Sustainable production and clean energy goals at the forefront of Clean Energy Series

by W. Andrew Powell
Anton Bauer

Everything about the entertainment industry is larger than life. Production budgets start at millions of dollars, crews are operated by armies of people, and there are some big problems too.

A 2006 study by the University of California Los Angeles (Corbett and Turco, 20061) suggested that the entertainment industry generates over 15 million metric tons of CO2 a year, and that number was calculated 20 years ago. It’s a serious problem for the industry, especially as climate change continues to evolve and become a bigger problem worldwide.

“The ideal time to decarbonize was 20 years ago, the most realistic time is now,” said Zena Harris, president of Green Spark Group, and founder of the Sustainable Production Forum. “We have all the technology and know-how to do it. We have the ability to create and innovate.”

On April 12, the Sustainable Entertainment Society‘s (SES) Clean Energy Series (CES) pilot program, hosted by PictureNL, will deliver a full day of in-depth panels and training sessions focused on decarbonization and sustainability of the entertainment industry. The program includes industry experts, innovators, and Canada’s Honourable Bernie Davis, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and it’s a first-in-Canada program with a plan to create a blueprint for using greener technology on-set in Canada’s film industry. The SES also produces the Sustainable Production Forum, established in 2016, a world leading conference that gathers leaders and experts who are committed to reducing their carbon, while producing award winning content. 

“Education is a foundational element of change,” Harris said. “I believe industry organizations will better their filmmaking workforce by aligning educational materials, leaning into standardization and certification. Sustainability is a concept to learn, with practices to integrate, and improve upon over time.”

The Sustainable Production Alliance released a study in 20212 that calculated tentpole film productions had a potential carbon footprint of up to 3,370 metric tons of CO2, and the average film was between 391 and 1,081 metric tons. Meanwhile one hour scripted television productions averaged 77 metric tons of CO2 per episode.

Canada has seen an explosion of film productions from coast to coast, and that has helped start more conversations about making productions greener, and net positive.

“The Newfoundland and Labrador industry does close on $100 million in production activity annually,” Laura Churchill, CEO of PictureNL said. “With four television series scheduled to go into production this year, we are on track to reach our highest production levels to date.”

“For a population of about 500,000 people, we’re punching above our weight. A strong professional crew base, competitive incentives, unique stories and jaw-dropping locations have all contributed to this success. With this growth comes the opportunity to showcase the need for increased infrastructure and training in the province,” Churchill said.

“Through initiatives like the CES, we can help actively shape our future and empower our industry to embrace greener practices and become even more successful.”

Accelerate, support, and educate are all part of the CES mandate, and that includes the need for new technology on productions.

“The film industry has such an incredible opportunity to be a global leader on the sustainable and techo-social fronts,” Mark Rabin, founder of Portable Electric said. “There’s a clear nexus between storytelling and changemaking, and we’ll look back at this moment in filmmaking history as the time the entire industry took serious collective action to evolve our processes and reach our net zero goals.”

The event is 100% powered by Bullfrog green electricity, and the program is made possible with the support of the Canada Media Fund.

Photo by Geoff George.


  1. Sustainability in the Motion Picture Industry, November 2006. By Dr. Charles J. Corbett and Dr. Richard P. Turco, UCLA ↩︎
  2. Carbon Emissions of Film and Television Production, March 2021. ↩︎

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