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Responsible Filmmaking: Films, Activism and the Environment

On Friday 19th November, Isy Barrs joined experts on a panel on Responsible Filmmaking: Films, Activism and the Environment at Soho London International Film Festival. 

On Friday 19th November, I was delighted to join several experts on a panel on Responsible Filmmaking: Films, Activism and the Environment as part of Soho London International Film Festival. As the Film Sales and Business Development Officer at Together Films, over the past five years I have worked on Together Films’s environmental focused releases such as Patagonia’s Blue Heart and Artifishal, The Ground Between Us and 2040, so it was amazing to discuss environmental filmmaking and distribution with an audience.

Hosted by festival director Liz Farahadi, I was joined on this panel by producer and environmental impact advisor Stephen Kearney, Google Sustainability Coordinator and Co-Founder of Slow Fashion UK Elisa De Pasquale, and actor and advocate for women over the age of 45 in film and television Kate Magowan. 

With many of the audience being filmmakers themselves, production was a main talking point – the importance of not only being conscious of sustainability, but budgeting this into production costs. Elisa discussed moving past only using paper cups instead of plastic, or using more sustainable modes of transport for actors other than private jets, but hiring sustainability supervisors to monitor decisions made across all departments. 

We also discussed how this focus on sustainability can continue past post-production, and into the distribution stage of projects. With the rise of virtual screenings and Q&A’s over the pandemic, it is no longer expected for talent to fly out for one event, or hundreds of evaluation forms to be printed, as audiences are now more accepting of these virtual solutions. Even screenings themselves can be more sustainable, which especially in environmental impact entertainment can help draw attention to the film’s subject: from pedal powered screenings to incorporating tree planting into screenings.

With a room full of filmmakers whose films were part of the festival programme, one audience question was how can films actually create real world change? Whilst a film’s subject matter can cause a talking point and raise awareness, I mentioned one of the things we discuss with filmmakers when taking on a project – what is the call to action? What are the steps an audience can take after a screening to actively help in a situation?

For instance at Together Films, we’ve had films over the last year that focus on very different topics, but calls to action are integral for impact distribution. Be it adding a link to register to vote at the end of every screening, sharing a petition, writing to your MP or hosting a workshop at your place of work – calls to action are integral to continuing the impact of your film beyond the screen. 

This goes beyond just making an impact – Stephen on the panel mentioned that these calls to action are often needed to gain funding. Tangible goals are often necessary to access issue based funding pots. At the end of the day, is there activism without action?

To be in a room of people discussing how we can make film more sustainable and accessible to all was inspiring, so thank you again to Soho London Independent Film Festival for inviting me to be a part of this panel. 

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