Interview

Sustainability at Little Dot Studios: Production Q&A with Hal Arnold

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At Little Dot Studios we are committed to a sustainable future and have aligned our goals to match our fresh, more environmentally charged vision.

The importance of sustainable conduct in the everyday actions of every business, family and individual is greater than ever with the current climate crisis at a tipping point. Therefore our goal is to not only act and think sustainably, but also encourage and educate those around us to change to a more sustainable way of life.

Hal Arnold, Head of Production, one of our team members who champions our businesses drive for sustainability. We held a question and answer session with him to see how this new greener way of thinking has impacted his way of working within our Production team.

What role does production play in a sustainability vision?

Production plays a huge part in a sustainability vision for a business like ours. In contrast to other departments we are in continual physical production, with shooting crews travelling and working globally. This puts us at risk of conducting unsustainable activities and behaviours - the carbon footprint from crew and talent transport (taxis, couriers, flights), single use plastic used wastefully on set, props and sets built and disposed of in environmentally damaging ways. However, it doesn’t have to be this way - with carefully crafted policies and close attention to the suppliers and partners we work with, there are sustainable, greener ways of producing content. 

Why is it important to consider sustainability and potential environmental impacts in productions?

It is so important to consider sustainability and potential environmental impacts in productions. We all have a part to play in ensuring that our business is not having a detrimental impact to our planet. 

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What in theory can be done to help reduce impact, what experience can be shared? 

There are some things we can implement straight away - this includes reusable water bottles only on set, green taxi services, working with suppliers with their own sustainability policies, and closely monitoring and recording the carbon footprint of each of our productions. 

I used to work in scripted drama, which a number of years ago included a stint on a major FOX series. They were very forward thinking and added to my responsibilities the role of Green Co-ordinator. I was in charge of ensuring that we ran a sustainable set, this included auditing our crew’s working practices and suppliers We became one of the first major carbon neutral productions, despite shooting in the UK with the majority of talent being flown in from the US. 

It’s been fantastic to see the close attention paid to sustainable working practices on productions become the rule rather than the exception, and demonstrates that despite the varied budgets and scales of productions, we can and should always approach our projects through a sustainability lens. There is now a greater awareness of, and support for, making our productions sustainably. 

Outside of internal decision making and considerations, what external tools are there for productions to lessen their environmental impact? 

There are various fantastic tools now available to track and help to lessen the environmental impact of our work. For our larger productions we use Albert - the authority on environmental sustainability for Film and TV - to track and certify our projects. Due to the majority of our productions being short form digital content we are also looking into using AdGreen - the advertising industry’s equivalent to Albert. 

There is an increasing, and totally justified, push from our clients to ensure that our projects are being certified as sustainable productions.

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What were some of the initial stumbling blocks for Little Dot when considering impact and sustainability? And what further challenges might we come against in trying to make productions more sustainable. How could we overcome them? 

Despite our best efforts we have encountered some issues enacting all the changes we’d like in terms of sustainability. It’s challenging to find courier services that are large enough to be agile to the last minute requests of a production and still have a fleet of electric or hybrid vehicles, however we are pursuing this and conducting trials with various suppliers. Also COVID has had a significant impact - our editors have largely continued to work remotely, meaning that we are frequently having to shuttle hard drives of rushes across the country, while hygiene/social distancing rules on set mean that catering with disposable items does still occur. Carpooling when traveling to location has also been less of an option due to social distancing advice. As the pandemic recedes we will be able to amend these issues.

Conversely, the pandemic has also had a potentially positive impact on some working practices, including conducting international shoots remotely with only local crews, and not flying out to meet a client when the conversation can be had via video conferencing.

In terms of challenges for the future, looking to work exclusively with travel partners who offset their emissions is a big priority. 

What excites you about the future of this subject area within production? What positives, inspiration can be found? 

While the journey to becoming carbon neutral is an ongoing one, we are very proud of the changes Hal and the rest of the team are making to make our productions as sustainable as possible.

I think it’s a tremendously exciting time to be working in production as we prioritise sustainability  - we can use the pivot as an opportunity to find cleaner, more efficient ways to make our content that can form a template for companies going forward. Production is all about problem solving, and it’s inspiring to find ways to help combat the biggest problem of all.

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While the journey to becoming carbon neutral is an ongoing one, we are very proud of the changes Hal and the rest of the team are making to make our productions as sustainable as possible.