San Sebastián 2021 – San Sebastián Industry
Industry Report: Green Industry Initiatives and Sustainability
San Sebastián's European Film Forum focuses on what we need (and what we have) in terms of green production
Professionals are asking for direct intervention from the institutions to establish green standards within the value chain, so that the audiovisual sector can lead the environmental shift
After the pandemic has shaken the film industry to its very core, the participants in the European Film Forum of this year’s San Sebastián International Film Festival are convinced about one thing: we need to keep focusing on doing something about what reportedly caused 2020's pandemonium: the climate crisis. Under the title "Green Deal: Challenges or Opportunities for the European Audiovisual Industry?" and moderated by Elena Neira, the event gathered experts to discuss the steps that the industry needs to take right now.
In her introduction, Lucía Recalde, Head of Unit Audiovisual Industry and Media Support Programmes at the European Commission, underlined the importance of the green and the digital transitions “as the two driving forces that are fuelling the transformation of the industry”. This agenda, a process further accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis, has prompted the European Union to adopt the new Creative Europe 2021-2027 programme with a significant budget increase (of 80%), and to implement it together with the Media and Audiovisual Action Plan in conjunction with the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), an unprecedented recovery plan for Europe with a total budget of €723.8 billion. Recalde added, “Some points have been revamped after the pandemic, such as ensuring a level playing field for traditional audiovisual players and the VoD services, supporting innovative tools to experiment with data, and establishing a number of measures that will incentivise green practices. We have launched the green dialogue with the industry because there is no time; it has to be done now, and in order to do this, we are focusing on two particular topics: the alignment of the carbon calculators and the creation of a European green label.”
“We have to make it mandatory: the only way to achieve a green industry is to have a green deal. It has to come from above all the way to the bottom,” according to Spain’s Álvaro Longoria, vice-president of the European Producers Club and producer at Morena Films. “It's all well and good to have producers making their shoots green, but it’s not the right way to do it, because we have to please bigger clients, and they are the ones that have to want them to be green – and the only way to achieve this is to force every production broadcast in Europe to have a green label. Until the change happens, it’s very hard – and we are running out of time,” he added vehemently.
Hungary’s Zsofia Szemeredy, sustainability consultant and development executive and co-founder at Green Eyes Production, agreed on the need for rules and policies, but also pointed out the responsibility of the consumer. “We have to educate people. The consumer has the biggest responsibility – they are the ones we are trying to please with our products, and if they want it to be green, it will be green,” she added. “We can even introduce the actual discussion into the audiovisual content itself for the audience to be aware, and some writers are already doing this. There is a clear example in the Netflix series Sex Education. We know it’s not enough, but we have to attack from every possible angle,” she continued.
The alignment of carbon footprint calculators, tools conceived to estimate the carbon emissions from professional activities in order to offset them, played a big role in the discussion, too. Spain’s Paloma Andrés Urrutia, co-founder of Fiction Changing the World and Mrs. Greenfilm, stated, “It’s going to happen soon, and major players are going to comply with it. There are already BAFTA’s albert, Interreg Europe’s Eureca and the one created by the USA’s PGA. However, calculators only tell you your footprint; they don’t reduce it. We still need to have the tools for that step.”
Spain’s Luz Molina, head of the European Green Screen project (Interreg Europe) in Promálaga, agreed with this and added, “It’s very hard to walk a common path if we don’t have common tools. The ideas are there, and now we have to find a way to communicate properly.”
When the question arises of who pays for the changes that these tools will suggest, the participants all agree. “The major studios have the power to do it. If they do it, all of the small players will do it, too,” Longoria added. “For example, Disney has hired Pinewood Studios for ten years; they will be making loads of money during that time, and if they adapt it themselves, it will be adapted forever. It’s a change that will permeate down to the future uses of the studios, to the future methods of the companies involved,” added Szemeredy.
Longoria remarked, “This is a great opportunity for the audiovisual industry to take the lead, in order to avoid every industry having very long discussions to get to the bottom of the change.”
The forum continued with a panel on digitisation and big data, a goldmine for all of the links in the value chain of the industry, in order to try to understand how it can help transform business models, and it saw the participation of Denmark’s Niels Alberg, co-founder and CEO of Publikum; Spain’s Emilio Sánchez Zaballos, manager of video and online platforms at Atresmedia; and Ireland’s Oliver Fegan, co-founder and CEO of Usheru.
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