Who’s Who: Emellie O’Brien (USA)

The film industry has been sent a sublime guardian from the sustainability heavens, meet Emellie O’Brien: Earth Angel. She is bringing sustainability to the big screen in a major way, as she works her way through eco managing top-tier sets across NYC, and to the mantra of “Making Movies Without Making a Mess”. As a recent NYU Tisch Film School graduate, Emellie brings vitality and a fresh sense of ingenuity as well as resourcefulness to often out-dated modes of media production. Her biggest challenge these days? Meeting the rising demands of all the studios and productions who want a piece of Earth Angel‘s heaven on their set. See why here:

Emellie O'Brien

Emellie‘s important and impactful work has lead her to manage sustainability efforts on-set for big budget films such as: Sony Pictures Entertainment’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), Paramount Pictures’ biblical epic Noah(2014), Big Beach Films’ Gods Behaving Badly (2014), and most recently the Columbia Pictures remake of the movie musical Annie (2014), starring Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, and Quvenzhané Wallis. All of these efforts have been completed under her accurately reflective business moniker of Earth Angel.

Emellie co-founded Earth Angel, a successful New York based company that provides sustainable solutions to film and television sets through: education, waste reduction strategies, sustainable sourcing initiatives and carbon tracking. Earth Angel’s work emphasises the importance of an industry with such profound impact on society to commit to progressive practices while encouraging sustainability both on and off screen. This is made clear in Earth Angel’s mission statement to: “bring a unified sustainable practices model to entertainment production. By making sustainability our responsibility, we provide effective, hands-on solutions that enhance crew consciousness, benefit the community, and reduce our impact on the environment”.

The sustainable production approach taken by Earth Angel is rendered unique to dominant film production practices, as it measures success not only in terms of financial return, but as an advancement of what they have identified as the three pillars of: “people, profit and planet”.

What’s more, is that Emellie has been able to generate tangible results – both in carbon reduction and cost savings- which speak for themselves, and appeal to the interests of big budget studios whose social corporate responsibility platforms are becoming just as important to consumers, as the big budgeted spectacles they produce. Most recently on-set of Annie, Earth Angel has worked with ‘Rock It and Wrap It Up!’ to redistribute 664.5 pans of food, equalling about 6645 Lbs, that feeds 5111 meals, saving 4983.75 Lbs of CO2 gas from going into the atmosphere and from landfills. Emellie’s work on larger scaled The Amazing Spiderman 2 (which boasts the title of the most eco-friendly blockbuster in Sony Pictures history), saw 5,861 meals kept out of landfills and donated to shelters. The proof really is in the pudding, and these numbers certainly stand up to Earth Angel’s three pillars of “people, profit, and planet”.

Recently, Emellie has put such on-set experiences into a comprehensive report entitled: “Going Green & Saving Green: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Sustainable Filmmaking”. The report is being published by the notable Producers Guild of America‘s Green division ( PGA Green), and makes the potential for real on-set resource saving, as well as budget saving, crystal clear. Emellie’s work not only provides sustainability numbers to a set’s practise, but also saves money. In effect, her efforts pay for her presence- and then some.

So, how does she do it?

We can tell you after having had a chance to visit her on-set of Annie, that she is extremely focused as well as likeable. In addition to her bubbly, and witty character, she is able to make sustainable efforts enjoyable, attractive and coherent for crew members. She makes clear and informative signs for the set, while increasing the visibility and knowledge of her sustainable efforts, through maintaining up to date twitter accounts such as the one she used for The Amazing Spiderman 2, @EcoSpidey. GCOW (Green Crew Member of the Week) certificates are issued to crew members who make clear their commitment to green practices through their on-set actions. These GCMW are posted on the sustainable twitter account, listed on signage throughout the set, given a sustainable gift, and also gain set recognition at Friday’s crew lunch. In addition, Green Facts of the Day’ are printed on call sheets where possible, reusable crew bottles are issued at the start of a shoot, and eco-raffles are held. Having been on-set to see some of these initiatives at work, we can tell you – the whole thing plays out in a very easy and fun way, while strengthening a sense of production ownership as well as community among crew members.

On the more practical side, Emellie works to co-ordinate the timely re-stocking of designated water refill tanks ( as opposed to having disposable water bottles), administering the redistribution of catering leftovers to shelters, and most courageously sorting through garbage and recycling materials which may have been tossed into the wrong bin. Every scrap counts! And on big productions, it adds up.

What’s in the future for Earth Angel?

Emellie recognizes the increasing demand for her services by the big studios, and would like to train more eco-managers who can also do her job, and then be assigned to a multitude of productions that may take place simultaneously. It is tough though, as she recognizes the need for a very specific type of person. Someone who can be determined in the face of resistance, without being too overbearing to a set and crew members who may need some extra time to come around to the new, more sustainable ways of doing things. This is key.

Where there is some resistance however, there later comes effective engagement. One on-set crew member even started bringing the organic compost materials from their home, to the compost bins on set locations.

This is the magic of Earth Angel’s Emellie O’Brien, she makes on-set sustainability as easy, effective, and fun as possible, so that the production staff doesn’t have to. Hollywood, you can now count your blessings, thanks to Earth Angel: Emellie O’Brien.

It’s only onwards and upwards from here, get it girl!

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