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A GreenCode for the Documentary and Screen Industries

GreenCode Project

Documentarians love to make earnest, socially engaged films about serious issues like the environment; but when you look closely at what we actually do as we go about making our films, do we always walk the talk or see the bigger vision?

Take a look at your own office and production practices. How much paper do you go through each year, printing hundreds of copies of proposals for the seven circles of Dante’s Hell which are the Canadian agencies and broadcasters? How do you recycle all those tapes and batteries? What kind of chemicals and slave labour assembly lines go into making the equipment we use? If you work in fiction, what happens to all that wasted craft services food and useless plastic cups? How many tons of carbon do we expel into the atmos-fear, flying to and fro, or running idle generators and production vehicles?

In response to all of this, a group of Canadian documentarians is launching a new international movement. They have decided to do their small part to improve the environment by reducing their own ecological footprint. They are beginning to research and establish a GreenCode for the Screen Industries. Consider it our own micro “Kyoto Accord” tailored to the needs and processes of documentary, film, television and next media industries. The organizers are calling upon like-minded mediamakers, production companies, suppliers, broadcasters, organizations, agencies and funders to join them in an open affiliation to envision the GreenCode. The Code will consist of a set of modest, voluntary, environmentally friendly eco-actions, guidelines, standards and principles that encourage ecological friendly sustainability. Goals we can all buy into, at our own self-selecting levels. Simple actions and gestures we all can take in our office practices, production processes and on-location shoots.

These might range from the smallest efforts, like using fair trade coffee in the office or using post-consumer recycled paper in your photocopiers and printers, sourcing eco-friendly suppliers, or hiring production vehicles from the transportation car-share co-ops that are now springing up everywhere. For agencies, it should mean giving special incentive points to those companies who adhere to the GreenCode principles and certification. In the long-term, green friendly productions are the most cost-effective, when real accounting principles are considered. For some, the GreenCode might mean making larger commitments to community education or to producing more socially responsible media. Those who support the GreenCode would be able to do regular self-analyses of their own current practices, then choose eco-friendly actions from a menu of suggestions for improvement in their workplaces. Individual productions, organizations or film events could chose to do a full audit of their carbon impact and pay the offsets.

The GreenCode for the Screen Industries idea began with Rapide Blanc’s Sylvie Van Brabant and Marie-France Côté and soon blossomed to include at least moral support from my own production company, Necessary Illusions, Eyesteel, Vancouver’s Treadlight Media, Planet in Focus, the Ontario Arts Council and The National Film Board of Canada, which helped to subsidize a bit of research. Word of the initiative is spreading like greenfire around the world. Amsterdam-based Greenpeace International, itself a major producer of media, thinks its the best idea to come along in a long time, and is supporting some research. The International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam supported a GreenCode brainstorm attended by people from all over the world.

The Green Code organization will be mostly web-based, voluntary, not-for-profit and without an over-bearing infrastructure. The organizers hope that broadcasters, organizations and agencies in Canada, and international festivals like HotDocs and SilverDocs, will support the code in principle and offer a space where dialogue can happen. And, as the idea grows, they hope filmmakers, companies, patrons and foundations in European and Hollywood media circles come into the picture with sustainable organizational funding. Awareness is changing our industry. Even Hollywood is thinking in pale green. On its own initiative, Sheffield’s International Docfest recently became the first carbon neutral film festival, with the help of Carbon Planet, a carbon offset organization, which also supports the Code.

The GreenCode for the Screen Industries is about taking action. It welcomes you and those organizations and companies you represent. As documentarians, we all love to make films which can change the world. But before we do, let’s take into consideration our own messy footprints. It may be counter-intuitive, but for a change, let’s make media that have no impact!
 Visit www.greencodeproject.org