By Jesús Silva Vilas
Upholding its commitment to support the greening of the distribution sector, and the sustainability of the film industry as a whole, Europa Distribution held the second edition of its Green Distribution Workshop this year. On 20 June, more than 20 distributors joined the event, a 3-hour long online round table and brainstorming session aimed at sharing best green practices for the release of independent films, as well as discussing general recommendations and guidelines to make the day-to-day work of film publishers more environmentally friendly.
The main outcome of last year’s session was the drafting of a collaborative toolbox of good practices to be implemented by members of the network in three main areas: markets and acquisitions (including travelling to festivals and events), office routines (encompassing everyday operations in the workplace) and distribution strategies (related to the production, usage, and transport of materials, both offline and online). “It is a dynamic tool, intended to be continuously nourished by our own experiences and the questions we can raise during these conversations”, as explained by Laure Caillol, Head of Acquisitions at French distribution outfit Haut et Court, who took part in both gatherings.
The workshop was divided into two sections. The first part consisted of the actual brainstorming session, focused on expanding and elaborating on the results and conclusions agreed upon last year. Members further reflected on the various subjects together, looking at finding new synergies and updating the toolbox with fresh ideas, while opening up about following the guidelines in their respective companies since the previous session. “It was really impressive to corroborate that there is a lot of knowledge that I got from the first workshop that I could really put into practice. I can now better analyse my way of working, which has changed a lot”, confessed Caillol. During the second part, introduced as a novelty in this edition, a few members shared specific case studies and release strategies for “green films”, those dealing with sustainable and social topics and their potential to reach the audience in innovative and engaging ways.
In terms of reducing travel emissions when attending markets for the purpose of acquisitions and professional meetings, some of the main guidelines featured in the toolbox include avoiding long-distance travel, favouring trains instead of planes when reasonable (especially for trips under six hours or within the same country), choosing ecological alternatives in terms of accommodation and encouraging festivals and events to partner with national transport companies to increase accessibility with more sustainable options. Although offsetting travel emissions was also discussed, including adopting tools devoted to planting trees, for example, attendants recognized that the first goal should not be compensating, but cutting down CO2 emissions as much as possible. This means reducing travelling to essentials, and opting for online alternatives when suitable. If physical travel to another location is unavoidable, taking advantage of a longer stay to fit multiple meetings with clients and partners, which would usually require a separate trip, was determined as the best course of action. For years, this has been the preferred outline for the network’s various on-site events, designed as comprehensive activities which combine networking sessions, formative workshops, professional panels, industry screenings and acquisitions, thanks to the multiple partnerships with European markets.
Concerning the various feasible actions to foster green office practises on a daily basis, participants consolidated most of the guidelines included in the toolbox last year, such as promoting the use of recyclable and sustainable materials for office supplies, investing in energy-efficient systems for electricity, heating and web hosting; limiting the number of emails and newsletters, while also reducing the size of any potential attachments, among many others. As for commuting to work, there was wide acceptance of teleworking for those positions amenable to it, facilitating the work-life balance for working parents and promoting the use of public transport and bikes to reach the office.
When it comes to implementing environmentally respectful practices in distribution and marketing, most findings focused on scaling down the number of printed materials such as posters, leaflets and flyers, producing smaller batches and making sure these are recyclable for future purposes. Most travelling guidelines discussed in the previous cluster apply when inviting talents for the promotion of a film, meaning encouraging online interviews and pre-recorded or live-streamed Q&As when viable. The general consensus was to enforce a conscious transition to digital and electronic materials, without overlooking the environmental impact and carbon footprint of these alternatives, which tends to be underestimated. Another key conclusion drawn from the last meeting was the need to cooperate with producers and exhibitors to reduce DCP and file sizes for film deliveries. Finally, the topic that sparked greater debate and conversation was the urgency to contact specialised companies for the measuring of carbon footprint.
While on this topic, Bruno Parent, Marketing and Promotion manager at the Belgian branch of Cinéart, shared with the rest of the members a report that the Benelux outfit commissioned from a specialised media agency, which analysed the differences in carbon imprint between their digital campaigns and their traditional print marketing, and the results were truly enlightening. “In general, we think that digital campaigns are more sustainable because we use less paper, but that is not always the case. Digital campaigns can also be really heavy in terms of carbon impact”, said Parent, who went on to explain how the calculations involve the servers required to host marketing materials online, the network used to deliver the campaign and the devices needed to access and read these materials.
“The idea is not to stop doing these campaigns, but to be aware of their impact and propose solutions”, as clarified by Parent, who also offered some general rules derived from the report: the lighter the material, the less impactful; favour Wi-Fi versus 4G; being mindful when placing banners on websites, considering that places like the homepage have a bigger impact; and paying attention to the time of the day when delivering the campaign, as the carbon intensity is higher during certain time frames. Parent underlined the necessity to build a common ground in terms of informed data to better analyse the actual impact of their companies: “The first challenge is to really have a measure of our companies’ carbon footprint on different levels, so we can take concrete steps to see what can be improved, what can we do to be greener in the future”, in his own words.
Acknowledging the growing interest in feature films and documentaries dealing with green topics among the mainstream audience, and most importantly, the responsibility of independent distributors when it comes to bringing important topics into the spotlight, raising awareness and sparking conversation about crucial subjects such as climate change, the second part of the workshop focused solely on case studies of green films released by members of the network, with a special emphasis on building relations with appropriate ambassadors and third parties.
“It’s really a significant part of our job to choose the films, and we have a responsibility regarding the stories we bring to the audience”, as eloquently expressed by Caillol. During this second section, Michael Höfner (GM Films, Germany), Anne Vierhout (Cinema Delicatessen, The Netherlands) and Beatrice Moia (Wanted Cinema, Italy) commented on and gave examples of different strategies and practices for establishing meaningful partnerships and organising impactful Q&As and screenings around films focusing on green issues. “We spoke about the links we build with many different associations that are experts on the topics and can make the audience more sensitive towards what they are going to watch”, said Moia. Distributors also commented on the potential of these stories to bring together creators, politicians, NGOs and audience members as an effective way of learning together and inspiring positive change.
When asked about the next steps going forward, attendants highlighted the crucial role of the network as a think-tank for the sector, particularly when it comes to gathering ideas from different distributors to build a better and greener common policy on a European level. Admitting that they don’t have all the answers, mostly due to a lack of technical expertise and accurate information, European distributors stressed the need to collect external and reliable data to be able to face all these questions, bringing that knowledge back to the toolbox.
“The main goal will be to share this toolbox with as many distributors as possible and even reach out to other sectors. Establish dialogues with cinemas and producers would certainly enrich this exchange”, said Caillol, who also addressed the continuity of this initiative: “The next step will be another workshop where we can follow up and see what has been improved, and maybe approach experts that could help us understand better what we can do”. The Green Distribution Workshop will indeed hold a new iteration in 2024, aimed at keeping these discussions alive and opening up new lines of work by inviting specialists and advisors to help distributors better assess the different aspects covered during the meetings and continue looking for practical solutions.
With the support of the Creative Europe MEDIA Programme of the European Union