Members Go Green On Set

600Live! Spotlights Six Eco Members

April 20, 2021
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600LIVE! spoke to six Local 600 members about their efforts to be environmentally conscious and the importance of a green set.

Gretchen Warthen, Camera Operator

I always admired other crew members who were dedicated to bringing water and food from home, but in our fast-paced world, it seemed inconvenient and time-consuming. I had always been a “less is more” type of person, but then I realized bringing my own IS less. So, I decided to start bringing everything I will eat and drink for the entire day from home.

I make a big batch of green smoothie once or twice a month and freeze it in 16oz Mason jars. I shift a jar from the freezer to fridge in the morning and blend it up with water twice a week. This is an easy way to get my fruit, veggies and supplements. A few other trusty snacks I bring to set are baked yams, hard boiled eggs, squash, and soups. These foods can sit in the refrigerator for a few days, which is why they are easy to make ahead of time on my days off from work.

I bring my own glass containers, metal utensils, and a cloth tea towel as a tablecloth/COVID barrier. I find plastic containers pick up the taste and odor of food, while glass containers with lock-tight lids clean up better and are better for the environment.

I also bring a lot of thermoses for coffee, tea and water. I like the Takeya Bottles because they have a hook on top and can be hung anywhere. They work great with a HeroClip. The top also screws over the pour spout, which is good for COVID safety concerns. When I shoot handheld, I toss the Takeya bottle into a bottle holder attached to my belt.

My journey to being greener on set began as a contribution to our planet, but along the way, I found that I physically feel a lot better, and I have control over the ingredients I eat.

Matthew “Hax” Hackbarth, 1st Assistant Camera

There is one thing every production needs to function: electricity. I am often tasked with setting up wireless camera receiver racks, remote streaming servers, and video villages in locations where power is scarce. Combustion generators are usually used to fill this need, but I’ve been researching this wave of new high-capacity, solar-rechargeable batteries and am excited to explore its uses in the field of television production.

Solar energy captured through the use of photovoltaic cells has historically been fairly weak, with a large area of cells needed to accumulate an appreciable amount of energy. In contrast, some of these newer panels are rated at 100w per 2’x5’ panel, including the Jackery Explorer 1000, which is the unit I settled on using after a fair bit of research. To put it in perspective, let’s say my electricity needs are around 350w per hour, and the solar panels are connected to a 1,000-watt hour battery.

With no solar power connected, I could run everything for just under 3 hours. With the panels connected, each drawing in 75w per hour, that same setup will last for more than 5.5 hours! There is enough power coming in from our sun to nearly double the usable length of the electronics.

It feels so direct to me, no middleman involved: I’m the one putting the sun’s energy in, and I’m the one taking it out. It is truly an amazing time to be alive, and I hope I may inspire others to explore similar avenues for renewable resources. We’re all in this together.

Jendra Jarnagin, Director of Photography

I’ve long been a proponent of avoiding single-use plastics and taking personal responsibility for bringing your own water bottle that you can refill as well as a thermos so I’m not using up mugs. When the pandemic started and we had to wear masks, I would tape my mask to my face so I wouldn’t fog up my glasses and I thought, ‘This is a recipe for dehydration. I need some straws.’

So I went out and did some research and found some sippy cups and then I thought, “All right I need to keep these around.” I bought these Robocups clip-on cup holders. My sippy cups were small so I wanted to have a backup water bottle and a backup coffee thermos to top off my sippy cups. Normally I would just have my 2nd AC go and fill my water bottle for me, but with COVID and not wanting to have people touching stuff, every time I go to the bathroom, I’ll go by and refill my own water and keep that ready to refresh my sippy cup.

It comes down to my commitment to not having water bottles. As a DP, you don’t leave the set so people come by with waters. “Here, want a water?” Or they will just hand me a water, which is good because you don’t want to get dehydrated, and you want people looking out for you. Instead of saying “No thanks” I wanted people to know why. I would say, “Oh, no thanks, I don’t use single-use plastics,” and just saying that out loud is sort of stating your principles and where you stand.

Now people will stop offering me water bottles and will maybe stop and think for a second. If it resonates with that person, then it could potentially inspire them like, “Oh, that’s a valid stance, I’m going to do that too.” I’m not shaming anybody, I’m just stating my own principles and hopefully that can have a positive influence on people.

Many people think it’s just going to get recycled anyway but a lot of it doesn’t. We’re running out of a lot of recycling capacity. A lot of plastic has a limited lifespan in how many times it can get reused before it breaks down. We’re producing too much of it, so most of it does not actually get reused. If people don’t think about it, then nothing’s going to change.

Max Weckbaugh, Digital Utility

I bought a 1985 Ford E350 and I basically turned it into a studio apartment. It’s all solar-powered, it runs clean diesel for the heater and everything like that. A lot of stuff was reclaimed, and then it has its own water filtration. I can be off grid for a month at a time, so with the small footprint, my rent for a year went from $2,000 a month for everything down to like $500.

Having so much stuff really got annoying and I started watching this whole van life thing online. My first year in California, I rented an 11 by 7 ft shed, so I was constantly rebuilding that trying to find out floor plans, making sure I could live a tiny lifestyle and just be OK with just work gear, clothes and a laptop. I don’t really need much else. I think it’s a big movement that’s going to catch on. Eventually we’re going to see little villages pop up especially for people in the film industry. I would love to have property with a bunch of tiny houses on it and when people are shooting for a month, they can just rent one out.

I also looked into getting the Forfutr reusable bamboo utensils for the camera crew so we can stop using the utensils. They always give you that bag with four things in it and you end up throwing away three of them.

Going green for me is two things: it’s making a smaller footprint, but it’s also for money. The money I save, I throw into stocks. I’m going green in saving the planet and also saving my wallet. It’s a new fad that needs to come about.

Giovani Lampassi, Director of Photography

I try to use energy-efficient lighting as much as possible — 70-80% of all the lighting I do is with LEDs. I also developed my own series of lights with Custom Entertainment Lighting and we have a whole series of rail lights that are small, really compact and pretty versatile, and that’s what I use for most of my set lighting. When we go on location, one of the things I always chuckle about is that my generator operator usually comes to me at the end of the day or at lunch and says, “Geez can you use some more electricity because we’re only pulling 15 amps.”

The trickle down when using LEDs is that they are way more energy efficient. Guys don’t have to do as much heavy lifting with the heavy cable anymore. LEDs are becoming better and they make you look better so it’s a win/win situation. The amount of control that you have over an LED light vs. a Tungsten or an HMI light is 100-fold. Not only can we control intensity brightness, but we can also control color much better than we ever have been able to in the past.

There’s always a recycling can and a regular trash can and as much as each one gets contaminated with the other during the day because you’re in the frenzy, everybody tries to recycle as much as possible. There’s also one of the other benefits of using LEDs. You’re not using as many expendables anymore. I think we’re reducing the overall footprint.

Eusebio Gabriel Delerme, Camera Operator

On set we definitely try to use LED lights as much as possible. I work a lot of non-scripted TV, and budgets are usually lower and we have to try to find an efficient and inexpensive way to create good lighting, so thankfully LED lighting allows us to explore and kind of have options in that realm.

For me as a DP, it’s important to be conscious of budget, conscious of the environment and obviously of the power and wattage that we use on sets, so I always try to find a balance. Sometimes we can’t make it happen, but for the most part we try to exercise the LED wireless set and so far, so good. In the last two years or so, production has definitely bought into it and the rigging is a lot easier because the lights are usually lighter and we don’t have to run as much cable.

It’s beneficial, depending on your DP and what lights they like to use, but I’m a big fan and I definitely support it. I do some stills work, so even in photography LED lighting is being used in every aspect. Everyone has that diva light now and that’s LED, and bi-color, low wattage and very light so you can just throw it in your car and take it wherever you need to go.

I think the awareness of keeping it green on set is definitely practiced more now than when I first started. Everyone is conscious of plastic containers and water bottles all the way to properly disposing of batteries on set. And now with the PPE, everyone is definitely trying to minimize the waste and making sure we take care of our environment. This is our playground, so we have to keep it clean and safe.

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