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The Filmmakers Alliance: Sustainable Production for the Sake of the Planet

December 8, 2022
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10 min read

LBB speaks to Remote Filming and other intrepid business leaders who are asking the industry to rethink production requirements and pursue greener remote alternatives.

Outside-the-box thinking is crucial when it comes to resolving a crisis. When it comes to a crisis as far gone as global warming, however, ideas alone aren’t enough – immediate action is needed. 

The very nature of filmmaking is collaborative, it is a labour-intensive industry, and for a long time this meant the more hands on deck the better. A seismic shift was brought about by the pandemic, as everyone from indie filmmaker to flashy agency exec was forced to rethink their approach to production. During this time, remote shoots offered to protect the crew, while simultaneously protecting the planet. Once the industry was grounded, the positive effects on the environment were huge, with the IEA (International Energy Agency) reporting that in 2020 global emissions “plunged by almost 2 billion tonnes” – the largest absolute decline in history. As worsening global warming becomes an undeniable reality, concern for the future is mounting, as more consideration is given to the fragility of our home.

Up until 2020, much of the creative industry had been granted a free pass for its contribution to environmental devastation, with film production being one of the worst offenders. Committed to forging a future of more sustainable, streamlined and flexible solutions - changing the industry’s reputation in the process - next-generation production companies Remote Filming, HomeTeam and Travlrr, part of the Clickon Group, have bolstered their efforts to appeal to every member of the creative pipeline by developing new approaches which require less manpower.

LBB’s April Summers hears from those leading the remote revolution; Anthony Barry, co-founder of innovative streaming service, Remote Filming; Harrison Winter and Brandon Bloch, two of the founding partners of the boundary-defying global production company, Hometeam; and Darren Khan, CEO and founder of sustainable production and technology company, Travlrr. Here, these business leaders discuss the changing face of production, their role as sustainability partners of planet earth and why eco-conscious production calls for more than paper cups and a vegan menu.

Changing Attitudes

As gatekeepers of the big creative ideas, agencies tend to be the first port of call for a brand or client, in the creative process. This means brands and agencies are able to set a precedent early on, laying down the law when it comes to the environmental expectations of a project. Actively engaging with sustainability goals and advocating for the greenest possible options available - from the very start of the creative process - is what Anthony Barry, co-founder of remote-working shooting service, Remote Filming, believes to be the antidote.

Anthony has been working with brands and agencies since first launching the remote viewing software platform in 2018 - two years before the global pandemic took hold - when he first demonstrated the service’s capabilities to Saatchi & Saatchi. 

Developed to demonstrate what remote shooting is capable of, Remote Filming has proven its worth as an environmentally-conscious solution to a very real problem, and Anthony is keen to show the industry how the service can help them achieve carbon neutrality. “We ensure quick, easy, 100% secure viewing from anywhere in the world, to anywhere in the world, requiring very low internet upload connections and transmitting content with near-zero latency and minimal equipment,” he explains. “Remote Filming requires only a laptop and the internet, no specialist equipment or technicians and so it is a really simple and easy-to- set-up streaming system and a sustainable solution to the current universal problem of disposable travel in film productions.”

Remote Filming has a role in production of all kinds, short-form and long-form, and has seen a dramatic uptick in use by film production companies in particular. However, Anthony feels there is still a way to go when it comes to convincing agencies and brands of the financial and environmental value of remote production.“While there are no enforced travel regulations or restrictions - yet - it is still important for brands and agencies to do what they can to lessen their carbon footprint and reduce climate damage,” explains Anthony. “Our calculations indicate that Remote Filming helps companies save up to 75% of their travel and hospitality budget if they're spending a million ‘travel pounds’ a year.” Transporting teams across the world to execute a campaign has been advertising’s trademark approach for a long time - for the alleged value-added to the craft or simply to satisfy the desire to embark on an international trip - but leaders like Anthony are confident they can convince brands and agencies that neither the craft or the team need suffer as a result of less travel. 

Allies in the advertising world have the power to help push this agenda by vouching for the alternatives. One such ally is Mark Graeme, executive producer at AMV BBDO and head of Flare Productions, who is glad to see that remote shoots weren’t written off as purely a temporary solution during COVID, but accepts that the industry is in need of an attitude adjustment. “The technology is there with regards to streaming, curated playback options, channels for discussion and feedback amongst those not on-set, so the only barrier is one of behavioural uptake,” Mark explains. “Our experience has been that [remote production] works well – particularly for international shoots where it doesn’t make commercial or climate sense for everyone involved to travel.” In his role at AMV BBDO, Mark has seen a slew of varied and innovative sustainability initiatives come into force over the last decade, and finds this to be an encouraging indication of much-needed change. What both Mark (agency-side)  and Anthony (production-side) hope to see more of next is a widespread willingness to genuinely embrace new ways of working for the sake of the planet, as opposed to keeping up appearances. “It’s about changing habits – choosing to use remote streaming technology as part of the pre-production planning, rather than in a last minute scramble to make the shoot greener,” says Anthony.

All Less Hands on Deck

Remote Filming’s model is unique in its ability to eradicate the need for local or international travel by providing a high quality, remote viewing streaming service, while saving productions time and money on every shoot. As Anthony says, “Removing the need for specialist crew or equipment makes it easier on budgets. Without the need for everyone to be on set or location, it saves the cost of flights, hotels, taxis, hospitality, and so on. Often the client and agency on the shoot are really only needed for a few minutes to sign off the product shots, hair and make-up, or for a particular take. Using Remote Filming is like having a virtual video village on your desk, while you get on with all the other work you have to do, not hunched in the corner of a studio on your laptop in the half-light. Remote streaming is so much more productive for clients, too.”

Conducive to positive and much needed change in the industry, Remote Filming is a service that is being pursued by other start-ups in the space, such as Travlrr, a company that has  taken the concept of sustainable production to the Nth degree. Darren Khan, founder and CEO of Travlrr helps brands remove their carbon footprint in production by offering new ways of creating content that doesn’t involve flying teams around the world. Like Anthony, he has witnessed reluctance from clients when it comes to eradicating the need for unnecessary travel. “At the beginning there was resistance because team members personally didn’t want to lose creative control,” he explains, “But the pandemic made everyone come together to think about the world as more of a single voice and we realised we have to consider the impact on our planet.”

Having founded Travlrr in 2018, like Anthony, Darren is also accustomed to the common excuses made in defence of international travel, and is well-versed in persuading brands and agencies to pursue more sustainable options. By offering a production partnership, Travlrr connects clients with talented local crews, removing the need for big teams to fly out to parts unknown. “Sustainability factors are almost mandatory on every pitch now,” Darren points out, before reiterating the need for brands and agencies to lead by example, “You can’t become sustainable overnight. It has to start right at the top, trickling down from C-Suite to the creative directors. Before anything else, brands must ask themselves ‘can we deliver that in a sustainable way?’ as opposed to considering this in pre-production and asking the production company to get some paper cups and do a vegan lunch.” 

Anthony has also seen this far-less-effective bottom-up approach, which includes measuring CO2e after the event, rather than reducing carbon emissions and embedding sustainable production into the fabric of every production. “AdGreen, AdNetZero and the Sustainable Production Alliance in the US (to name a few) are doing fantastic work and, by working together, we can make the change that’s needed. The technology, experience and know-how are here now so what’s stopping us all moving much faster?”

Darren echoes these sentiments, citing the dedicated work of AdGreen. “Initiatives like AdGreen and AdNetZero are setting standards for the entire industry and driving this debate about net zero.” By delivering a remote production ecosystem that follows the key tenets of AdGreen, Travlrr uses the Carbon Calculator to assess the environmental impact of a project. “Our technology platforms allow clients to upload the assets to go into post and keep sight of everything that's been filmed, implementing typical tools used for feedback during post. Then, we send a document created in partnership with AdGreen to clients, which outlines how we can assist them in achieving a more sustainable shoot, along with a form which allows us to calculate their carbon footprint.”

Mark is also keen to praise industry initiatives that are working to clean up the industry’s act. “It’s great to see so many varied and innovative sustainability initiatives coming into force, like AdNetZero, which has built an integrated roadmap and goal for us all to collaborate on hitting. As they identified, business travel (particularly flying) contributes over 60% of an agency’s emissions. So, reducing the volume and frequency of production flights really helps in the fight to reduce emissions. Plus, it means we can embrace and experiment with other local technologies such as remote or virtual production” he says approvingly. 

Think Global, Film Local

Another fantastic remote production provider working towards changing practices for the greater good is Hometeam. Defining the company as “production without boundaries” Hometeam has mirrored the tenets of Remote Filming and cultivated a local support system for global productions. Along with his co-founders, Brandon Bloch and Lagan Sebert, Harrison Winter is immensely proud of the problem-solving he and his team provides, and insists the benefits are multifold. “It's beautiful because we are able to support local filmmakers; there is no need for them to get on a plane and leave their home and family every time they need to earn a paycheck,” he explains. “You’re filming an international project with a local crew who speaks the native language, knows local cultures and understands the cultural norms of a place. We have seen these crews be able to connect with on-camera talent in a way that a visiting crew simply wouldn’t. This is the same for our clients in film and TV, as it is for the advertising agencies and their clients that we work with.”

“We're trying to remind people that we uncovered a lot of really great benefits in the past few years and we don't want to turn the clock back, we want to keep pushing in this direction,” explains director and co-founder, Brandon, “Call it remote production or call it global production on a local level, there's so many sustainable options we're just starting to uncover and we'd love for more people to embrace them.” 

On the subject of the benefits, Anthony agrees wholeheartedly with Hometeam: “We take our role very seriously – we are proud to be a part of the drive and ambition to reduce the industry’s effect on the environment and increase the sustainability of each production, including all new models of production, such as like-minded companies Hometeam and Travlrr.”

“Remote Filming is a facilitator, a technical tool, that takes nothing from the creative process, or quality of a production. It works for models championed by Hometeam and Travlrr - and all shoots - because it’s been developed by film professionals for film professionals. It’s the perfect tool for the job, and for the environment.”

By working in unison, companies like Remote Filming, Travlrr and Hometeam are cultivating a brighter, more realistic future for production. “We are all aligned in our determination to prove this is a better way. Remote production is faster, it's cheaper and it's better for the environment. Better creativity is unlocked, a better experience for the filmmakers, a better experience for on-camera talent,” states Harrison plainly. “When clients give it a shot they realise they are not compromising but actually stepping into a new age of production.”

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