Planet Healers of Hyderabad

The realm of sustainable filmmaking

Smoke emanates from burning activity, adding to the pollution levels in Hyderabad on June 17, 2018.   | Photo Credit: G RAMAKRISHNA

Clean air. At this point, thanks to the heavy industrialisation in our metro cities, it seems like a baseless dream. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t people going full-on with their efforts to alleviate the anxiety of our planet. One of the under-valued culprits for environmental detriment is, in fact, the film industry.

From June 1 till June 3, local non-governmental organisation Babul held their annual Eco Film Festival (EFF) at Ameerpet’s Sri Sarathi Studios. Babul NGO was created in 2012 with the mindful objective to promote awareness around the environment, biodiversity and sustainable development using short videos and various information and communication technology tools. The NGO also tackles industry issues, which not a lot of other bodies around the city do on such a regular basis.

It’s not over...
  • On June 5, Babul NGO will be holding a day-long ecoshoot at their premises in Shaikpetnala to make videos and pictures for their Mask Challenge #BeatAirPollution by United Nations Environment Programme. If you can’t make it, don’t worry, there will be live streaming on social media platforms including YouTube.

The filmmaking world, like any other industry, does have its set of code values, says Babul NGO president Gangadhar Panday. An actor and an avid environmentalist, Gangadhar believes film is still one of the most underrated mediums for ‘green discourses’ to date. “Being an advocate for Internet rights is part of the green movement. The distribution of film has changed to online from packaged DVDs. There’s a lot of pollution that on-location shoots can produce: noise as well as harmful carbon emissions into the air. Not a lot of people pay attention to these problems and with the huge size of the film industry in Hyderabad — India, rather — we must take these things into account.”

So why do we need sustainable filmmaking? Essentially, ignoring potential environmental consequences can carry significant costs, such as clean up, legal fees, negative publicity and poor film grosses. So to avoid these potential financial risks as well as to avoid risks to the environment, filmmakers could benefit from a preproduction assessment of potential problems, similar to an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). So a code for such an assessment was defined in 2009 based on the results of a global survey of best practices in sustainable filmmaking, conducted by American University, involving more than 175 filmmakers and companies.

The code

According to the Centre for Media And Social Impact (CMSI), four main tools make for a ‘green shoot.’

The first is calculation, where the film team would have to assess just how much energy is being consumed. As CMSI best puts it, “Our best tool for long-term planning is good baseline information. We need to know how much carbon we are adding to the atmosphere to be able to measure success in reducing it. Therefore, good information on carbon costs, transparently shared with colleagues, employees, and trainees, is critical. Even if we cannot act immediately to reduce our carbon costs, we should identify them in developing our calculations and budgets.”

The realm of sustainable filmmaking

The second is the actual real-time consumption; after all, what’s the point of long-term planning if you don’t meet short-term goals by following through pro-actively? Essentially the idea is to lower overall carbon debt and environmental impact by using less. In filmmaking jargon, the idea here is to minimise equipment.

Gangadhar adds, “Nowadays, we see so much filmmaking using our smartphones which have considerably less harmful effects on the surroundings than an industrial-standard camera. Plus on-location shoots mean people carry food items which have a lot of unnecessary packaging and there won’t be a thoughtful disposal of these things.” Admittedly, it’s all facts — it’s a high-tech profession with fast obsolescence.

The third is a big one: travel. Massive amounts of carbon debt is created from the use of vehicles or planes to reach a filming location.

The fourth is, of course, compensation. Many filmmakers are endorsing the use of carbon offsets, an active reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made so that emissions made elsewhere are compensated.

Hurdles along the way

Government support would be great, agrees Gangadhar, but he says, “The thing is, we have reached out for support and funding... but we’ve been turned down because of the international films we carry in EFF. The Government, understandably, wants to support purely local content, but here you won’t see the content you’ll see in some of the international films such as Smog Journeys from China or Vojtech Domlatil from Czech Republic which we have screened.” A total of 42 films — local and international — were screened, all carefully curated to address air pollution on some level.

22-year-old Akshay Kumar is a documentary filmmaker and a coordinator for Babul NGO as well as for EFF. “To be honest, prior to working here, I didn’t really see the point of environmental consciousness,” he admits, “but then I joined Babul NGO and when I watched more films in this space, I realised how grave it is. Our planet is really heading somewhere scary.”

The Q&A with Valli Bindana

The Q&A with Valli Bindana  

Youth engagement is one of the biggest challenges faced by Babul NGO. Akshay comments that the average age of the attendees of the EFF ranged from 45 to 60. Akshay says though they have considerable social media outreach, there’s still an apathy towards these issues... plus, people may not even want to venture out in these incredibly hot times, fearing sunstrokes or worse.

EFF also featured insightful online Q&A’s with Valli Bindana and Marthand Bindana, who made 2018 documentary Suryaganga, which discusses the epic conflict between India’s land, energy, water and people. Such a valuable event was missed by many potential eco-warriors to the dismay of Gangadhar and his team, but they say things are looking up because of suck link-ups with international and local filmmakers. “If our industry can churn out thousands of films about the state of our planet, the filmmakers themselves can be more aware of how it is done too,” signs off an optimistic Gangadhar.

Planet Healers celebrates green initiatives. If you know an eco-warrior, email us at hydmetroplus@ thehindu.co.in

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 5:10:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/planet-healers-the-filmmaking-ecosystem-with-hyderabad-babul-ngo/article27470521.ece

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