A projector
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A new report sheds light on the what digital practices work in UK film and television for environmental and social sustainability.

With the Hollywood strikes around artificial intelligence (AI), we see more attention on the challenges the industry will face with AI and new kinds of technologies.

This new report from Hunter Vaughan and Pietari Kääpä examines both digitalisation and sustainability across the film and television industry; identifies government and industry levers for positive change; and recommends areas for future policy action.

The report calls on the UK film and television industry to design frameworks for sustainable digital practices. It also argues that policymakers should put requirements and incentives in place to encourage good digital practices across the industry.

Film and television production leads to a significant environmental footprint due to carbon-intensive infrastructures, energy dependencies, and waste production. While the past two decades have seen a rise in stakeholder discourse around sustainability and in critical attention to the industry’s environmental impacts, there is still a way to go to reach the level of impact sought.

To help identify a path forward, this report critically assesses the industry’s current sustainability strategies, and advocates for more ambitious environmental and social policy development around the use of new technologies in the sector.

Digitalisation is the key battleground for these developments. On one hand, the digital transition has provided further benefits to both the corporate and individual members of the film and television industry. Online operations, non-linear (computer-based) editing and CGI effects have provided for greater efficiency in creative practice and communication.

Yet, on the other, digitalisation – from replacing paper with electronic documents to substituting analogue celluloid with digital filming, both of which can manage far more data in far smaller objects – has made it difficult to scrutinise the environmental impact of these developments.

This report from Hunter Vaughan and Pietari Kääpä brings together evidence from their extensive ongoing conversations with industry stakeholders and examines what digital practices work in UK film and television for environmental and social sustainability.

Key Recommendations

Based on the findings of the report, the authors recommend:

For Industry:

-The film and television industry should lead on designing stringent life-cycle environmental assessments and policy frameworks on sustainable digitalisation.

-The film and television industry should develop a Charter for Sustainable Digital Work to enhance social sustainability and labour protections against the threats of increased workplace digitalisation.

For Government:

-Governmental and public incentives for virtual production (VP) studios should include requirements for clean energy sources and local community impact assessments.

Join us for an online event

On Thursday 9 November, join us online for a panel event to discuss the report and explore how we can ensure a sustainable digital future for UK film and television.

Register now


This report is authored by:

Hunter Vaughan,
Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy,
University of Cambridge

Pietari Kääpä,
Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies,
University of Warwick