Roger L. Simon

Hollywood greens everybody but itself

Everybody’s going green these days. Some of it makes sense (changing a few light bulbs) and some of it is pretty loony (not changing your toilet paper), but from the fashion runways to the airplane runways, Green is Everywhere.

And wherever it is, Hollywood seems to have a hand in it. What’s up with that, you might ask? And many of the answers (narcissism, arrogance, etc.) are obvious. But – I suppose because I have labored in the screen trade – I received an email from a reader (who wants to remain anonymous) concerning something I have overlooked: the movie industry, specifically film production, is one of the most ecologically-wasteful businesses around. The reader wrote:

However, what we never hear about is how completely and systematically inefficient the movie industry is. If so many participants in this industry are concerned about global warming and are in favor of legislation controlling contributions by other industries, one would think that it would be interesting to reveal how energy wasteful the entertainment industry is as a matter of ordinary course business.

It should be self-evident that the movie industry is so profligate. This notion occurred to me because of a story related by friends who live on a sailboat and traverse the Bahamas regularly. They stumbled across a movie being filmed (Donald Sutherland, if I recall correctly). According to the story, the movie had been entirely filmed in Australia and the entire mess had been shipped to the Bahamas for a short segment because it had the perfect beach. It boggles the mind how much it cost to shift filming half way round the world and that a perfectly adequate beach could not be found in Australia. Now, this story may not be true, but I am certain that there are many similar stories of outrageous Hollywood spending and the consequent energy consumption.

I have no idea whether that particular story is true, but I will say this: The reader is bloody correct. I can think of dozens of instances, many of which I was involved in, in which no one ever gave the slightest thought to the ecological consequences of what we were doing. There were only two questions ever asked: Was it right creatively and how much did it cost, not necessarily in that order.

Never once, I hasten to add, did I hear the word “cost” attached to the environment, only to the studio’s pocketbook. I doubt that is changing in any real way. Maybe the studios are leading the charge on light bulbs and toilet paper these days, but you can bet you won’t hear Jeff Katzenberg advising Steven Spielberg to cut his shooting schedule to save on energy or cut down on greenhouse gases. This same duo was involved some years back in the brouhaha surrounding their efforts to build Dreamworks on the Ballona wetlands in Venice. They seemed anything but green at that time – 1995 – when it came to their work.

Of course, I could be wrong. Some people actually do walk the walk. Just not a lot of them.