The green transition in the audiovisual sector

Rosa García Loire (President of the Spanish Network of Audiovisual Clusters)

Opinion article

The audiovisual sector is accelerating its transition to sustainability, as other industrial sectors such as agri-food and energy have done in the past, and as others will inevitably have to do. In the environmental crisis that the planet is currently experiencing, cinema is characterised by the high roaming involved in filming, the large infrastructure of sets that, in many cases, even if it seems implausible, are still usable and disposable, and by its high energy consumption.

It is no longer just a matter of values and environmental awareness; producers are increasingly under pressure to implement sustainability measures that reduce the carbon footprint of their shootings for a variety of reasons. The first is increasing regulation by public administrations. The ICAA (Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts), for example, in its lines of assistance to carry out audiovisual productions, gives, since 2022, one more point in the scale to those projects that include a system for measuring and recording environmental impact and reducing the carbon footprint.

For their part, the major content platforms, for the most part driven by the philosophy of their American companies, are imposing ever more stringent environmental protection requirements on the producers they hire to produce their series and films. Added to all this is the widespread proliferation of green labels, guides and decalogues of good practice that have emerged from both public and private initiatives to try to update the audiovisual sector on issues of sustainability and environmental responsibility.

It is easy to foresee that what today are mostly recommendations for a more sustainable audiovisual production will sooner rather than later become mandatory requirements with a great weight on the viability of a project. Producers and professionals who are better prepared for this transition will have more options to continue in the industry.

However, not everything depends on the producers. The lack of sustainable options in many links of the audiovisual value chain, the inequalities between these services in different territories or the lack of “green” suppliers are factors that make it very difficult to reduce the carbon footprint of some shootings. A clear example is the lack of availability of power generators.

In addition, higher costs in a constantly changing sector are slowing down this transition and specific support is needed to make the audiovisual sector truly sustainable. For an effective transition, information and outreach are also needed. There are many small producers implementing sustainable measures in their filming without even being aware of it, measures that can be as simple as making trips by public transport or shared vehicles, simply for reasons of saving time and budget, while other large productions continue to use private transport, practically individual, to move actors and actresses. This is why there is a great need for sustainability training, specific training for the various departments and professionals involved in filming and, of course, the introduction of sustainability modules into the curricula of universities, training centres and technical schools where future professionals in the audiovisual sector are trained.

All this while looking for a way to reach a consensus among the sea of seals and certifications in force, so that there are certain common criteria that make us all governed by the same standards. This will make it easier to make the concept of green shooting a more tangible reality, without falling into the superficiality of the famous greenwashing.