Gear Seven/Arc Studios/Shift
I Like Music
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

Sustainable Production: Leigh Carlson on Why Sustainability Is Good Business

Hayden5's director of production on sustainable guidance, over shooting and making sure sustainable production isn't just a trend

Sustainable Production: Leigh Carlson on Why Sustainability Is Good Business

Leigh is Hayden5’s director of production, leading the company’s production operations vertical, which creates overall project strategy and staffs appropriate crews and equipment. She manages the department’s full-time team and oversees the logistical aspect of projects. Leigh is highly skilled in production management, line producing, and tackling extremely logistical productions in the US and abroad. She previously worked in leading roles at Netflix and Condé Nast. 

LBB> Can you tell us about your own personal journey when it comes to getting involved in sustainable production - how did you get started and where has that journey taken you?

Leigh> I've always been very cognisant of the amount of waste on sets I've worked on across my 15 years in film, TV, media and marketing. It was always on my radar, but I didn't see real sustainability efforts coming from studios and production companies until the past few years. As a production manager and line producer in the field, I would do my part as an environmentally-conscious individual, encouraging my peers on set to recycle water bottles, giving extra craft services to someone who would use it, reusing hard drives, and returning or reusing set or wardrobe items when possible. It was more of a personal endeavour, as there were really no set mandates or directives pertaining to sustainability.

In my last role, there was a department focused on sustainability that was designed for the scope of film and TV shoots. Those of us working on marketing shoots created an employee task force that focused on adapting that guidance so that it was applicable to marketing and promotional shoots.

LBB> What are the conversations that clients are having with you about their desire to reduce the carbon footprint and environmental impact of their content production?

Leigh> What I'm seeing more often is that larger companies, agencies, and studios are coming to production companies with sustainability guidance in place. Like all aspects of production, we create a production strategy that meets the needs of the client and supports a healthy and positive partnership. Hayden5 is inherently sustainable; we produce and hire local and will work with the client to apply their sustainability plan. Larger corporations face pressure to do something, so they mindfully hire folks that they can successfully partner with on sustainable productions.  

LBB> Speaking generally, how do you tend to approach assessing and minimising the footprint of the productions you are involved in -and is this something that is built into your processes?

Leigh> We are very supportive of and responsive to our clients and partners. If a client requests that a sustainability plan is implemented, we will build that into our production strategy, and put things in place to meet their needs.. I've been hearing that 1-10% of the budget should be applied to sustainability. Depending on the project scope and overall budget, these funds can be applied to an Eco Manager, more sustainable catering, recycling bins, or dedicated eco plans. Our model of prioritising local talent and resources is inherently sustainable, and we rely on our local partners and field producers to minimise their impacts whenever possible, by using reusable bottles, recycling, using digital call sheets and reusing hard drives.

LBB> To what extent do you think the advertising and production world will retain and build on the lessons learned during the pandemic?

Leigh> My hope is that we don’t forget what we made possible when we could not be together on a set. Amazing content was made during the pandemic. Industry creatives and innovators figured it out. At Hayden5, we were already doing several shoots a month onset, but when the pandemic hit we quickly brought the drop kit solution to market and created incredible remote and contactless solutions. Now that we are back to full scale in person commercial production, we continue to use and improve the technological innovations the team created and needed during the pandemic to provide more efficient and smart production. 

Solutions created during the pandemic also provide ongoing cost-savings for production companies, agencies, and clients, and they are of course loving that. Years ago, it was the norm to travel all around for projects, putting everyone up at hotels, and racking up travel costs. It's exciting to work for a company like Hayden5 that knows there is talent in every market and that it is a much more efficient process for all involved to tap into these local talent pools.

LBB> What have you been finding are the most useful tools, resources and partners for reducing environmental impact/carbon footprint of productions?

Leigh> There are so many now, which is really exciting. Green the Bid is an incredible organisation. They provide tools that help partners find vendors who are prioritising sustainability, from lighting, transportation, catering, etc. In general, as a member, they will provide you with tools to understand and measure your company's carbon footprint. Also, the ‘green production guide’ is a website with accessible guidance and a downloadable toolkit that is available to everybody. This guide offers vendor resources that help production teams find the people in their market. 

LBB> How is sustainability being built into your training and development for members of the production team?

Leigh> Hayden5 team is an inherently sustainable production company, given that we hire local talent and teams, source local equipment and many of our full time production team work remotely or on a hybrid work schedule. 

We are constantly hiring people domestically and abroad, but always local to the market. As a service based production company, if we are tasked by a partner or client with implementing sustainability guidance we will always work that into our production strategy to meet the needs of our partner.

LBB> At a recent Ad Net Zero event, Mark Read at WPP said that in total just 3% of the footage shot ends up on screen - does this signify huge wastage and the need for greater efficiencies in the production and craft or do you have other thoughts on this stat?

Leigh> This seems like a sustainability question, but also a creative question. Why are we shooting so much? Are we over shooting or providing ourselves with more options in post because there are so many variations of deliverables that come from a single commercial, marketing, promotional or social shoot.

Sticking to production plans, schedules, and scripts, when applicable, and making sure creative choices are kept to can certainly help, but overshooting is common and results in more time, energy, and resources used in both physical production and post production. 

LBB> Because of remote production and the impact of transporting people and kit, I guess most sustainable production conversations are limited to live action, but what are the challenges and opportunities on the VFX and animation front?

Leigh> While less involved in post production, I’m interested in solutions in this space. I am aware that VFX and animation rendering takes a massive amount of energy. The amount of power used and heat created to render a few seconds of animation or VFX is astounding. There is an increasing number of innovations in greener post-production and amazing people dedicated to thinking about these solutions, including implementing ways to recycle energy and leading post-production companies to act in more environmentally-friendly ways.

LBB> In some ways it seems that when it comes to reducing carbon footprint, the advertising and marketing industry is focused almost exclusively on production (for good reason - there are obvious areas in production where clear, substantial and measurable progress can be made). What are your thoughts on this - is it a positive that production is able to take the lead or is there a risk that the industry will take the win and fail to look elsewhere?

Leigh> I think that with sustainability in production, like a lot of other causes, we have to watch out for it being just a trend. Sustainability needs to be a long-term commitment for companies big and small. It's great that large companies and studios have teams dedicated to sustainability initiatives and that they are introducing their guidance to their production partners, however beyond the guidance we need to work together to hold our partners and ourselves accountable for bringing the requisite budget and planning to the table in order to effectively implement these sustainability plans. 

LBB> Looking more broadly than carbon footprint, what are the other ways that production can be more sustainable?

Leigh> Financial and social sustainability are tied to environmental sustainability. Social sustainability, as it relates to business impact, matters to employees, partners and community. The quality of partnerships is critical. Good partnerships lead to successful business and successful business to financial sustainability. The more financially sustainable a company is, the more resources they can and will put into initiatives that matter to them, including social or environmental sustainability practices

LBB> To what extent is the social or community impact of a production an important part of the sustainability conversation?

Leigh> I think it's about providing an example. People producing small to large scale productions are spending a lot of money in communities and have a big impact environmentally and socially. Production companies have a social responsibility surrounding how we are making projects and we need to walk the walk. We should be celebrating companies that are environmentally conscious and implementing impactful guidance, but when we move beyond the press release that praises a production team's efforts, we need to make sure  the sustainability conversation does not lose momentum and becomes the norm on any production.

LBB> Can you share some examples of projects you’ve worked on where you feel that the carbon footprint and sustainability were tackled in interesting or effective ways?

Leigh> The only way that I was able to implement things early on was really to create a checklist. A couple of years back, I was working on an extreme sports outdoor project where people cared about sustainability. They didn't have a formal or innovative plan for it, but we all actively did what we could because we had that shared value. We would regularly assess our options for transportation, catering and craft services, vehicles and equipment, and consider if we were able to use a more sustainable option. Since there was no plan, our production team created one. While there was no budget for sustainability and it wasn't mandated by the network, we all did what we could because we cared about it.

On previous projects where there have been sustainability guidelines, what I've seen is that a certain percentage of the budget will be allocated to sustainability. The implementation can vary based on the scope and budget. It can range from having a sustainability officer on set, bringing in recycling bins, a local food recycler who is licensed, etc. We’ve taken the allocated budget and figured out what we can accomplish based on the budget provided.

LBB> What advice would you give to anyone working in production, whether for production company, agency or brand, who is struggling to get buy-in from their clients and colleagues on sustainable production?

Leigh> Beyond being critical for our survival, sustainability is good business. Companies, partners, clients, and consumers care, and they stand to lose relationships if they aren't able to align on key values. Clients asking for sustainability are more likely to work with partners who are equally invested in implementing guidelines. From a consumer point of view, many people have done their research and find that brands who care about sustainability are more trustworthy and that their products and services are healthier, safer, and more socially conscious. It all comes down to value alignment, whether that's between a brand and a consumer or a client and production partner.


view more - The Sustainability Channel
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
Hayden5, Fri, 11 Nov 2022 10:25:08 GMT