When the Emmy® and Golden Globe® award winning actress Rachel Brosnahan walks on stage as Miriam “Midge” Maisel to perform stand-up comedy in the series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, we’re back in New York City in the late 1950’s. For this popular period comedy drama, the set designers recreated a number of famous locations, including the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village which became a music venue for icons like Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
For the interior set at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the crew used wall skins instead of hydro-carbon-laden vacuform scenic panels. Made from one-hundred-percent recycled news- paper, cardboard, and wood chips, wall skins, like Pulp Art, are free of toxins, fire rated, and safe to work with. They are reusable, recyclable, compostable, and even conform to ISO 14000 Standards.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel used almost 300 wall skins for set construction. “This was a triple-win because it saved time, money, and the environ- ment”, emphasizes Emellie O’Brien, CEO of the New York-based company Earth Angel, which greened this successful Prime video show. Her expertise in reducing the carbon footprint of huge and complex productions has already been proven by her work on sustainably-produced Hollywood films such as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and The Post.
Thanks to Earth Angel’s help on set, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel series had a 75% on-set diversion rate, so most of the material and leftover food was kept out of landfills. The efforts made by this Amazon production to recycle, compost, donate, and use refillable water bottles kept 274 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. “That’s the emissions equivalent of driving a car between NYC and LA 240 times”, says O’Brien. If materials are landfilled, then they emit CO2 through transportation and breakdown. Therefore, Earth Angel is setting up a new service for productions that want to get rid of materials after they wrap.
Big productions keep lots of material in storage in case of a reshoot or the reappearance of a set in another season of the TV series. In the past, waste material was collected by construction crews, but nowadays studios often want to get rid of it immediately. That’s where Earth Angel’s new Good Riddance service comes into play with its network of non-profit organizations, charities, and creatives from arts communities. The company puts out a call for all materials that can be picked up free of charge.
The first production that Good Riddance served was the FX comedy series Compliance. “We were able to recover 70 % of the material from the landfill”, says the Earth Angel Founder, who wants to create her own storage facility for the remaining 30 %. These plans are going hand in hand with the zero-waste policy in New York City, which is a favored location for TV production.
Because of the way TV series are produced nowadays, a single episode may have more locations, more different types of sets, as well as a greater need for set decoration. “Productions are purchasing a lot of materials because rental houses often don’t have everything they need or exactly what they need in stock”, sums up O’Brien, who also serves as Eco-Supervisor of the Third Season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel . “We want to develop an actual facility for items that we can’t rehome immediately.”
Photos: © Courtesy of Amazon Studios