Sustainability on Screen
When you think of “sustainability on screen” – where does your mind go? Perhaps you think of news reports on freak weather or an episode of Blue Planet. You might even think of disaster movies like Day after Tomorrow or Deepwater Horizon. These are all valid examples of course, but what would your response be if we challenged you to help spark an environmental revolution through the content you make and the storylines you create, no matter the genre?
Sounds impossible? Stupid? Or worse, an idea that’s to the detriment of your script? We think a little differently.
“Climate” is everything we do. It’s the food we eat, the homes we sleep in, the clothes we wear and the holidays we go on, so why shouldn’t it factor into every single story that we tell on screen?
To combat the effects of climate change, we will need to consider adjusting to live better lives. We believe that one of the ways we can do this is through our TV shows and films. Our industry has a huge opportunity to positively influence our audiences, help them shape their opinions and reflect back to them the types of lifestyle we need to adopt if we are to survive.
Look at past examples – the term “Designated Driver” was virtually unknown in the US before the 1980s but that all changed when Harvard partnered with Hollywood and convinced some of the biggest shows at the time (Cheers, the Cosby Show, L.A. Law) to create positive story-led references to the term in several episodes. And it worked! Four years into the campaign, drink driving related fatalities fell by 25%*. Or take a recent example, a 2017 Dutch/Belgium co pro “Als de dijken breken” (When the Dams Break) which explored the social upheaval that could occur should a huge storm hit the Dutch- Belgian coastline. The show stirred up conversations in the region over its flood defenses and the wider impact a storm like this could have**.
Climate change can feel scary and unmanageable, but for our content, we should also see it as an opportunity. Planet Placement is the new resource from albert, designed for anyone creating content that we see on screen. For the past eight years, Albert is an organisation that has been working with film and television production teams behind the scenes to make sure our programmes are made in the most sustainable way possible. Now we’re turning our attention to the storylines and content that reaches millions every day. The new Planet Placement website allows you to seek out your role (be it writer, director, commissioner etc.) and look at what you can do to have an impact. It also provides examples of Planet Placement in action, as well as looking at the various climate change issues we face and how these could be used as the basis for a new dramatic idea
Progress is already being made. Take our soaps, for example. In Eastenders we’ve already seen mini storylines on smart metres, loft insulation and recycling. On The Great British Bake Off we’ve had vegan week, and even Countdown has joined in by inviting environmental experts to dictionary corner.
It’s a good start, but it’s not enough if we are to truly make the changes that need to be made. We need our creatives to be picking up this challenge and looking for the solutions. This issue shouldn’t be confined to the news or panorama style of programming. It needs a creative response – how can programmes like Masterchef, Grand Designs or even Line of Duty take action? Could the next big Netflix hit have a storyline that takes inspiration from our polar ice caps melting? Might the next BAFTA best film award be handed to a director whose film focuses on the story on climate refugees?
It remains to be seen but one thing is for certain – it’s a positive, optimistic, creative and pro- active response from our creative community that will help us turn a corner and in turn influence our society towards a brighter, greener future.
Main Article Photo by Ryan Cheng.