Green The Bid Recognise Madam's Commitment to Sustainable Production

Celebrating Green Crew Heroes! Anna Hewitt, Executive Producer Assistant at Madam Films

Green The Bid Crew Heroes is a series that highlights individuals who bring sustainable practices to any area of the production process, and seek to inspire others to do the same. Production can’t happen without all crew-members (both on set and off), and the same is true of their support of Green The Bid.

This week Green The Bid’s Jessie Nagel spoke with Anna Hewitt, Executive Producer Assistant at Madam Films, about building sustainability into your entire business and doubling down to get the job done!

J.N. How did sustainability in production become important to you?

A.H. Sustainability in production became extremely important to me after witnessing how wasteful this industry can be. Due to the nature of how quickly everything is moving, sustainability can often be an afterthought, if at all, on production. I think it is important for the film and TV industry to recognize the huge impact it is having environmentally, and hold themselves accountable. 

When I initially joined Madam, my task was to build a carbon calculator to enable the company to dig deeper into their carbon footprint. I spent two weeks researching government data, green initiatives within the film/TV industry and the advertising world, and having conversations with like-minded individuals to create my template. We used this up until the release of the Adgreen calculator which we all know and love! It allows all of our suppliers and creators, from client to online, to be a part of the project. 

J.N. What is your work title, and how does that connect to sustainability practices that you bring into each production at Madam?

A.H. My work title is Executive Producer Assistant at Madam Films. Sustainability is a huge element of my role, something I hope and imagine many assistant roles across the industry will begin to incorporate. Being environmentally conscious is part of daily life at Madam, not just on shoots. We question every part of our supplier chain, including financial and pension companies, and sourcing as much as we can locally to our office. After nudging our internet provider, they are now creating an environmental policy as I pestered them so much about it! It is my role to ensure each production reflects Madam’s attitudes in the way it works. This includes collecting crew and shoot information and using our carbon calculator to establish the footprint of each shoot. 

J.N. As someone working on the ground with crew, what are some effective ways to enroll people in participating fully in sustainability on set?

A.H. The crew are brought along every step of the way with Madam’s sustainability efforts. The heads of departments are briefed right from the beginning by the EP or producer, our eco-policy is shared with them, meaning they can make informed decisions before engaging with suppliers; it is a chain which needs to be filtered through the process. 

We also send our crew a form to fill out to gather their mileage data and to inform them of the shoots catering choices (Madam never includes red meat!), they then receive a shortened copy of our sustainability policy with their call sheet, our Green Steward keeps check of all efforts on set, and the crew are sent results of our efforts post-shoot. Art, Props and Costume Departments inform me of any items they will need donated or recycled prior to the shoot and we use several avenues to enable this. Keeping crew part of the discussions encourages people to care about the outcomes and we have had such positive feedback from the crew!

J.N. What are some UK based non-profits and other key partners you bring into the process via Madam?

A.H. Recently, it has been really great to work with upCYCLE - a charity who provide free bikes, cycle lessons and bike maintenance workshops to young people from minority ethnic groups. We donated a scooter from a shoot to upCYCLE, who used the money from the sale of this to hold a maintenance workshop and provide 4 refurbished bikes to young people. 

When on shoot, we have various ways to donate our leftover food. For larger amounts, we use City Harvest who collect food leftovers and provide meals to homeless shelters and communities. For smaller amounts, we love to use the app Olio. Olio allows us to donate our small amounts of food to local people who need it, it’s so easy to use and has a great community feeling! Any food not donated in either of these ways gets dropped off at St Mungo's centres or fire stations, who gratefully receive anything we can give them! 

Some items take much longer to donate, perhaps they are a bit bulkier or more unusual. For example, we have a five-burner hob currently in our office looking for a good home. We take our time with these items to make sure we are sending them to the best places; it’s a great hob and I can’t wait to find the perfect home. 

As well as this, we work with Just One Tree to plant trees for every production; they look at tree planting as more than simply carbon-offsetting. We also love to work with Green Screen, who provide us with a brilliant Green Steward for our bigger shoots, and excellent targets to work towards. 

J.N. Do you have a hero, green or otherwise?

A.H. I would say my more public-figure hero is Caroline Lucas. She is a previous leader of the Green Party in the UK and she is an advocate for all things environmental and women’s rights. Recently, she has spoken out against male violence against women and girls, calling for our government to take action. More personally, my mentor and a founding Madam, Carly Stone, is a real Green Hero! She champions our efforts and pushes us to be as sustainable as we can in all aspects of the company and she does it with style. 

J.N. What’s some advice you’d give to production companies who are looking to move over to sustainable practices? 

A.H. Take some time to work out the best first steps for you and create a company policy that you can implement and stick to. For Madam, a brilliant first step was to eliminate plastic and remove red meat from shoots, then begin to work towards figuring out the carbon impact of our productions. Every small step helps! Removing plastic bottles seems like so obvious a step and has been spoken about for years, but it is still surprising how many make their way onto set if you aren’t militant about the rule.  

The mentality has to be embedded into the production team from the start; only when you have everyone in the same frame of mind, implementing the fundamentals and sticking to company policy, can it really become effective. This all needs to come from somebody passionate about making a change, they need to monitor the company and each shoot - even when they are getting on everyone’s nerves with their policing! But, if we did not keep pushing, this would be greenwashing which is certainly not part of Madam’s DNA. 

Covid-19 waste has had a massive impact on our shoots and at the office, but we have still made the small changes where possible, for example using biodegradable wipes. 

Have upfront and frank conversations with your clients and start discussions with others in the industry about their own experiences. Knowledge is power and we can only improve with resources and experience. 

Offsetting carbon is not the sole answer to a sustainable production, but it does help to regenerate. We love working with Just One Tree, an incredible initiative set up by an ex-producer, who plants trees and runs a successful non-uniform day in schools. 

Finally, work towards reducing your carbon footprint in your own office and home life, then these changes will become second nature and feel so much less difficult to tackle on shoots.

J.N. How do you stay hopeful and inspired?

A.H. I think it is easy to stay hopeful and inspired when your team are working towards the same goal as you. The Madams take their environmental impact as seriously as any other aspect of a shoot, which makes it easy not to stray from the path! All three Madams have children, which certainly honed in on the importance of environmentalism for them; it is good to know in the years to come, Madam can say they’ve done their part. The positive changes we are making can be seen across all of our work and I think it pushes us on to keep working at reducing our impact. This all has to become part of our lives, and I think we have successfully made reducing our carbon part of our working lives at Madam.

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