CASE STUDY: DARK ENERGY / R/GA / UNILEVER ST. IVES

Whilst at Dark Energy to production manage a shoot for cool New York based photographer/director Brayden Olson, I experienced an AdGreen first. The client, Unilever, requested that we try to reduce food waste where possible. This was a beauty job for skin care brand St. Ives, with lots of lovely fresh fruit and veg so they wanted to make sure any leftovers found a good home. It may sound like a small thing, but this little plea to act more sustainably gave us an opportunity to involve Unilever and the agency, RGA, in a wider discussion about being greener throughout the job. Although the clients didn't attend the shoot (as is their policy), the producer Dominic Wilcox and I used the PPM meeting to introduce AdGreen to everyone. Having emailed the agency producer with some points to include in the (non-printed) PPM book, we got to talk these through and let everyone attending know what to expect on set.

As this was another studio project, again at Black Island (the only place I'd shot all year at that point…), we had all the usuals I now request for every studio shoot: mugs for hot drinks, compostable Vegware bowls and spoons in the canteen (although I still wish these could be non-disposable!), a water cooler for bottle refill, and food waste bins on set. Up until now I’d also been providing compostable cups for hot drinks too, but this time, seeing the ones the studio had provided weren’t the right ones (they weren’t compostable), I removed them altogether meaning there were no disposable cups on set at all. Sometimes providing no alternative really is the best way to see a change in behaviour! In a similar way, we didn’t provide bottled water either, so crew used the cooler with their own bottle, or a mug. Witnessing the positive changes we were making on the job, Dark Energy's MD Matt Brown also got in touch with Black Island to let them know he wanted all of their future shoots there to be furnished with these greener alternatives. The customer is always right after all…

 

The early morning cycle commute from Hackney to the studio

The early morning cycle commute from Hackney to the studio

Another now-usual thing was not having call sheets. After emailing it out along with the green notes, we only printed three A3 copies: one for our stills side, one for the film side, and one for our agency area. Having been warned in advance there wouldn’t be individual ones, I only got a couple of requests for additional crew list print outs. We stuck the A3 copies to drapes along with boards and schedules, avoiding the usual go-to half piece of poly. We’d actually spoken to Jake Scott, our DP and he’d agreed to go poly free anyway, so there wasn’t any on set (well, apart from one sheet which snuck on the van by mistake).

 

John's very own food waste bin

John's very own food waste bin

And as for the request to limit food waste, our food stylist John Bentham sorted the leftover edible items, most of which went to my food waste faves, City Harvest. Mark picked up from us late afternoon, and left with a bountiful supply of lemons, avocados, apricots and pears - much of which had been put to good use at a homeless shelter by that evening. We had so many leftover apricots that our make up artist Louise Constad took another box home and made apricot jam! Anything that wasn’t edible went into the studio food waste collection - about 8 bags in total by the time we’d added some leftover afternoon tea as well.

 

Mark picking up his haul helped by runner George

Mark picking up his haul helped by runner George

Overall, it was a really positive experience, with lots of collaboration from our heads of department, and lots of engagement from the crew and agency - the runners were great keeping everyone’s mugs washed up and topped up! There was a positive vibe about the place knowing that we had sent our leftover food to a good home, and that we’d massively reduced our waste by getting rid of bottles and paper cups. More Unilever jobs please!

 


 

To help you on your shoot, check out our Five Easy Things to get some inspiration. You can also point your crew to What Can I Do? and use our signage for your recycling bins and general awareness raising. The Sustainable Production Agreement is also a great way to make sure you’ve ticked as many green boxes as possible, and our FAQ section can help with info about coolers, cups and Ram Board. If you'd like to help inspire others by sharing your experience, get in touch. Just 3 or 4 points and a few pics is enough for us to put together a case study.