Written by Natalie Hulla; posted by Dustin Jenkins.

On Weds., Dec. 4th, Ohio University Film production students attended a presentation on implementing green initiatives and practices into their film sets. Thesis M.F.A. student Vince O’Connell, who is spearheading sustainability practices within the program, organized for guest speakers Amanda Scarano Carter, Chair of Producer’s Guild of America Green West, and Andrew Ladd, Ohio University Recycling and Zero Waste Manager, to speak with students and faculty. 

The presentation began with a Skype session with Carter, whose career in film production spans more than 20 years. She provided insight into the Green Production Guide, which is a project of the Producer’s Guild of America. The Guide is an online and mobile resource that addresses the need for sustainability within the film, TV and commercial industry. It provides best practices, education, databases and information about going green. Major studios such as Disney, DreamWorks Studios, 20th Century Fox, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros. have provided support for the project.

Carter expressed that it’s important for students to begin implementing green practices now while they’re still in school. These initiatives have become “the new normal” in the industry, and professionals expect newly graduated students to understand the need for sustainability in production.

“This is not elective,” said Carter. “This is the way they do business.”

Carter spoke about her experience in production management and how it has taken her to communities across the country and internationally. The impact that filmmaking makes on those communities is important, she said, and it’s just as important as the messages within the films being made.

Carter answered students’ questions about sustainability in smaller, independent projects, and also about emerging crew positions that focus solely on eco-friendly solutions. She provided insight into the biggest factors of waste on set, green alternatives in technology, and the financial efficiency that sustainability provides.

After the Skype session, Ladd talked to students and faculty about the unique recycling system that has made Ohio University a leader in sustainability. He provided information into the initiatives that have reduced waste and contributed to more sustainable behavior, and how those initiatives can be applied to filmmaking. He referred to specific products that film crews typically use on set and how they can be harmful to the environment. He also educated the group about contaminants that negatively impact the recycling system and how to avoid contributing to this problem.

O’Connell introduced a system of mixed stream recycling and compost management that the Film division will put into practice. He provided a tutorial on using new, on-set compost buckets and recycling bins, all of which contain labels about material information, instructions and contact info for further questions and concerns. He explained that students should include these compost buckets and recycling bins on set, and after the shoot wraps, return them to the equipment facility on campus where the university has provided a sophisticated recycling system for pick-up. 

O’Connell emphasized that these practices are easy to understand and easy to implement. 

“How do you change behavior? It isn’t that people don’t want to, so you figure out the obstacles and make it as easy as you can,” says O'Connell.

Incorporating more green initiatives within the program has been one of O’Connell’s personal goals during his study. He and his wife, thesis M.F.A. student Kathy Swanson, have implemented sustainability practices in their lifestyle for several years, and they practiced green initiatives within the business they owned in which they recycled roughly 90% of waste each day. O’Connell presented plans to help make OU Film more green to Artistic Director/Head of the Film Division, Steve Ross, who was receptive to new, environmentally responsible practices. O’Connell since developed a system that fits within students’ film production needs and limitations, particularly those related to the production budget.

“Worst-case scenario, nothing has to change," says O'Connell. "Paper plates can be composted. If you buy plastic because it’s cheaper, you just wipe it off and that can go into plastic recycling. The only thing that’s extra is a little bit of sorting time, and that’s it... There is no additional cost.” 

O’Connell’s hope is that these practices will distinguish OU Film from other schools as a progressive program that meets the standards set by major studios. 

“I could have gotten up there and said, ‘You need to do this and this is the way to do it’,” says O’Connell. “But I wanted to get a spokesperson because people are going to go into the industry and people need to hear that it’s being done and it’ll set you apart." 

O’Connell will continue to work within the program to provide greener initiatives for students, while also encouraging them to carry out best practices outlined in The Green Production Guide.