SA Film: Sustainable Production Forum

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Ongoing drought provides the impetus for a wider shift towards responsible production practices in South Africa’s film and media industry leads to the establishment of a sustainable production forum by founding members WrapZERO, Film Afrika and Callsheet.


As all industries operating in Cape Town get to grips with the 1 in 300-year drought gripping the City, the film and media industry has been creative in dealing with the fallout. Negative international coverage of DayZERO is said to be impacting forward bookings, amid reassurances from officials that the campaign was mainly aimed at getting residents – the biggest consumers – to reduce water usage.

Proactive production companies, suppliers and studios are overhauling their processes to ensure efficient water savings measures are implemented and closely monitored, as well as directly communicating to clients around the globe that Cape Town is – and will remain – open for business.

Practices that support long-term water security prepare early adopters for the stricter water regulations the City of Cape Town is likely to introduce for the industry. Yet the crisis also highlights the need to look beyond the immediate pressure of water to the bigger issue of true sustainability across the film and media industry.

“We fully acknowledge the seriousness of the water situation – and not just in Cape Town but in several regions across the country. The steps being taken by the City are very necessary, while the innovative practical solutions rolled out by many industry role-players show how the level of resilience is already increasing,” says WrapZERO, a consultancy focusing on sustainable resource use and efficiencies in film and media production.

“At the same time, we urge production companies, suppliers, studios, government and industry bodies to consider how current choices will affect the industry’s triple bottom line in the future. ‘The New Normal’ requires a systemic approach to fully unlock the potential positive feedback between profit, people and the environment.

“We need to examine every business decision – big or small – through the lens of sustainability and longer-term impact. For example, on-set caterers can replace glass, metal and ceramic cutlery and crockery with disposable alternatives to save on water for washing up, but that creates more waste. Using biodegradable disposable alternatives is ideal, but only when they do actually end up on a compost heap and not in a landfill.

“It’s about looking at the bigger picture and being aware of intended and unintended consequences of our actions. Building relationships with product and service suppliers that can evolve with you will be key in the journey towards sustainability.”

In other film regions such as the US, Canada, UK and Europe much progress has been made towards responsible production guidelines, including voluntary certification systems. WrapZERO is driving the process in South Africa to ensure that we remain on par with global best practice by facilitating the establishment of an industry-wide forum.

The Sustainable Production Forum (working title) aims to represent a range of interested parties including industry organisations, production companies, studios, suppliers and government departments. The goal of the forum will be to promote responsible practices within the film and media industry through advocacy, awareness raising and promoting sustainable principles through sharing information and collaboration. Ultimately this industry-driven initiative will be able to recommend minimum standards that can feed into a local certification process that links up with international best practice.

First to step up as a founder partner is progressive production company Film Afrika, which has already made significant process in reviewing and adapting practices across departments: “Film Afrika focuses on the three pillars of responsible, sustainable film production – environmental, social and economic. We would like to encourage all IPO and CPA members, and other film industry representative bodies to get involved in the Sustainable Production Forum so that we can charter the best way forward for our unique industry.”

Third founding member Callsheet is Africa’s leading film industry publication. It too is committed to seeing the production industry grow to become more sustainable. “Because we’re based in Cape Town,” says Publisher Lance Gibbons, “we’ve experienced the effects of the drought on the industry first-hand. We understand the importance of ensuring that water is not only saved, but that greener options can be found across the management of production shoots. I’ve been particularly impressed at the speed and efficiency with which the industry reacts to situations like this and creates off-the-grid solutions for productions. This, in turn, has assisted in catapulting the awareness of greening and environmental challenges to new levels. We as a company are dedicated to championing sustainable solutions and assisting in driving the industry forward.”

Industry members and role-players are invited to join WrapZERO and Film Afrika in taking the lead towards sustainable best practice beyond Cape Town and DayZERO. Please contact Liesl Hattingh from WrapZERO at 064 686 2434 or to register your interest in the Sustainable Production Forum.



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