Posted on 10th April 2020

Noughts and Crosses

The team behind hit drama Noughts and Crosses describe how they were awarded 3 stars despite the challenges of filming their big budget TV show abroad.

How to score 3 (stars) in a row

Words – Howard Ella,
Joint Head of Production, Mammoth Screen

When we first began production of Noughts + Crosses in 2018 we were very conscious of the potential impact of such a large scale shoot. Our concerns didn’t just stem from the impacts of flying cast and a few core team from the UK, but also the levels of transport and sheer number of crew that we would be using on a daily basis.

We were also unsure as to what facilities would be available in Cape Town and the surrounding region and whether the industry in South Africa would be able to mirror the approach we have adopted in recent years in the UK through albert footprinting and certification.

Thankfully, there was no need for concern about an awareness to sustainability and its role in the TV industry.

Fresh, local produce was offered to crew at mealtimes
Fresh, local produce was offered to crew at mealtimes
Production sustainability is now high up on the agenda in South Africa
Production sustainability is now high up on the agenda in South Africa

After a recent long drought in the Cape Town region water levels were at a real low with water rationing in place and serious worries about the future supply for the city. This had led to a real environmental awareness across South Africa and particularly in the production sector.

Adding to this Film Afrika, our production service partner, had established Green Set, a sustainability initiative for film and TV production. Supported by local resource and a 0.5% fringe on the crew budget, it provided specialist knowledge where needed and funded a Green Set Monitor throughout the shoot to keep the production on a green track.

On a production level we were keen to hit the ground running sustainably and low hanging fruit such as going paperless was embraced instantly by the entire team with links and downloads replacing the daily photocopier run.

We also took things one step further than a green memo. Crews were asked to sign up to a pledge. A promise from every single team member that they would actively play their part in creating a more sustainable working environment.

— Howard Ella

However, there were more exiting innovations round the corner. In addition to our usual monitoring of waste, recycling, re-use where possible and tracking of fossil fuel usage there were some great ideas in play that we hadn’t hit in the UK. The Green Set Monitor collated data to a level way beyond what we would normally expect for standard albert footprinting. This meant that the teams had a real eye on what resource was used and what could be reduced.

Innovation was already in play. Water was sourced from trailers and bowsers that were moved from location to location – no plastic bottles here. Entrepreneurs were pulling water from the air with state of the art technology and there was a real awareness of human impact.

One of the most exciting contributions came from our caterers. Owing to their rural setting they had a large farm and grew the vast majority of the vegetables and fruit we served to our crews. The food waste was returned to the farm and composted for use on the fields. They also provided some of the water used from springs on the farm. A truly sustainable approach to feeding our team.


Food for the crew was grown on the local farm
Food for the crew was grown on the local farm
Food waste was composted on site
Food waste was composted on site

Of course, with a large scale shoot, it’s almost impossible to reduce to zero emissions by sustainability initiatives alone. We took the decision to off-set any remaining emissions though an approved scheme is South Africa. The cost of off setting was covered by the Green Set fringe and our monitor provided research and options on how and where we could invest our carbon credit. We chose the Kuyasa project, managed by Credible Carbon, and helped put solar water heaters, energy efficient lighting and insulation into homes in one of the poorest and most vulnerable parts of the Western Cape.

The whole experience was a real success and we learned a lot about opening up to new ideas along the way.

At Mammoth Screen we were really excited about this approach to sustainability and we now, after the experiences in South Africa, intend to build on our pro-active approach and also offset all our emissions on an ongoing basis. For us it’s a real story of success.