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Dying To Be Green: Who Ever Guessed Zombies Could Help Save The Planet?

Posted By Krishna Devine, Thursday, October 22, 2015


At a recent PGA Green meeting I was inspired to utilize the green solutions we had discussed for so long. As a committee member I’ve been active promoting our eco-friendly resources, but I realized that the best way to walk the walk was to see what it would really take to make my entire next production green. So I decided to fund and create an original video with a green message while also using the PGA Green Best Practices outlined in the PGA Green Production Guide for my ultra-micro budget production. Thus was born Green Zombies, an eco-comedy thriller short film.


Fellow producer Stephen Niver and his wife Cynthia agreed to let me film at their home. I already knew I was not going to allow single-use plastic water bottles on set and I knew we’d be moving around a lot, so we used Brita Sport bottles. These nifty little BPA-free bottles come with their own filters, so you can fill up at any water tap. The average person will get 1-2 months use out of a single filter.

Price-wise, this was not the cheapest solution for a short film or web video, but since most of the cast and crew agreed to work pro bono, it was a good solution to eliminate waste and give them some small reward for their efforts. Had this been a full-length feature, the savings would have been huge.


Green Zombies was filmed outside because it served the story while the use of natural light served the green set goals. Director of photography Amanda Treyz is a whiz with the Canon DLSRs, so we shot principally on the 7D, using the 5D for some pick-up shots. The great thing about shooting fully digital is that the capture and imaging process is completely green.

However, there were some shots that required lighting, so we used flat LED panel lights powered by rechargeable Duracell batteries. LED lights are great — they don’t heat up the talent’s makeup and there is no need to wait for them to cool. (This all saves time, which of course in turn saves money.)

Kevin Bocarde was in charge of capturing the audio onto a Zoom H4N audio recorder, which saves the audio to micro SD cards. We powered the device with rechargeable batteries.

For meals, I bought fruits and vegetables from a local farmers’ market, and the rest was purchased in bulk to save on packaging waste. We offered a buffet-style lunch served on recycled paper products. The recycled paper plates added a little more to our budget than styrofoam, but it was a small price to pay considering the environmental impact of choosing styrofoam. Also, the paper took up less space when we disposed of the garbage at the end of the day.

We were also able to green some elements of production design and wardrobe. Marcus Niehaus, Tom Mesmer, Shannon Murray and Ikuo Saito—our zombies—offered to wear used clothing they were already planning to donate.

The lead and only living human in the story, Kristen Nedopak, wore her own jewelry and used props she had at home. She is a seasoned production person and founder of the Geekie Awards Show, so she has a garage full of items she reuses as often as possible. In addition to the wardrobe elements, she loaned us ice coolers and a few other odds and ends.

Set dresser Renee Bocarde donated recycled birthday party decorations and other members of the cast and crew donated what they could.

Our makeup lead, Zach Baker, planned the makeup application in a way that would use up as few resources as possible and production manager Louise Hart worked double time to make sure we always had fresh batteries or that waters were topped off.


The film’s post workflow was entirely digital. At one point I had to ship the edited film and audio on a thumb drive to Kyle Walters-Sheaffer in Portland, Oregon, so he could mix the audio and color correct the film. New York illustrator and artist Grace Kang designed the zombie man on the poster, with all files created and delivered digitally.


Green Zombies has played in a couple of eco-themed film festivals including the Toronto Beaches Film Festival and the May Day Sustainability Shorts Film Festival. We’re waiting to hear back from a few others and after the festival run, the short will be posted to PGA Green’s website for all to see.


The biggest lessons I learned while creating this project have been: a) The Green Production Guide truly is helpful and offers some great tips; b) If all the department heads understand the importance of why we green sets and are given the tools to do so, they are for the most part on board; and c) It is very easy to eliminate single-use water bottles from any set without making your cast and crew go thirsty.

Throughout the Green Zombies production, I explained to the cast and crew why we were approaching common production practices differently and it was fun to watch them embrace green production and ultimately become advocates for it.

My advice to producers on both large and small productions is to introduce the Green Production Guide to their department heads at the beginning of each production, and work as a team to see what elements can be greened. It’s really not that difficult, and in many cases greening a production can save time and money. ¢

For more on how we greened Green Zombies, check out

Makeup lead Zachary Alden Baker works his magic on cast member Ikuo Saito.


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