Tips and tricks for sustainable set design

Production and set design doesn’t necessarily require to use material which is harming the environment. „There are other options“, underlines the director/ producer and sustainability expert Philip Gassmann who continued his series of green workshops in cooperation with Filmförderung Hamburg-Schleswig-Holstein (FFHSH) with the subject Production and Set Design at the Hanseatische Materialverwaltung in Hamburg that is reusing and recycling props for Flim/TV and theatre productions.  Besides the use of material it is also an issue where a film is shot, how the set is put together and which requirements are resulting out of it in terms  of transport, construction and disposal.


According to a study by the BBC from 2014 that compared the carbon emissions of  fictional formats at the production in a studio, on location as well as big studio und on location productions, the on location productions are as twice environmental unfriendly as sheer studio productions because transports and travelling are affecting the carbon foot print.  The team has to get there and the material has to be brought as well. "Setting up the stage consumes much more energy than in a controlled studio environment“, explains Philip Gasmann. „These coherences  must become part of our conciousness in order to act greener."



But a life cycle assement is also an economic balance.  „A carbon emission intensive production is more expensive. Green production costs often less because there are savings when it comes to transports, travelling, material and fuel", underlines the filmmaker. „This should be an incentive for producers to deal more with this subject.“ Instead of investing the production budget in long-distance trips and exotic locations, he suggests, to foster  stronger the creativity of the various departments as well as set design in order to create own universes with environmental friendly material.


Among the eco-friendly material which can be used for set design is a substitute for synthetic material and styrofoam which consists out of plant waste which are sprinkled with a fungus.. „In the US, this mycomaterial is already manufactured and used for components such as the padding of vehicles by the car industry or for the production of surfboards.  „The material has a big potential for set design because it is water-resistant and weather-proof, not inflammable and bio-degradable."


But also bamboo is perfect for production design because it is lightweight, solid and flexible. „Weight is also a factor“, emphasizes Gassmann. In addition, bamboo is regrowing and compostable.“ As an a alternative to particle board which had been treated with formaldehyde there were work disks made out of old Tetra Paks. "The production was stopped due to only little demand for it", reports the producer. Therefore it is important to break the vicious circle of too expensive piece prices and little demand. Instead, manufacturers of green products need a feedback that there is a market for their products if they are afffordable.


Tesa„Artists want to be creative without sparing any essentiell elements.“ But meanwhile there are green alternatives for many products. For example, the company Tesa offers fabric tape that is based on regrowing material and can be used instead of the classic gaffer tape.

„The American major studios already have regulations with clear environment-friendly targets that are passed on to the productions", sums up Philip Gassmann. „The German producers can learn a lot from them."

At Green Film Shooting,  the sustainability expert is going to give more handy tips and tricks for green filmmaking soon.

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