Film festivals sign up for Green Charter to tackle climate emergency – Deadline

The Les Arcs Film Festival in the French Alps kicked off its 14th edition last weekend amid sub-zero temperatures and freshly laid snow, to run from December 10 to 17  

Some 600 film professionals from across Europe headed to its four-day industry program, unfolding December 10 to 13, to check out project and work-in-progress showcases, participate in a variety of workshops, network and hit the slopes.

One of the major topics on the industry program’s agenda this year was how can film festivals and the cinema industry, in general, be more sustainable and play their part in helping to rein in climate change.

With temperatures hitting lows of -15 degrees centigrade (5 degrees Fahrenheit) on pristine white slopes at altitudes between 6,400 ft (1,950 m) and 12,400 ft (3,800 m), growing fears that the world is in a climate emergency felt a long way away.

Founded in 2009 by locally raised film execs Guillaume Calop and Pierre-Emmanuel Fleurantin, the event runs in the first week of the Les Arcs ski season as hotels, restaurants, shops and ski hire outlets gear up for the Christmas and New Year rush.

Calop explained there are good reasons for the festival to take climate change seriously.

“When we started the festival, people were like, it’s the beginning of the season so sometimes there is no snow and I was saying, ‘No don’t worry, it’s always cold enough to make artificial snow.’ It has to be -4 to make artificial snow, but there have been years when the temperature has been higher than -4 at above 2,000 metres and this is really new,” he said.

A bigger concern is the melting of local glaciers such as the Grande-Motte glacier, accessed by the Tignes ski resort an hour’s drive down the valley, or France’s biggest glacier, the Mer de Glace in Chamonix, which is projected to recede by more than a kilometre between 2009 and 2030 due to global warming.

“When I was a kid, in Tignes, their slogan was ‘Ski 365 days of the year’. Now, they are barely able to open in the summer. Here in Les Arcs, there are projections that in 10 years, you won’t be able to ski on the l’Aiguille Rouge glacier anymore, it will just be like any other slope that works when it snows,” he explained. 

“This is a huge issue because if there are no more glaciers, there is no ice melting during the summer, which means there will be no more water feeding the rivers in places like Lyon. This is honestly very scary.”

Les Arcs has taken stock of its environmental impact since its early days.

“We’d do things like make donations to offset our carbon footprint but nobody really seemed to care in the beginning,” said Calop.

The festival stepped up its efforts in 2019 with the Green Cinema Lab event attended by the likes of Earth From Above filmmaker and environmental activist Yann Arthus-Bertrand and a host of other cinema professionals involved in promoting and supporting green practices.

They included former production manager Mathieu Delahousse, co-founder of Paris-based consultancy Secoyer, which is specialized in helping film and TV companies make their shoots and operations more sustainable. He has been involved in the festival’s efforts to green up.

“At that point, we were even questioning whether we should be still running a festival but concluded that the positives outweighed the negatives. It’s about culture and human relationships, and cinema also has the power to grow awareness about issues like climate change,” said Calop.

Working with the reflections that came out of Green Cinema Lab, the festival team and Delahousse started devising a Green Charter for film festivals and talking to other events about how it should be structured.

“There was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, but it quickly became apparent there was no one size fits all solution. Encouraging people to use bicycles won’t really work in Les Arcs; Sarajevo told us it no point them sorting their waste because it would all end up in the same trash, while for other festivals trying to cut down on meat on the catering side wasn’t an option,” said Calop.

“Eventually, we decided to create to a charter where festivals pledge to get better but how they do that depends on what is possible for them,” said Calop.

First steps under the charter are committing to measuring progress, getting everyone connected to the festival onboard, from the team to the public and sponsors, and devising a strategy and sticking to it.

“We ask our sponsors to think about the materials they’re bringing to the festival. We tell them that if they’re left with stuff at the end – like surplus flyers, or catalogues – they need to take them home, that we won’t trash surplus material but rather send it back to their offices,” said Calop.

A dedicated online database was launched earlier this year on which festivals signed up for the Green Charter can record their consumption of food, waste, energy and transport. It can be fiddly to master the first time around, said Calop, but once a festival has inputted the first set of data it gets easier.

As of December 2022, 38 festivals were in the process of recording their consumption, four festivals have recorded data for one edition and another 50 festivals have said they are interested in signing up for the charter but have yet to do so.

“It’s festivals of all sizes all around the world,” Calop said, noting signatories such as Montreal and Jerusalem.

A handful of these festivals joined a Green Charter workshop in Les Arcs, to discuss what they had done to become more sustainable and brainstorm.

Jerusalem Film Festival artistic director Elad Samorzik said the event had abolished paper tickets and physical accreditation badges.

Joshua Jadi, a filmmaker who is also currently vice program director at Germany’s FilmFestival Cottbus, said the event had ditched sponsored festival cars and arranged free public transport for delegates instead.

The event had also worked with partner hotels, to get the heating turned off in delegate rooms during the day when they were likely to be away, and also suggested a no-sheet and towel changes policy for guests staying less than three days unless they requested otherwise.

Interest in Les Arcs’ Green Charter out of Europe has also ticked up since the summer following a fresh stipulation from the EU’s MEDIA program, requiring film industry events that apply for funding to have ISO 21021 certification.

The standard – bannered events sustainability systems – offers guidance and best practice to events to help them control their social, economic and environmental impact and was originally devised for the London Olympics Games in 2012.

Achieving this certification requires third-party monitoring by an approved standards agency such as France’s Bureau Veritas and Afnor, the U.K.’s BSI Group or Switzerland’s SGS.

The process takes around six to 10 months and costs around €10,000 to €12,000 in fees for a certificate, lasting three years.  However, the MEDIA program will cover the costs of achieving certification.

Ludovica Chiarini at Rome-based consultancy Ecomuvi told the workshop that while going through the ISO 21021 process can be daunting, companies and events should embrace the improvements it could bring to their operations rather than see the certification as the end goal.

“It’s not a tickbox. It’s really about internal training and better management,” she said.

Calop predicted that film festivals and markets are likely to find themselves facing increasing amounts of obligatory measures around sustainability. Signing up for the Green Charter was a good way to prepare the ground, he suggested.

Using a skiing analogy, Delahousse told the workshop that the Green Charter could be viewed as a first step towards getting ISO 21021.

“It’s like when you learn to ski, you start off on the nursery slopes, where you work at improving your technique before tackling more difficult slopes. Signing up for the Green Charter is a bit like being on the nursery slope,” he said.

In the meantime, Les Arcs is pushing on with its program of incorporating sustainable practices – such as setting screening rooms at 19 degrees centigrade, weaning the staff canteen off meat and encouraging guests to travel by rail – and raising awareness around the challenges of climate change and what can be done to try to rein it in.

Alongside workshops on the Green Charter and how to integrate sustainable practices into to co-productions, the festival also ran its public and industry-facing Moving Mountains sidebar consisting of debates and films around the themes of ecology, diversity and inclusion.

The program also included the Refuge 2030 initiative, in which a dozen film professionals stayed in a mountain refuge overnight where they brainstormed over ways to make the film industry more sustainable.

“As a film festival, we will always have an impact on resources and our environment but we’re doing what we can to minimize this,” said Calop.

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