Thursday, April 30, 2009

Toward Greener Filmmaking

Away We Go, which will be released later this spring by Focus Features, is more than a romantic comedy directed by Sam Mendes--it was a pilot project aimed at not only reducing the film's environmental impact but measuring it.

On Earth Day eve, the Paley Center and the Producers Guild of America (PGA) brought together several filmmakers and others involved with Away We Go to speak about their pioneering efforts. Moderated by Katie Carpenter of Earthlink/Green Media Solutions--the environmental consultancy that first suggested the project and partnered with the filmmakers--this was one of the most enlightening and inspiring panels I've ever attended.

Executive Producer Mari Jo Winkler, known for her efforts to reduce environmental impacts on previous films, told us that on Away We Go they'd recycled or composted 49% of the production's waste and given the compost to community gardens, had the caterers use local food sources and biodegradable dishes, and made extensive use of hybrid vehicles and biodiesel fuel, including some from reclaimed fry grease.

Jane Evans, executive VP of physical production at Focus Features, said that, instead of the ubiquitous disposable plastic water bottles, they'd used refillable aluminum bottles, meanwhile counting the plastic bottles used in another shoot. "In five days, we collected 1,500 bottles"--probably just 70% of the total used. "When I started in production, there weren't water bottles," Evans said, and from now on, on Focus shoots, there won't be either.

Post-production supervisor Jeff Roth described the use of "desktop dailies": "We did away with DVD distribution of dailies. People watch them online."

"The biggest challenge--" said Producer Peter Saraf of Big Beach, "shooting film's not so great." So Away We Go was shot on three-perf film, which requires less stock and fewer chemicals than conventional film. Saraf now reads scripts on Kindle to save paper and told us about another paper-saving device: "a little $400 projector you can plug into your iPod."

Beth Colleton, VP of Green Is Universal, the green initiative of Focus Features' parent company, NBC Universal, said the studio is making a play-by-play guide to environmental-friendly production, based on what was learned making Away We Go.

Among future challenges, said Winkler, is "a dialogue that needs to happen with agents and managers and studios about how to accommodate your cast." Stars need to get used to thinking about putting the environment ahead of perks like extra-large trailers.

The producers of Away We Go devised the following credit, which also appears on Universal's State of Play: "This motion picture used sustainability strategies to reduce its carbon emissions and environmental impact."

I'll be looking for such a credit on future films. And I'll do my best to see that films made from my scripts are worthy of it.

For further information, see the report "AWAY WE GO: a Pilot Study of Sustainable Film Production Practices," which can be found on the Green Media Solutions website,,
Scott Macaulay's articles on the Focus website,,

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Film Biz Recycling Open House

It's a lovely day for a trip to Long Island City, and from 3 pm to sunset Film Biz Recycling, a new, nonprofit "set dressing salvage and reuse center" offering prop rentals and sales, is hosting an open house.

It's at 43-26 12th St., 2nd floor; for further info, check their website:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bicycling in the Cathedral

When Jim, Christine, Mitch, and I rode to the Blessing of the Bikes at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine last Sunday, sans cameras, little did we expect to be prominently featured in other people's online photographs.

Inside (13th photo) Jim's the bearded guy in blue with helmet staring heavenward ("paying more attention to the architecture than the prayer"); I'm in red, Christine in green, and Mitch in blue at right.

In the second Time Out pic (Grace Lin), I'm not smoking, but maybe polishing off a pastry.

Mitch can be seen zipping around the cathedral in the third photo on page 4.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Take the La Didone Challenge

"That was a lot of work," said Jim at the end of La Didone, the Wooster group's mating of the opera of the same name with Mario Bava's 1965 film, Planet of the Vampires. Every second presented multiple choices: do you follow the actors--and if so which; luxuriate in the music; read the supertitles ( English for the film, Italian for the opera, typically one of each available at the same time) ; or watch the screens, one at rear, two at the sides, on which much of the film appears, and sometimes the arm or hand of an actor?

For 90 minutes, it felt as if my eyes and brain never stopped moving. Work, yes, but delightful and delirious.

It occurs to me that those who know Italian would have a leg up in following this show. but would one less series of supertitles to read detract from the challenge of pursuing the stories all over stage and screen? For me, that pursuit was thrilling--and part of the show's point.

La Didone closes on April 26--catch it if you can, but be prepared to work.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Must Read (and Must See to be?)

After finishing Patricia Volk's delightful novel "To My Dearest Friends" late last night, I'm still basking in the afterglow, and wondering if a film version is in the works. Volk's vivid and memorable characters would provide meaty roles for some great actresses--Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Stockard Channing, perhaps. If Volk doesn't want to do the adaptation herself, I'd be glad to take it on.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"I don't do fear."

After regaling members and guests of New York Women in Film and Television with stories from her amazing career, Nora Ephron was taking questions. "What is your greatest fear?" someone asked, and weeks later, I'm still thinking about her answer: "I don't do fear."

Thinking about it and saying it, like a fear-banishing mantra.

What I need to start saying is "I don't do procrastination," because I do do it--and am long overdue to mend my ways.

Here goes--"I don't do procrastination."

How about you?