GRASS fires up with first industry forum

By Simon de Bruyn

Lantana director Ray Lawrence believes the film industry needs to band together and lobby government agencies about the importance of environmentally responsible filming, if any change is to happen, he told an industry forum in Sydney earlier this week.

Speaking as part of a panel at a forum hosted by film critic Nell Schofield and her Getting Real About Sustainable Screens (GRASS) initiative, Lawrence said he was aiming for his next feature, Being Dead, to be entirely carbon neutral.

“It’s obviously a very complicated issue but even though we are a small industry we can lead the way. I think we can and should do something for the planet, and I plan to do something on every film I make from now on,” he said.

“I can say this by myself but things will start to change if we all start to make noise in numbers. We need to be organised and work out some sort of system and then follow it. And then lobby SPAA and the other industry and government bodies.”

Lawrence’s daughter Emma has been integral to the industry’s early commitment to carbon neutrality, founding the Rozelle Protocol with a collective of commercial directors and producers, which aims to reduce and offset emissions on all their shoots.

While the majority of the panel suggested incentives and dialogue with the film industry as the way forward, Carbon Planet founder Dave Sag fired up the forum with his heartfelt beliefs that imposing penalties on filmmakers would be a more effective means to bring change.

“We have allowed wasteful behaviour to become acceptable. You can make a wildlife film and leave your crap everywhere and still be considered a green filmmaker,” he said.

“The film industry is [foolish] if it thinks this won’t be imposed upon them. Frankly I’m over it. I think we should start putting people in prison. I want to see the same penalties for [environmental damage] as what happens when you murder a cat on set during your shoot.

"I’m hardcore about it. I’ve worked with this industry for nine years and being nice to people just gives them permission to keep acting the same way.”

GRASS was launched last year with the backing of the Australian Directors’ Guild. Yesterday, ADG general manager Harriet McKern told INSIDEFILM she believed penalties might come into play in the long run, but for now support and encouragement were the best ways to encourage filmmakers to change their behaviour and thinking.

“The ADG believes its time to support and encourage filmmakers to make changes that ensure their productions cause as little damage to the environment as possible from now on. And that this can be kicked off by changing ingrained attitudes about what has to happen and offering specific, practical and cost saving alternatives,” she said.

“We believe penalties may be enforced further down the track but positive voluntary collective effort can start the ball rolling and make a lot of headway. I personally believe that financial incentives would be a good way to reward change but the GRASS team is divided on this, which is good as debate is healthy.”

For more on this vital topic, specifically how filmmakers are saving money while saving the environment, check out ‘The Bank’ article in the February 2009 edition of INSIDEFILM.