Carbon Footprint of Movie Production Location Choice: the Real Cost
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CitationBuchanan, Carolyn. 2016. Carbon Footprint of Movie Production Location Choice: the Real Cost. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThe film and television sector is the number one industry contributor to Los Angeles air pollution (University of Southern California, 2006). Yet, 39 states and many countries offer film incentives, in a quest to lure film productions to locations outside of California. These incentives have been successful at convincing film productions to leave California. In 2013, there were 108 major feature films produced by the six largest studios in Los Angeles, but only 15 of those productions were kept in California (Film L.A., 2013).
Studios are willing to add the multitude of logistics and financial resources necessary to take film production out of California because the financial incentives to do so can be higher than 50% of the relocated production budget, far exceeding the additional cost. However, the studios, and the states and countries offering millions of dollars to the productions, are not considering the carbon impact when transporting film production. My research compares the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of a Los Angeles based studio production shot in Los Angeles, Boston, and Vancouver, Canada. The objective of this research is to provide sustainability information that is needed to inform studios, states and countries considering film incentives of the complete cost of the incentives. I hypothesized that transferring production to cities outside Los Angeles results in substantial hidden environmental costs in added GHG emissions.
An actual $71.7 million dollar film production plan was used to calculate the carbon costs for three various production locations. Transportation used for the shoot was categorized by air transportation and shipping. Air transportation was then analyzed to determine the number of round trip flights per shoot location, and then greenhouse gas calculations were run to determine the carbon footprint for these flights. Greenhouse gas emissions for shipping were also calculated per production and the greenhouse gas calculations were run. The flight and shipping greenhouse gas calculations were then totaled per location. Last, the emissions were monetized.
These analyses showed that flights of the cast and crew, and shipping of goods for a production shot in Boston, can have five times the greenhouse gas emissions as the same production being shot in Los Angeles. Since Vancouver is an established film production market, a Vancouver production results in less flight segments, shipping, and thus less greenhouse gas emissions than Boston, but it is twice as much as a Los Angeles production. This research can show film studios the carbon footprint implications of “runaway” (films produced outside of California) productions, at a time when consumers are becoming increasingly interested in corporate sustainability. Moreover, it will inform film incentive policy makers by highlighting the carbon footprint that comes with importing film production from California.
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