Posted on 7th February 2024

Education Partnership Spotlight: Met Film School Students Explore the Sustainable Efforts of the Film Industries in BeLeaf

Having lost his job as a chef during the Covid lockdowns, film student Josh Walsh decided to take the opportunity to pursue his passionfilmmaking – by studying at the Met Film School. ‘When I was really little, I was in a wheelchair for about six, seven years and my main source of entertainment was films. I’d like to think that maybe one day I can make a film that other people out there will just get enjoyment out of like I did when I was younger.”

Likewise, his peer and collaborator Scott Sullivan found a similar passion for the screen industries. “Nothing quite caught me like films did. I love being able to have something in my head and then put it on screen and everyone can see what you thought. I love doing that.”

Through Screen Sense lessons exploring how the industry functions and evolves as part of their course, the students came into contact with the BAFTA albert Applied Skills for a Sustainable Media Industry module and some of the unsustainable history of the screen industries.

A particular example offered by the Met Film School that stood out to Scott was a production in Zimbabwe that burnt down a whole house for a single shot, or for Josh the fact that some war films dug brand new trenches in the countryside for productions to shoot in.

I didn’t think about how much the planet got destroyed while making a film. And I thought, if I haven’t thought about it and I’m trying to get into the film industry, how many people out there watch films and don’t consider those things one bit?” – Josh Walsh

But the opportunities for sustainable alternatives are out there and may be even more exciting. ‘You can make an explosion with CGI on your computer these days, which is so much better for the environment,’ Scott explains. The abilities of animation, the Unreal Engine, and other technologies available with increasing accessibility can provide so many new ways to tell stories. ‘We’re not completely there yet – we’re not fully sustainable, but we’re at least taking the steps in order to make it a bit better.’

As part of the course, the students had to make a documentary that somehow incorporated sustainability; ‘well, I thought we could actually make a sustainable film about sustainability,’ Josh says. Teaming up with Scott and their crew, the students didn’t set out to make a purely educational video for audiences to understand how far the film industry has come, ‘but to push it even further.’ 

The goal of BeLeaf was really to celebrate how far the screen industries have evolved to be better for the planet, and to share that knowledge to even more audiences. Josh elaborates, ‘I think a good way to learn is through entertainment rather than someone just regurgitating information. To be able to put a visual aspect alongside it really reinforces that message; it’s a different form of education really.’ 

Scott continues, ‘you could write “the house burnt down,” but if you see a house burning down, that’s going to provoke an emotion.’ The moving image industries have a massive opportunity to reach audiences on a personal level. ‘You can feel it on your chest sometimes; you see that it affects the entire world. It really can tug on the heart strings when you see it there in front of you.’ 

Though on a small scale and having only touched on the climate science in the first section of the albert module, the students knew how important it was to make even small changes while shooting to unite with the sustainability they were talking about onscreen. From reminding the crew to think sustainably on the call sheet, downloading shot lists onto phones, and even turning off a TV in the background of their shot after every take. ‘You don’t have to be intimidated by the data or an expert on the science, you can still be making improvements.’