The “Free the Footage” film was created as a comical call to action to encourage film makers to think about their extra b-roll and all the hundred of hours of unused footage they have differently.
What would be possible if we freed our footage, and if we opened up our hard drives and shared all of our unused footage with the world? Would it be possible for us to help an NGO protect an endangered species? Would it be possible to help a teacher educate kids about their local ecosystems and the wildlife they share their beautiful home country with? Could we help build empathy within a generation? Could we reduce the carbon footprint of our industry? Could we give an extra life to our films?
The idea of open sourced filmmaking has been around since the early 2000s but it is still sadly rarely practiced. Exclusivity has become a value addition, helping content providers compete with one another. Giant international streaming platforms, who have quickly taken a hold of the majority of the world’s content creation, have also changed the very nature of film rights and have made it more difficult for independent filmmakers to retain ownership of their creations. Lastly, people do not often think of the unused footage as a resource that has a carbon footprint attached to it. Tom Mustill from Gripping Films, a pioneer for low-carbon high impact filmmaking and one of the writers for “Free the Footage” film, said, “keeping all the hundreds hours of footage stored away on a hard drive no one uses is like a farmer spending all this energy to produce a crop full of carrots, but in the end after harvesting and selling the best carrot from the bunch, the rest have to be thrown out. It is a huge waste of resources.” And he is right. There is so much untapped potential, but we have to change the way the industry works, the way films are licensed, and the way people think about their footage.
The “Free the Footage” film was created in part to help move forward an impact goal of a new feature length documentary coming from Indian filmmaker Taira Malaney. She first learned of impact production when she was a participant of the Jackson Wild Media Lab in 2019. It was there she realized there was a need for greener filmmaking practices within the industry as a whole. Taira later met Tom Mustill through one of Jackson Wild’s virtual mentorship programs. So when she set out to make a plan for the impact campaign of her first feature length documentary, she decided one of the goals needed to be inspiring other Indian filmmakers to think about how we could green the industry and why it is important to do so. To help develop her film’s impact strategy and implement the campaign's goals, she brought on Jill Ferguson as the impact producer for the film. Prior to the 2022 Jackson Wild Summit, Tom Mustill and Jill Ferguson met several times over the course of two years to discuss the best ways to foster such an important discussion and inspire people to act. Tom said, “we are filmmakers, so we should make a film." Luckily, the Jackson Wild team loved the idea and supported the development of the film. Jill Ferguson thought it would be great to also design an interactive session around the film at the Summit in Austria that could spurn a meaningful conversation around how we as an industry could individually and collectively take action to make greener films. Christie Quinn, Director of Operations at Jackson Wild, connected the Turtle Walker team to Samuel Rubin and Heather Fipps, the cofounders of the Hollywood Climate Summit to codesign a session. Samuel and Heather had been recruited by the UNFCCC to help build an international accord around making the film and television industry more sustainable. Helping create an international accord through the UNFCCC that outlines various green pathways for our industry is exactly what is required to help us do our part in keeping us to the 1.5 degree temperature rise as outlined by the Paris Agreement and the UN.
The “Free the Footage” debuted at the Jackson Wild Summit in Austria. Tom Mustill, who had been invited to speak on a panel at the summit on green filmmaking, used it as a tool to help encourage people to start thinking about easy ways they could immediately start making greener films today.
The film was screened a second time later that week as part of a session called Climate Action Pathways for the Film & Television Industry. There, Samuel and Heather kicked off the session introducing ENZA (the Entertainment Net Zero Accord) now expanded to ECCA (Entertainment and Culture Climate Action) which is the accord they are currently helping to develop for the UNFCCC sectoral initiative for all the Entertainment and Cultural Industry (ie Television, Film, Theatre, Performing Arts, Music, and Museums.) As part of the session, Taira screened the “Free the Footage” film and introduced the idea of open sourced filmmaking as one example of ways in which we could create more carbon conscious films. They then broke up the people attending the session into groups to discuss the pain points currently preventing us from moving towards greener industry practices, as well as harvest case studies and potential solutions the community knew of that could act as guiding lights of change for the industry as a whole. The session sparked some really interesting and insightful discussions, and people left feeling inspired and ready to get to work.
The work didn’t stop there though. Samuel, Heather, Jill, and the rest of the ECCA team are continuing their efforts to build out an accord and bring on signatories that will support the industry as a whole to shift towards greener practices. To learn more about the accord you can visit https://ecca.earth/.
Even if it feels like too much of a time commitment to sign up to the accord at this time, we encourage you to think about how you could make your filmmaking process greener. What could you do today to help reduce your carbon footprint? Would you be willing to share or license your unused footage so others can use it for good? Would you be interested in making an open source film that helps educate and inspire? Tom Mustill and Taira Malaney have both made films that can hopefully inspire you to what also is possible when we start thinking about our footage differently and ultimately what impact we really want to have as filmmakers.