Posted on 8th October 2019

How to cut flights from your production

Last month, Gripping Films released a short film in which environmental activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot talk about natural climate solutions and the need to protect, restore and use nature to tackle the climate crisis. The film was timed at a critical point, just days before Greta’s emotional and stinging speech at the UN summit. Director Tom Mustill, who worked with albert to certify the film, was determined to make the film net zero carbon – first by reducing its impact as much as possible and then offsetting the remaining carbon and more.

The first thing Tom did to minimise the impact of the film was to cut the number of shooting hours drastically. Apart from the interviews with Greta and George, Tom realised the other visuals they would need were already out there and began researching Creative Commons licensed footage. Identifying a high proportion of ‘recycled’ material reduced the required shooting days to just two, meaning the highest carbon impact of the film would be traveling the crew to interview George and Greta at their homes.

...for a little more cost and a little more time you can mitigate the biggest environmental impact of your production, which we as an industry have a duty to do.

— Tom Mustill, Director

The solution to reaching George with a low carbon impact was relatively simple, with the crew travelling together in one electric car along with all the kit. Once they had finished up they charged the car at George’s house and drove back. Getting to Greta in Sweden posed a bigger challenge.

Emissions

After measuring the carbon footprint of flying out four crew members, Tom worked out the emissions would be 7 times higher than taking the train. (For a production considering flying first class, emissions would be a shocking 63 times higher than rail travel).

Time and money

Comparing the two standard class options, the cost of the actual transport was almost the same. A higher cost implication came from the two days of travel either side of the shoot to get there, which meant paying the crew for extra days. There were benefits having those days, as it gave them time to prepare the shoot and test the kit on the way out and edit and cut the footage on the way back.

Experience

Travelling by train also gave the crew a satisfying experience, knowing that they were not only making a film with an important environmental message but also not causing massive environmental damage in the process.

7 x lower

Emissions from the crew travelling to Sweden by train vs flying

Rail travel involved slightly more logistical planning, because they had to book separate trains for each leg of the journey and the travel was arranged last minute, however Tom compared the time scale to that of digging through Skyscanner to finding the cheapest flights. When asked if Tom would use trains over flights in the future he said “for a little more cost and a little more time you can mitigate the biggest environmental impact of your production, which we as an industry have a duty to do. It is entirely possible to avoid flying within the UK and Northern Europe, and companies that are choosing to fly people around unnecessarily should realise that they have a choice, and stop.” Tom hopes to lead by example and show other production companies that there are alternatives to flying and there is no excuse not to take them.

At the end of the production Gripping films offset two tonnes of CO2 by planting trees with Mossy Earth, which was 10 times the carbon footprint of the production. We’re very proud that the end board shows shows the albert Sustainable Production logo.

The film went viral and has been seen well over 40 million times. Tom explained “It was tweeted by The Hulk (Ruffalo), The Dude (Jeff Bridges) and presented to the UN with a speech by Harrison Ford (the Fugitive). Justin Trudeau tweeted people to watch it and said Canada was planting 2 billion trees. Not bad for a tiny film.”

If you’re interested in projects that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, get in touch about albert’s Creative Offsets project.