Charles Rivkin Remarks at Cannes Film Festival 2023 for Sustainability Panel Event
Marché du Film, May 20, 2023
“The Creative Approach to Sustainability – From Storytelling to Action”
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by MPA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin
Thank you, Stan.
Mesdames et Messieurs, chers dirigeants et représentants de l’industrie audiovisuelle internationale, chers amis, je suis honoré de m’adresser à vous aujourd’hui, vous qui faites partie des passionnés du 7ème art. Merci aussi à notre co-animateur, la FIAPF qui organise avec nous ce colloque sur un thème qui nous tient beaucoup à cœur – la durabilité de l’industrie audiovisuelle.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to you all, including our distinguished panel, led by Perrine Quennesson. We gather here to discuss a topic that carries so much importance, not only to our industry, but our planet.
Our Hollywood studios recognized this more than 13 years ago. In 2010, in partnership with a consortium of other producers and creators, we created the Sustainable Production Alliance, or SPA, which declared its commitment to a deep review of our production practices, with a view to reinventing ourselves for the future.
We did this because we knew that addressing climate change wasn’t something to leave to someone else, and that we had a moral responsibility to make deep and systematic changes to the way we did business. For us, that meant finding ways to make sustainability integral to production and all aspects of its business. We knew that this industry had the unique power to make a real difference, especially by working together.
Of course, our industry is not new to this issue; across the realms of documentary and fiction, filmmakers from all parts of the world have been drawing attention to this issue for many years. But in our corner, 13 years later, we are proud of our achievements. Our network of partnerships has now grown to 13 major studios and streamers, and for more than a decade, we have collectively built a truly “green” production process – both behind the scenes and on camera. This includes plastic and waste reduction, set material reuse, donating literally tons of excess food to those in need, and educating cast and crew on environmental best practices. But the work doesn’t stop there. And today, I am looking forward to sharing – and hearing about – what more we can do to be responsible stewards of this planet.
What better place to do this than here in France, where virtually every nation committed to a sustainable future in 2015 with the Paris Climate Accord. And what better festival than Cannes, which is a model of sustainability in its own way: embracing our cinematic past, shining the spotlight on filmmakers of the present, and here at the Marché du Film, bringing together the creative deal- making that will lead to great stories on our screens in the very near future.
If Cannes is about the sustainability of our industry, our topic today is about sustainability within our industry … how we can continue to create cleaner, healthier environments for our crews, our talent, and the communities in which we film – and reduce our carbon footprint.
Today, before Perrine begins our discussion, I want to share some of the continuing progress that MPA studios and other partners are making towards this important goal.
First of all, SPA is only one aspect of a deeper effort at the studio level. Even the most cursory sweep of our recent work shows the depth and variety of our collective undertaking, and the strength of our commitment.
NBCUniversal’s Sky recently introduced the world’s first CarbonNeutral TV, Sky Glass, which debuted in the U.K and launched across Europe in 2022. The TV is a smart-streaming device that integrates all hardware, software, and Sky Inside content into a single device, dramatically reducing electricity use.
Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight series, a Disney-Plus show, reduced fuel use and emissions, eliminated single-use plastics in catering, and introduced a centralized waste management system. These efforts resulted in 23 metric tons of materials being diverted from landfills and incinerators.
During the filming of Bridgerton Season 2 in the UK, Netflix successfully piloted a green hydrogen power unit to power many of the production’s energy needs. This unit replaced several diesel generators and not only provided clean energy and drinkable water but also operated quietly, which was an added advantage during filming.
Sony is working with the United Nations on an awareness campaign to promote sustainable agri-food systems and a healthier planet. And The Amazing Spider-Man 2 became the most eco-friendly production in Sony’s history, starting in pre-production and continuing on set and off, resulting in cost savings of over $400,000.
At Warner Bros’s Studios Leavesden in London, the staff reduced its carbon footprint by installing electrical substations. Meanwhile the studio made significant contributions to various communities in 17 cities, to the value of almost $1 million.
In 2020 and 2021, Paramount expanded its commitment to sustainable practices internationally, signing green utility contracts in the Netherlands and United Kingdom. These efforts are already generating results. In 2021, for example, Paramount’s UK broadcast network Channel 5 shifted to a 100 percent renewable energy plan and reduced their UK, location-based emissions by 83 percent.
James Tatam, who’s on today’s panel and is SVP, Chief Operating Officer, and Content & Studios and Sustainability Co-Lead for Paramount UK, will tell us more about these efforts in a moment.
The power of our industry’s leadership in this effort is just one of many ways we are sending a message about our resolve. Storytelling itself is another. We know that as an industry, the film and television content we create can have a significant impact on the attitudes, opinions, and behavior of audiences everywhere. Other bold and visionary independent filmmakers around the world have joined us in this, and we gratefully recognize them as creative partners in bringing more and more stories with environmental sensibilities and consciousness onto screens large and small.
The movie Don’t Look Up is a perfect example of combining a powerful message with successful storytelling. Netflix’s sustainability-focused movie, a runaway hit with its global subscribers, was about how a group of allies who try to literally save the planet, against all kinds of adversaries. And Disney’s Avatar: The Way of Water, now the 3rd biggest box office hit of all time, uses all the power and magic of modern moviemaking to impart a message of environmental consciousness both in its setting and story.
With many of the leading spokespeople in our industry, we are advocating even more directly. Last month, I stood with my friend and president of SAG-AFTRA, Fran Drescher, to announce the formation of Green Council. This coalition of studios, guilds, unions, and various environmental groups will advocate for Eco Responsible Entertainment, highlighting the importance of environmentally friendly practices from script to set. And we have already embarked on the first leg of our agenda: reducing single-use plastic, both on- and off-screen.
William Maunier of UNI Europe is with us today and I expect he will share more about the union perspective on these issues.
Last, but not least, we can convene discussions like this one, in which we bring our best visionaries, scientists, legislators and others to put their heads together and explore ever new ways to address the greatest existential issue of our time. As I look around this room, I am so heartened to see so many of our most important friends and allies in this collective endeavor … from our own studio representatives to independent producers from around the world, crew members and creators in our industry, innovators in production and distribution technologies, journalists, and of course policymakers.
Today, we have an excellent panel where this important topic will be explored and discussed. So, without further ado, it is now my honor to introduce Perrine Quennesson. She is a renowned journalist, a teacher, and a leading voice in cinema, television streaming, and even cultural history. She also hosts the popular podcast septième science – 7th Science – where she conducts in-depth subjects explored in the movies: the film Dallas Buyers Club prompted her to examine AIDS, for example. The movie I Robot led to a wider look at technology, and The Mummy led her to examine why we are all so fascinated with ancient Egypt.
Ladies and gentlemen, it has been my great pleasure to talk to you, and now please welcome Perrine Quennesson and this outstanding panel.