Posted on 22nd February 2021

Jurassic World: Dominion – A Sustainable Production Story

We spoke to Louise Marie Smith, Sustainability Manager on Jurassic World: Dominion about how sustainability was embedded in to the production process

Jurassic World: Dominion will be the third entry in the Jurassic World series from Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment. We spoke to sustainability manager, Louise Marie Smith to gain an insight in to how large studio productions handle sustainability. She has worked on a long list of big budget Hollywood productions including Christopher Robin, No Time to Die and Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw.

With her scientific background and experience working in the environmental management sector, Louise was well placed to take her knowledge and expertise to the film world. She set up Neptune Environmental Solutions in 2007 and began working with the US Studios.

Back then, green runners were a common occurrence on film sets, however they didn’t have the authority or respect needed to enact real change. Louise wanted to change this.

In the past, productions would put a green runner on set with no experience or authority. I wanted to make the sustainability department its own entity, on equal terms with the other departments. It has become my crusade!

— Louise Marie Smith

Sustainability in the US Studio System

“When I was put on my first few jobs, producers and HODs didn’t take sustainability very seriously and I would get pushback on changes such as hiring hybrids for transport because of the upfront cost. The long term budget savings weren’t considered.”

Universal was one of the studios who were supportive when it came to sustainability and gradually, it has become an embedded step of the studio production process.

“I noticed a growing sense of producers and crew wanting it to happen. There’s a desire coming from the top to make film more sustainable, and it’s become more baked in to the production process than most people would think.”

Louise explained that with most major US Studios, sustainability considerations begin even before she comes on board and before the production offices open up.

First on board is the accounts department who use a tagging system which catalogues any item or process that has a carbon footprint, e.g. flights, petrol, a diesel generator, every electricity bill, every hotel room, every house for the actors and so on. They also track materials such as paper and water bottles. The tagging culminates in a C02 report which is similar to the footprint generated by albert’s own carbon calculator.

“Studios have also done a lot of due diligence with waste vendors,” Louise explained. “They require a certain level of reporting and want to know how much waste is being processed and how. For example, they’ll want to know what was done with the wood used on set – was it chipped, incinerated, etc.”

“These companies often need to provide a lot of data and evidence to be added to a studio approved supplier list. This in turn reduces the paperwork needed, insurance costs, and red tape when a new production starts up as these companies are the go-to”.

Working on Jurassic World: Dominion

So what actions did Jurassic World: Dominion specifically take to reduce its environmental impact?

Jurassic World: Dominion was shot at Pinewood Studios, which now runs on renewable energy. For any production, energy use is a huge part of the footprint so being able to use renewable power is always a big plus.

Generators on the shoot used renewable diesel, a fuel made from renewable feedstocks that has approximately 70% less lifecycle carbon emissions than standard diesel, which Louise acknowledges isn’t the perfect solution, but better than the alternatives and that even this change has taken a while to implement.

“It took a long time to convince kit hire companies to agree to renewable diesel being used in their products. These sustainable changes are slow to implement as supply chains are long and the stakes are high on a film set. People don’t want to increase risk, it becomes an insurance issue” said Louise.

Set construction and disposal is another huge part of any feature film’s footprint and Louise acknowledges that while this is an area where there has been improvement, there’s still a long way to go.

“The sets on Jurassic World: Dominion were made with FSC timber which is the standard now, but it needs to be bonded with other materials (foams/paints/poly etc) making it harder to recycle as easily. Also, on a tentpole production like Jurassic World, the sets are huge – they can’t be easily stored for future use. IP (Intellectual Property) also needs to be considered, if the sets are recycled then they need to be done so in a way that protects the film’s IP. This is certainly an area where there’s room for improvement for the whole industry”

One big area of success for the film however was with its key characters: the dinosaurs! The silicon and fibreglass moulds used to make the animatronic dinosaurs were recycled by a company called  Green Clover who were able to melt the materials down so they could be used again.

Solutions were found in areas in which one might assume there isn’t space for sustainability, for example the stunt department. All stunt wire and safety equipment that is attached to actors or stunt people must be brand new in every instance for obvious safety concerns, and cannot be donated or reused afterwards. However, Extreme Rigging, the company which provided the stunt wire, now has a process where they can take used wire, reduce it to its individual fibres and use it to make new stunt wire.

The production team also took the conscious decision to remove beef from their catering menu to keep their catering impact as low as possible too.

Things like bringing your own water bottle to set may get maligned because water bottles are only a fraction of the C02 footprint, but it provides a visual impact and is a positive statement to make on set.

— Louise Marie Smith

COVID and Jurassic World: Dominion

The production of Jurassic World was notably one of the first to resume production after the first national lockdown in the UK and was under scrutiny as a model for other productions which were ready to resume shooting. Louise gave her insight on how COVID rules affected sustainability on the set.

“Beyond working from home, and the huge CO2 savings from reducing flights and overall travel, another benefit was reduced paper use”, Louise said. “The ‘digital office’ was embraced. The attitude pre-COVID used to be ‘please don’t print callsheets/scripts’, which became ‘absolutely do not print anything unnecessary’, once production resumed. Services such as Crew Start, DPO and Docusign as well as digital script editors were already in place, but it really made a difference to our overall paper use compared to similar productions in the past. I don’t think we would have gotten there so quickly had the pandemic not happened.”

Food waste became a fraction of what it was pre-COVID because food tables and platters were completely cut out in favour of individual meals, which added to the changes already implemented in catering such as the elimination of beef from the menu.

COVID did provide new challenges along with the benefits. Firstly, since they were one of the first productions back, it was deemed too much of a risk to use reusable or refillable containers on set. Those guidelines have since shifted, and reusables are now typically allowed if following certain safety protocols. PPE waste was also an issue when it came to responsible disposal. Louise worked with the COVID team to try and overcome these issues.

“We had to think of it as a medium term issue. How can we improve management of the waste streams coming from PPE? It’s important we tackle the issue, however we also know it’s not something we’ll be doing forever. For Jurassic World, it also wasn’t a huge percentage of the overall waste that was coming from the production.”

For the Future

We asked Louise what changes need to happen in the future to keep film production on a sustainable path.

“We need to hold on to the positive changes that have been forced through by COVID restrictions. Flights may resume because executives and producers want to visit the set, but video conferencing has changed the attitude towards in-person meetings, so hopefully there will be a reduction in travel overall. “

Louise believes that the increased exposure of climate and sustainability issues in the public consciousness will continue to be a driver for change in the screen industries.

“The Blue Planet 2 effect is when the tide started to turn, as well as the media coverage of Greta Thunberg’s climate activism. Extinction Rebellion, however, split people. In a few cases their actions turned off some crew members, I considered that a net negative.”

The issue needs to be looked at through an environmental management and sustainability lens rather than a film industry lens. We need to embrace concepts like circular economy within our supply chains and think as a whole industry rather than single productions. One production has no need for their sets and assets after wrap - but by building sustainability into our purchasing and wrap processes, we were able to transfer huge amounts of materials over to future productions and to charities on completion of filming. Despite the considerable successes in reuse of materials that we have in place by working with studio asset co-ordinators, there is still more to do. Ultimately, the changes will have to come from within the industry.

— Louise Marie Smith

Jurassic World: Dominion is set for release in 2022. You can find out more about Louise’s services at the Neptune Environmental Services website and Twitter feed @Neptune_Enviro

All imagery used in this article is the property of Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment.