Sustainable Screens Australia signs partner deal with UK’s albert, appoints Maree Cochrane executive director

L: Maree Cochrane, executive director, SSA. R: Director of sustainability at BAFTA and albert director, Carys Taylor.

Sustainable Screens Australia (SSA) provided a progress report today that indicates producers will soon be able to use the UK-developed, BAFTA-owned albert emissions calculator and toolkit to lessen the negative impact of production on the environment.

With five days to go before its official June 13 launch at the Sydney Film Festival, SSA has signed a licensing and partnership deal with the industry-lead albert consortium in the UK (May) and appointed Maree Cochrane as its inaugural executive director (April).

IF understands two learning designers on short-term contracts are busy localising all the albert materials, including training programs.

The albert calculator was originally launched in 2011 and has evolved with UK practitioners’ understanding of and engagement with the toolkit, but it doesn’t necessarily suit the different production landscape in Australia. For example, if the strict rules around domestic air travel in the UK were adopted, it would severely test Australia’s road and rail infrastructure and/or penalise producers for shooting remotely. The necessity for this localisation work means no date is available on when the calculator will be available, but it is imminent. 

“We want people to have a good experience from the get-go and to be properly supported,” says SSA co-chair Anna Kaplan. “As soon as possible after 1 July,” is as specific as she would get.

Some local producers are already calculating their carbon footprints on Australian productions. For example, Fremantle is using albert under a global deal, while others are using bespoke spreadsheets or drawing on what’s available via the US Green Production Guide. Other tools exist specifically for film and television, but SSA judged albert to be most suitable. The alignment represents a milestone for ushering the country’s practitioners into a new era of sustainability in Australia. 

Three years of principally voluntary work by a core group has led to the SSA assuming a national leadership role, but with extensive consultation and support from the industry. 

SSA announced today that eight more entities have stepped up with funding and/or as “foundational members”: Screen Australia, Minderoo Pictures, ITV Studios Australia and Lingo Pictures, sister companies Nine and Stan, Lune Media and the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA). 

ABC, BBC Studios, CJZ, Docklands Studios Melbourne, Disney Studios Australia, Dreamchaser, Film Art Media, Matchbox Pictures, Netflix, Paramount ANZ, Regen Studios, SBS, Screen NSW, Screen Queensland, Screen Tasmania, Shark Island Foundation and VicScreen committed to being on board in 2022. All of them, and fundraising via an Australian Cultural Fund campaign, were all crucial to getting SSA’s start-up budget. 

“It’s very encouraging that all these natural competitors in the industry are working together,” says co-chair Sara Horn, who says ongoing costs will be met by membership fees. 

“We have a tiered model that encompasses consortium, associate member, and affiliate members. We then have partner relationships such as industry, education, commercial and philanthropic partners. The membership fees will enable the tools, resources and training to be free for the whole industry.”

Cochrane’s new gig represents a return to the industry after about a decade, during which she studied and worked in digital learning, sustainability and leadership. She says she has “deeply missed” film and television production – she principally worked as an assistant director – even though she found it “ethically frustrating” at times because of the lack of respect she sometimes witnessed.

She has since worked with the Victorian Government’s digital learning initiative, the Innovation Network, and the Centre for Sustainability Leadership, which closed in 2018.

“To Australia’s screen agencies, production companies, streamers, broadcasters, commissioners, practitioners and international leaders: Let’s get stuck in so we can keep sharing stories from this beautiful place far into the future,” she says. 

Cochrane describes her new gig as a “dream role” and one she wouldn’t have without an “incredible” industry led-collective.

Director of sustainability at BAFTA and albert director Carys Taylor says: “We’re thrilled to be supporting SSA in creating a new vision for productions that puts the planet front and centre. The challenges we face are worldwide, but we can solve them if our partnerships are worldwide too.”

SSA’s original seven-woman management committee comprised Horn, Kaplan, Jennifer McAuliffe, Kate Pappas (treasurer), Tamasin Simpkin, Alex Wasiel (secretary) and Tanzy Owen, who has left to become manager of environmental sustainability at Qantas. The committee will transition into a board once the SSA sets up its structure. 

It is unknown when it will become mandatory for Australian production to adopt sustainability practices and meet sustainability rules, or what that will look like, but it is inevitable.

Later this month IF Magazine will publish a standalone digital magazine, written by George, that explores where the Australian film and television industry is at on sustainability.