the creatives of the post-production houses in the choices that can be made. It is busier on the digital highways of our productions and less busy on the road. We have no choice to spend more time on preparations. And so we shoot more efficiently and therefore more sustainably. And with the extra support of the Film Fund, this is also possible.

The momentum is there to once again see if we can make even more sustainable choices. And the biggest COVID stress is now gone. It is clear how quickly our lives can be turned upside down by external factors. For now and for our own future we must be prepared to go the extra mile.And to ask our crew and cast to think along to make our profession even more sustainable, whether by choice or not.

In the fashion industry we are seeing major changes. It is really no longer okay to just buy something new and throw away or destroy clothing. We recycle and invent new materials.

We, filmmakers and broadcasters, also have to set an example. And we can do it together.

In these mad times, adaptable people have the greatest chances of surviving. That is why we have added all sustainable tips from the COVID protocol to our toolkit , as new opportunities. It probably all sounds very familiar. But sometimes we just need to see something from a new perspective. Times have changed. We really cannot and do not want to go back to the old ways. Good luck, and apply it where possible. Let’s make these measures normal too!