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Going Green

PGA Green Outreach Committee ("GO”) collects and shares information about eco-friendly practices in production and is helping to expand the website Committee members Kim Van Hoven and Dan Halperin sat down with PGA producer Fred Baron of 20th Century Fox Studios to hear about the "greening” of his feature The Day the Earth Stood Still.

PGA Green Outreach Committee Co-Chair Fred Baron
Dan: How did the idea originate to pursue sustainability efforts on your film?

It was a corporate idea at FOX, which lined up with the initiatives at our parent company Newscorp. Additionally, it was me saying, "I’m a member of the planet and I want to do my part.” Plus we had actors like Keanu Reeves, who are concerned human beings.

Because of the movie’s theme, it was the perfect vehicle for Fox to initiate its green efforts on the feature side. The theme of the original picture was the Cold War, warning that people had to get together and stop threatening to kill each other with nuclear bombs. While similar, in our remake the plot is more of a Noah’s Ark theme; the aliens are taking two of each species to repopulate the Earth after killing off the human race, and then they’re going to destroy all the remaining humans. They say, "We are an alien race that has lost our planet. You Earthlings know what has to be done to save your planet but you’re not doing it. We know how valuable Earth is and we won’t let you destroy it.”

Kim: Did you have the support of the studio?

From the beginning. We brought in CTP (Change the Picture) Media Consulting and they met with every single department. They were supported by the studio, and Newscorp paid for it, so it didn’t affect the cost of production.

Dan: What are some examples of greening actions that made an impact on the production?

Alternative energy is big in Vancouver, so that helped. We used hybrid automobiles both in front of camera and behind camera. We were green in our set construction and we recycled every possible piece. And we stored sets too so that they could be used on other movies. Every department pitched in.

Vancouver is so far ahead of us. The crews there all had metal water bottles.

They even took them to Starbucks for their coffee. We plan to give those bottles as production gifts instead of T-shirts or hats. FOX donates leftover paint to schools, allowing the schools to mix the colors to fit their needs.

Kim: What was the impact of being green on your budget?

It was really minimal. Maybe $20,000 to $30,000 extra to have a construction crew break down the sets in the proper way so that they could be recycled or stored. It may have cost us a little more in the wrap because it’s easier to bulldoze and dump, but this was a cost we accepted. It’s also a savings in efficiency. PAs don’t print paper call sheets, get in the car, drive to the hotel and throw them under the door of every hotel room. We made sure the crew knew that they were responsible for checking their e-mail for any changes.

Dan: What other ways do you think the film industry can become more eco-friendly?

Everyone’s thinking "solar power.” We’re not quite there yet as far as the amount of wattage we need to run the lights. But the electricity that comes from the power companies … we make sure that it is as green as possible. And post has become greener too, just through advances in technology. The director is getting communication on the set directly from the cutting room, which is in another city; at the same time he/she’s having videoconferences with a visual effects house in Wellington, New Zealand, thousands of miles away on another continent. You don’t have to make a print, drive it to the airport, put it on a plane and ship it in order to screen it. That’s getting green just through technology.

"Unless the producer says, "Do it,” no one on the production is going to take the initiative on their own."

Kim: What do you see as the specific role of producers in achieving sustainability in production?

It’s up to producers to carry the flag and make sure that everybody on their production plays a role in being green. Producers can encourage their departments to take advantage of the resources provided by the Producers Guild, the Green Production Alliance, and EISI. Unless the producer says, "Do it,” no one on the production is going to take the initiative on their own.

The Producers Guild is thrilled to push the green agenda. We’re not going to change the world alone and in one fell swoop, that’s impossible. But the producer’s job is to encourage: encourage our actors to give the best performance, encourage our designers to design the best set, encourage our stunt coordinators to come up with really cool ideas. At the same time, we're encouraging each department to encourage their teams to be green.

The producer is a leader. This isn’t about weekend box office. This is about making a grip, an electrician, a caterer, a production coordinator, a PA, an actor ask, "What can we do to make our production as green as possible from prep to delivery?” Unfortunately, a well-run production does not necessarily make a movie great. But a production that’s run green will be successful in helping make a better environment and a better world.