Posted on 18th December 2023

Scrapper Shows Small Indies Can Still Make Lasting Waves with Sustainable Productions

The BFI-backed debut from writer/director Charlotte Regan paints a heart-warming tale of community and belonging on our screens – read on to find out how that ethos was replicated in the sustainable efforts of the behind-the-scenes team.

Indie feature Scrapper premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize for the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Written and directed by Charlotte Regan, it tells the story of resourceful 12-year-old Georgie who, living alone in an east London flat, must confront a new reality when her estranged father returns. Unmoved by his presence, Georgie resists her father’s attempts to connect as they both adjust to their new circumstances. The production team took a pragmatic approach to sustainability off screen, focusing on key areas of environmental impact to reduce their footprint, while featuring positive messages to engage audiences on screen.

On-screen Sustainability Can Be Quiet and Still Have a Big Impact

Scrapper’s narrative of a working-class community story didn’t need to put environmental messages on-screen. But the team found that thinking about even small editorial aspects of sustainability during development could highlight these as particular strengths in the story for audiences to understand.

When we came to examine the script with that sustainability lens that we realised there were lots of things that could be portrayed on screen to demonstrate sustainable behaviour.’ – Jennifer Monks, Co-Producer

Scrapper’s script featured a ton of bikes and public transport as an intrinsic part of the story and filming location in east London. The film also shows frequent repurposing of materials on screen, recycling things to create other, new things. So, when the team did a sustainability analysis on the script, they were really pleased with the messages that were sitting there underneath the main narrative.

I'd say to producers - and all the creative team - that doing that kind of script sustainability pass early on can be quite refreshing, and it avoids a daunting task once everyone's busy in prep. Quite often there are behaviours that can be shown on screen that don't need a heavy hand but are sustainable in their own right. It's thinking about how the character behaves or what they do

— Jennifer Monks, Co-Producer

The shoot effectively took over a council estate during the summer holidays, and the team took their responsibility of looking after the local area seriously. They found spaces that weren’t in use or were abandoned as their primary sets, and even used local buildings as unit bases instead of bringing in facility vehicles.

If you’re basing yourself in an urban area, especially an estate where you’re really relying on that community, then think about not bringing everything in – it has a great environmental and cost benefits and means you’re working more holistically with the existing buildings and spaces that are part of that community.’ – Jennifer Monks, Co-Producer

When crewing up, transport to location was one of the key things the production took into consideration. From as early on as getting HoDs on board, the team made it clear that they didn’t want everyone to drive for two connected practical reasons: sustainability and the impact of that volume of cars on the local neighbourhood. Luckily, the shoot took place almost entirely in one location and when studio days were required, the team chose hotels with the best green policies.

Challenges came when the production inevitably had to go out on the move and the bigger transport needs kicked in. But even here the production team were thinking as green as they could, encouraging departments to share vans and fill them up, rather than driving two half empty vehicles to the same place.

Scrapper also worked a lot with local crew, which not only cut down on transport demand, but also gave the production insider knowledge of the area and ensured the film benefitted people in the community beyond the short time it filmed there.

As a regional producer, I’m a big fan of deploying regional knowledge. The importance of a good local location manager and local crew can’t be stressed enough. That even extends to newer entrants to the industry who may not have all the experience you need, but they can make up for that by awareness of the local area.’
– Jennifer Monks, Co-Producer

Changing Supply Chains

As the production was filming in London, they were able to take advantage of the infrastructure for electric or hybrid vehicles when hiring taxis, couriers, and other vehicles. An e-bike was even used for a tracking shot!

But the production noted the luxury of being the greater London area, and how important it was for them to consider their supply chain as early as possible: where they hired equipment from, how near it was to the location, and if there were alternative suppliers within or closer to the community they would be filming in.

We also encouraged suppliers we were working with to sign up for albert, because at the end of the day it makes them more employable. For example, on other productions I’ve heard unit drivers realise that it could be a marketing advantage for them.’ – Jennifer Monks, Co-Producer

The hardest thing for Scrapper was changing catering to prioritise meat-free meals, but the production managed to end up serving more vegan meals than any other option. Talking with the caterers early on was a good starting point – asking if they would avoid beef, where they were sourcing food from, and if they could ensure good quality vegan and veggie options.

I've found that caterers have sometimes come to me and said, ‘You've got a lot more vegans than you think, we've been running out’ and it's because the non-vegans saw that it looked good and wanted to try it! So don't assume that vegan and veggie options should be for the minority if it's so good that everyone wants it

— Jennifer Monks, Co-Producer

Green Memos and Greener Heroes

Having sent out a green memo at the start of filming, the producers took it further by incentivising crew with a weekly Green Hero award to celebrate the best sustainability efforts. Not only did it make the set fun, but it proved that sustainability didn’t have to be hard work and engaged people from every corner of the filmmaking process.

Scrapper features a very specific tower prop that had to be constructed for the narrative of the film. The Art Department and construction team were awarded Green Heroes of the Week by using scrap metal, junk yard finds, and other things that would otherwise have gone to landfill, to build this and put those objects at the heart of the on-screen story and character’s journey.

One of our runners received the Green Hero award one week as she ensured that any leftover food was passed to the local foodbank. That came off her own bat, because of her values and ethics, and she felt safe asking if it was OK to do that because we created that kind of culture. It emphasises the importance of setting your stall out early, so crew will offer their own ideas too.’ – Jennifer Monks, Co-Producer

The costume department were awarded the Green Heroes title another week, thanks to their use of second-hand clothing, as well as hires and repurposing of costumes. From a cost point of view, it was also perfect – on a low budget, reusing, repurposing, recycling makes sense.

Getting your green memo out there and engaging with HODs early is key. It’s about building up that culture from the first stages of prep. We thought the earlier that was introduced, the more people could get on board with it, such as making suggestions of actions to take. The earlier people understand the ethos of the production, that you care about the environment and the planet, the better the chances of them engaging.’
– Jennifer Monks, Co-Producer

Scrapper released in UK cinemas on 25 August. Watch the trailer over on YouTube.

Find out more about Scrapper over at IMDB.

This case study was undertaken with the support of the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery, as part of the Sustainable Screen Fund to support all BFI National Lottery awardees in building environmental understanding and action on positive environmental change. Find out more about our partnership with the BFI here.