SUSTAINABLE FILM (Quadratura)
Subconsciously, I’ve always tried to make my films as sustainable as possible by using costumes from charity shops, making my own props, bringing my own food in reusable dishes and making sure that every piece of clothing, props and other items are reused or gifted after the production. However, my first serious attempt at sustainable filmmaking was my 45-minute long experimental drama Quadratura that I made after I had started to live sustainably.
One massive reason why we were able to keep this big production very sustainable, was filming most of it in one location. Even more, this location was a large studio which not only provided us with a space to store all our equipment, props, costumes, make-up & hair style items and other things, it even had a kitchen. We were filming in Pro Studio Hire in Bournemouth for 10 days, and this place soon became our home as we spent full long days there, kept all our filming materials, had breakfasts and lunches together and created art. This place was also quite easy to get to, so most people were able to travel to it with public transport or by walking.
The only other locations we used were also easily accessible and we made sure to travel light and only bring things that were most necessary.
Catering is often a very serious complication when it comes to trying to lead a sustainable production. Filmmaking is a fast-paced, busy environment that normally involves lots of travelling and endless amounts of bags to carry, so lunch breaks often mean having the cheapest and fastest on-the-go food you can find – which normally comes in plastic packaging.
We were very lucky to film most of our film on a location with a kitchen where we could store our pre-made or bought food in fridges and cook it in the oven or warm it up in a micro-wave. The kitchen also came with full shelves and drawers of reusable dishes and cutlery, as well as a kettle and other supplies.
I also wanted to make sure that our food was as healthy as possible because I knew that food on film sets can often be quite unhealthy as it needs to be prepared quickly. So, I stocked up on lots of rice, pasta and other items in the local bulk shop and we cooked those with sauces and vegetables every evening to bring with us next day. I also filled lots of smaller jars with healthy snacks like nuts, raisins and coconut crisps, and brought syrups in glass bottles to dilute with water for a nice drink. We also cooked and brought lots of things that we could find at home, such as potatoes, cakes and vegetables with dips.
Most of our costumes for this film were sourced from either charity shops or vintage shops which meant that we were reusing older items that had been made and worn by someone else. Getting film costumes from charity shops is always a great idea because it is cheaper, you can find some pretty unique pieces and help the environment, and you also don’t need to damage any of the costumes on purpose to make them look older and worn out which you would often do with brand new clothes.
Due to financial constraints, we also used a few costume pieces that actors already owned and that matched the aesthetic we were going for. This is another little tip to help save money, especially if the piece of clothing is only needed briefly.
Finally, at the end of the production, I made sure that all our clothes for this film found a good home instead of being thrown away. I let many actors keep the outfits that they liked, I kept a few of my favourites for myself, gave away the dance outfits and props to the dancing course in university and donated the rest to a charity shop. I also kept one pair of vintage shoes to reuse on my next film.
Possibly the most waistful area of filmmaking is the production design as lots of props and set design items need to be purchased, sometimes just to be used for one shot that lasts a few seconds. I approached our props from a few different angles.
We made lots of props ourselves. I had an artist who drew over 20 original paintings, my brother and his friend drew a few sketches and a calligraphy artist did some writing work. I also designed a few props myself, such as a box which I painted and decorated, using mainly materials I already had.
We borrowed the props that we knew someone already had. For example, I borrowed some pointe shoes from our choreographer and dancers, and a violin, that we only needed for two shots, was sourced from our assistant producer’s friend.
We also used items that we already had – such as a teddy bear which was gifted to me and a mallet which I had purchased for a university project years ago.
We only bought the items that we couldn’t find any other way. A few of them were bought online, such as a music box and a wristwatch that both had to be personalised with engraved writing and that I found on Etsy where artists sell their handmade work, supporting independent artists. We also got a few items in charity shops and antique shops which, again, was a cheap and environmentally friendly option.
We sometimes also improvised and found things on the location – such as using apple boxes from the studio as a stand and taking a transparent lid from a fishtank we bought for a spontanious shot idea!
At the end of the production, just like with the costumes, I distributed the props to our team who could keep them as souvenirs. For example, many of us took home at least one painting and kept another prop that had been special to them. I also kept a few to possibly use in future productions.
So, that’s a few tips from my first attempt to make a film production more sustainable. It taught that I definitely need to plan it more and get more people involved to be truly successful but it also taught me that it is indeed possible! And now I am very excited to keep learning and take even more steps to create a sustainable film – starting with my feature film Limerence.