Posted on 22nd July 2019

Robbie Sandison: Production Consultant, Drama

I grew up on the west coast of Scotland surrounded by fresh air and clear water, the connection to the natural environment is something that has never left me. It influences every decision I make but I don’t label myself as a ‘green’ person. I see green issues as real issues, and we’ve all got a stake in a sustainable future.

Reducing the impact of the TV industry is more than an obligation, it’s a simple necessity. Against a backdrop of alarming global challenges, if we want to continue servicing the public then we need to ensure we have a sustainable product. Environmental production certification is a good step in the right direction, making it mandatory would be another.

I became more aware of the impact of TV production when I was working as a Line Producer on the BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford. Looking at the impact of construction, we began making changes to the timber we sourced and the way we disposed of location waste. After making some initial changes it became clear that carbon and money are tightly linked, wherever we reduced our environmental impact, we were likely to make financial savings too.

I was able to carry many of these lessons on to Coronations Street where I was Head of Production for six years. At Corrie I was keen to challenge the perceived position on sustainability, a key component of this was helping the team understand the global environmental challenges we are facing. By educating them through the Carbon Literacy training programme, together we made some fantastic changes. Training is a wise way to spend a sustainability budget; crews have the answers, they just need time to understand what is required.

For productions keen to make greener choices, it is important to have an early conversation with all crew and suppliers. HoDs need to understand what is involved and hold sustainability as a ‘production principle’, I always try and instil a culture ethical production as no one department can make all the changes required. Working together at Corrie we switched to renewable electricity, changed our disposal practices, swapped vehicles for greener options as and when they came up for renewal and engaged with our suppliers. Few of these things are possible though without a senior sustainability champion, someone that can offer crew time to think of improvements and make the budget available.

But, what happens behind the camera is only half the story. When creating a product that is beamed into the homes of millions, I also think we have an obligation to get the environmental messaging right too. Embarrassing or shaming audiences is not helpful, it’s more about showcasing positives images. Environmental movements in fashion, food and electricity are growing across the UK, this is real life, it is just about mirroring the positive changes we are seeing on TV too. This opportunity is completely unique to our industry, and continuing drama have an even greater opportunity as non-direct dialogue can be incredibly impactful. We need to normalise sustainability, not glamorise it.

A good way to approach this is by replicating the changes you might be making to the production process on screen too. If you can reduce your energy footprint by drying costumes on a line rather than in a machine, then why not introduce this into the script!

This is a journey we’re all on together. I don’t fly, I grow my own food and I try and make my purchase decisions carefully, but there is more that I can do and I am determined to keep trying out new things. Whether at home or at work, what makes change possible is having an open mind to new ideas. We are facing so many environmental issues but no end to the ways we can address them. Let’s make a difference together!