That places where new worlds are created always look so deliberately inconspicuous. The low-rise building is on the arterial road to Adlershof. Here, in the Johannisthal film studio, Odeon Fiction is shooting a television series commissioned by the Sky broadcaster. Eight episodes of 30 minutes each, 57 days of shooting. Tender Hearts is set in the near future.
In a positive future where women sweeten their loneliness with “Lovedroids”. Main actress Friederike Kempter is just passing by. She plays Mila, a game programmer with a penchant for vintage furniture. Your apartment is the center of the studio bustle. Camera crew and lighting technicians are setting up the next scene.
Unlike in fiction, the ecological challenges of reality are by no means happily solved. A visible sign of this is Chiara Noack, 25, the sustainability consultant for production. The trained producer wrote her thesis at the Film University Babelsberg on the subject of “Sustainable Production”.
And as an additional qualification, completed training as a Green Consultant. She has been working as a freelancer for a year. She doesn’t know anything about boredom, says Noack happily. On the contrary. The demand for the services of the profession, which is only a few years old and has only been working with halfway binding standards for half a year, is high.
The Green Shooting working group, in which important German broadcasters, production companies and funding bodies commit themselves to green shooting, has set the rules with the “Green Motion” seal. From January 2023, it is to be standardized with the sustainability criteria for federal and state film funding.
A number of regional sponsors have already made the “Green Motion” label a requirement, says Fabian Klaus from Sky, who represents the broadcaster in the Green Shooting working group. “In this respect, the minimum ecological standards are already very relevant when allocating subsidies.” In any case for productions commissioned by his broadcaster.
Sky set its own ecological standards in 2017 in cooperation with Philipp Gassmann, who played a key role in developing the job profile of sustainability consultants in Germany. Since then, Klaus has found that up to 50 percent of CO2 emissions can be saved by turning green. Gassmann sets the value a little lower.
Chiara Noack, who is currently taking photos with her cell phone, also learned from Gassmann. About the coke bottles that are on the catering tables. Because soft drinks from a US multinational are banned on sustainable film sets? Noack shakes his head. She documents the glass bottles for her final report.
In a way, as proof that their work is paying off. Just like disposable tableware, disposable plastic bottles are prohibited at Green Motion. The standards of the label are divided into 15 areas. They relate to all trades in must and target specifications, from green electricity and generators to travel, accommodation and organic make-up. A green consultant who accompanies the shoot from the preparatory phase to post-production is also a must.
The CO2 target balance that Chiara Noack estimates at the beginning of a shoot is compared with a final calculation at the end. A German “Tatort” production with 22 days of shooting emits 100 tons of CO2, a James Bond blockbuster more than 2000 tons, says Noack.
The fact that most of the days of shooting on “Tender Hearts” are spent here in the studio, where solar panels on the roof generate electricity, has a positive effect. Unlike diesel generators, which are only gradually replaced with electric or hybrid generators when shooting on location. There are currently very few of them in Germany that are always fully booked, says Noack.
After all, technology is advancing. “There is already a 130-kilowatt-hour electric generator that can power a set for a whole day. A rolling power bank in the form of a trailer.” But the thing is also almost impossible to get.
Looking into series heroine Mila’s one-room apartment, the past and the future come together to create the illusion of an urban view. On the one hand, a “setback”, i.e. a lamp-lit backdrop in front of the city window, pretends.
On the other hand, this is provided by an LED wall that can independently simulate lighting moods, birds flapping in flight or a train rushing by. Sustainability criteria call for switching to LEDs. They are more expensive to buy, but save electricity in the long run, says Noack. The switch to LED lamps is also in full swing when it comes to lighting. In the end, there are one to four percent additional costs for turning green.
Changing the routines costs not only money, but also time, which in turn is money when shooting. “The dismantling of a set becomes more complex if, for example, partition walls are to be recycled. This is the contradiction between theory and reality of production.”
It doesn’t just create enthusiastic faces, says Noack, hastening to praise the crew’s curiosity and open-mindedness. She doesn’t want to appear here as a checker with a raised index finger anyway. “There’s no point coming across as a know-it-all. I prefer to offer help to make it work.”
With René Zulauf, who is offering vegan potato and vegetable strudel in the catering truck, Noack discusses the schedule for the coming extras day, where 76 people are to be fed. Inflow needs additional rental crockery, one-way doesn’t work. A veggie day, or even better two, is a must for him.
The claim to buy vegetables from the region as far as possible does not always meet his approval. “It quickly looks boring on the plate in winter if there are only turnips from Brandenburg.” The man knows: the mood depends on the food.
Green motion also rules in the mask car. Make-up artist Sylvia Grave keeps washable make-up removal pads for the actors. That reduces waste. Cosmetic products with microplastics are prohibited. On the wall is the face card, meaning Heike Makatsch’s make-up plan, played by Mila’s sister.
Actors are often calibrated to brands like Chanel and Dior, says Grave, “but they don’t work at all”. For people who live from their faces, switching to BioMakeup with a different texture definitely requires a lot of persuasion.
Costume and prop recycling, ecological cleaning products, taking the train instead of the car – Chiara Noack’s job is like a fight against the windmill blades of an affluent society. But their growing risk awareness in terms of global warming is helping her. Especially in the image-loving entertainment industry, which squints at sympathy points and marketing opportunities with “green washing”.
When visiting a set, it’s easy to check whether a production is participating or just pretending, Noack knows. “I look at shopping lists, fuel receipts, electricity bills.” Doesn’t the bureaucratic little stuff annoy you? Chiara Noack shakes her head. The production volume in the audiovisual sector is so immense. “You can really change things up there.”