Green Filming – The Bavarian Film Commission Supports Sustainable Filmmaking

By Denis Heuring

Waste separation, package-free shops or green energy – environmental protection has arrived at the heart of society. But on film sets, things often look different, even though environmentally conscious filming and fair production are playing an increasingly important role and offer surprising possibilities. The Bavarian Film Commission supports these kinds of projects.

When you film for 3,626 days out of 365, that means something. Not that the compilers of these statistics suffer from dyscalculia – it means that Bavaria is one of the most popular film locations in Germany. In Bavaria filming takes place daily, several times a day, day in and day out. Film teams work with picturesque settings and these locations benefit from a positive image as well as from the money they gain from filming.

For decades, Bavaria's landscapes, buildings, parks, and locations have shaped the atmosphere of many successful films and series. The Munich version of the crime series Tatort, Hindafing, Sophie Scholl, the Eberhofer crime films, or the comedy Fuck Ju Göthe are examples of the numerous productions with Bavarian scenery.

An Infrastructure That Invites Filming

This Bavarian scenery that we find in a lot of productions can be attributed to the successful work of the Film Commission. As a primary information and contact point for national and international productions, it clears the way and provides the necessary space for filmmakers to develop their ideas.

For example, if you want to shoot on public streets, paths, squares, and in municipal or state buildings, you can’t just start filming, you first have to obtain permission. If you want to film a car chase with explosions, you can’t work with the explosives by yourself, you need a certified pyrotechnician. And if you are planning a rescue scene with a helicopter, you will be glad to work with a tried and experienced pilot who can handle the whims of the director.

In each of these cases, the Film Commission provides support. It helps producers with communicating with local operators, selecting suitable settings, the acquisition of projects, the application for a location, or the planning of film shoots. It also supports them when it comes to bypassing construction sites and street festivals.

Cameron and Spielberg Have Gone Green

Until recently, these tasks were handled by two people. In mid-2019, Kathrin Winter joined the Bavarian Film Commission’s team. One of the reasons why the Film Commission is looking to expand their workforce is that new areas of responsibility are constantly being added. FFF‘s Managing Director, Dorothee Erpenstein, states: "The Film Commission supports film shoots, but also deals with subjects such as green filming, fair production, and the lack of specialists.

Especially in the field of green filming there is a great need to catch up. While Hollywood directors such as James Cameron or Steven Spielberg have long since subjected their productions to green screenings and work according to green guidelines, German creatives and producers are still reluctant to change – even if exceptions prove the rule. Constantin Film’s crime series Eberhofer, for example, is shot in accordance with green guidelines. And at the Munich Academy for Television and Film, green filming is part of the curriculum.

Inherent Cost Savings

To ensure that the topic of environmentally conscious filmmaking is well received by creatives and producers, the Film Commission is committed to education and breaking down prejudices. Together with the director and Green Film & TV expert Philip Gassmann, the Film Commission offers workshops and seminars in which filmmakers learn that low-emission filming is about more than just having a green thumb.

The great demand for places in these seminars confirms the need to catch up and the willingness among filmmakers to learn, says Gassmann. "In my workshops, I often notice that many filmmakers are unaware of the advantages of green filmmaking and the simple means by which CO2 emissions and production costs can be reduced".

Sustainable set design requires careful planning as well as an answer to the question of how investments can be of value in the long term. But environmentally friendly materials are not automatically the most expensive ones.

Picture: Unsplash

Green Filming Creates New Business Models

"Ideally, film-makers should think about CO2 emissions as early as they plan the film itself”, states Gassmann. Environmental awareness does not mean that the artists are limited; practice shows this quite well. "You can produce in an environmentally conscious way without the final product suffering from lower quality. Often it is even the opposite. Now, for example, some colleagues need less lighting equipment, they have less to carry, they are faster, and take better pictures at the same time".

But does the reduction of equipment and decoration also mean that the film crew will be smaller? In other words, does green filming call into question the work of service providers, suppliers, and caterers?

Gassmann denies this: "I know that it is a sensitive topic. But experience shows that our way of working changes and that we need more creativity. It's about new technologies, new materials, new workflows. Green tech is very often the same as high-tech. In some cases, completely new job profiles and production methods are created. That's why everyone has to join the discussion – creatives, producers, service providers, directors, and the FFF. In my opinion, green filming opens up many new business models. Nobody has to be afraid that they will be left behind."