Greening the Film Industry

By By Rebecca Munetsi
December2010/January 2011
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RECENTLY, I was baffled when one environmentalist told me, that “Filmmaking is one of the biggest contributors to environmental wretchedness”.

Seriously, I haven’t wondered about the movies’ eco-impact during car chase scenes, the thrilling explosions, stunts, and the noise that I enjoy when a good movie is showing. All I think about is the handsome actors and beautiful actresses, finding a comfy place and some popcorn, as I enjoy the castles in the sky.

However, today as an environmental journalist, I ask myself, “What does it take to produce a blockbuster movie, at the environment’s expense?”

“For us it is a necessity, an obligation to fulfil. We just have to do it,” said Dominic Wilhelm.

Wilhelm is a Director at Desert Star, a luxury property investment company, which has ventured into the filming industry in Namibia.

The company is one of the few in the film industry that is “greening their act.”

Desert Star will be the world’s first GREEN Motion Picture Destination with Sustainable Film City and Motion Picture Leisure Resort.

According to the developers, “The proposed development is modelled after the very successful strategy, employed by the Moroccan government that transformed Quarzazate, a previously small oasis in the desert, into a bustling city of industry with over 80,000 inhabitants.”

Over the past ten years, Quarzazate is reportedly to have attracted 42 international film productions, generating in excess of US$1.2 billion in foreign direct spend for the region.

“The film industry is highly contaminating, harmful to the environment and wasteful as well, that is why we decided to be environmentally conscious,

For instance, instead of creating and dismantling sets, marking permanent scars on the environment, we are going to build permanent deluxe sets for the international film makers,” Dominic explains.

Reports say a university study in America; found that the film and television industry emits a whopping 140,000 tons a year of ozone and diesel particulate pollutant emissions.

These come from trucks, generators, special effects earthquakes and fires, demolition of sets with dynamite and other sources.

“Large budget films, take big of everything. Big flying jets, big trucks and special effects explosions, idling vehicles, teams of workers building monumental sets and associated activities.

These make a larger contribution to air pollution and environmental ruin.

Given the importance of the movie and TV industry, as Desert Star, we want to close the loop. This means setting the film industry from a consumer culture, of high usage and high wastage.”

Dominic underscores that Desert Star believes sustainability is fundamental to development.

Created in a proposed “Open Film and Tourism Zone”, Desert Star will ultimately comprise: substantial solar and other green energy developments.

These include a city, railway, airport, hotel and motion picture resort, golf course of the stars, motion picture production facilities, world-class epic film sets, and numerous tourism drivers.

“We decided to marry the two, tourism and filming because it is a key relationship whereby the two can thrive on each other,” he says.

The director accentuates that, Green Desert Star energy projects may precede the city and supply energy for both its construction and day-to-day needs. Among other things,

“The City will be compact and naturally shaded, cooled through its own innovative design.

It will incorporate photovoltaic panels in its design and all amenities will be within walking distance of its inhabitants.

The City is ideally situated to draw water from the Orange River which will be responsibly managed, recycled and used to compliment a green energy strategy.

Solar power will be utilized by day to fill up an elevated reservoir, from which water will be released through waterways running through the city during the evening, creating hydro-electricity to power the city by night,”

As the director says, Desert star strives for “zero waste and zero emissions.”
An Environmental Assessment (EIA) is currently underway for the first phase of this proposed multi-million dollar project, along the Orange River in the southeastern corner of Namibia.

Certainly, the magnetism this proposed Green Desert Star energy has is undeniably admirable.

Presently, greening the film industry is surely a “necessity” as we safeguard our environment, particularly with the tenuous climate change across the globe. PF