Making Movies Without Making a Mess: Earth Angel and the Sustainable Film Movement

By Emellie O’Brien

IMG_1137I was a filmmaker before I was an environmentalist. If you had told me when I was in film school that I would be using my B.F.A. from Tisch to organize an industry-wide sustainability campaign, I would not have believed it. As a film producer, I viewed film as a creative vehicle for change. Little did I know that that hunger for change would lead me down a very different path.

I started Earth Angel in 2013. We are a New York based environmental consulting company tailored to the entertainment industry. Our mission is to integrate a standardized method of environmental accountability into entertainment production through education, waste diversion, resource management, carbon tracking and community outreach. Our philosophy is that entertainment should never be made at the expense of the environment, but should instead be harnessed for its cultural influence to effect positive social and environmental change in our society.

“Earth Angel” was a nickname bestowed on me on my first production serving as an Environmental Steward. While I was, and still am, one of the few to work in this niche field, I did not invent the concept of making film sets sustainable – I just so happened to be one of the first to make it successful.

Those of us who work in the field of sustainability understand that behavioral change is the most challenging aspect of our work. However, fusing the most influential industry in our society with one of the most pressing societal challenges is precisely why Earth Angel is not just timely, it is necessary.

From starting a business at the age of 23 with no capital and a mountain of student loan debt, to convincing one of the most wasteful, material-driven industries to commit to sustainable change, I’m no stranger to obstacles. The curse of working in sustainability is that your work is never done. While I am proud to have scored some fairly big victories, I remain focused on the task at hand and all the progress that has yet to be made. It’s the everyday triumphs that remind me of the true value of my work – like keeping leftover meals out of the trash and into the hands of those in need, or the crewmember who tells me that he has started composting at home because he was inspired by Earth Angel’s work on set.

Every set that is constructed, meal that is served, or costume that is designed is a chance to redirect excess resources that would otherwise end up in waste streams into local communities. The ripple effect of these actions, whether it is the cast or crew, is not to be underestimated. By making sustainability approachable, Earth Angel is not just performing the duties of a change agent; it is creating new change agents.eco1

Emellie O’Brien (“EOB”) is an entrepreneur, entertainment professional and activist. She is a recipient of the 2014 Toyota/Net Impact Personal Impact award as well as the 2014 Film Biz Recycling Golden Dumpster Founder’s Award, and is a Tory Burch Fellow. Emellie graduated with honors from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a B.F.A. in Film & Television and a minor in Producing.

You can find Earth Angel on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. To contact Earth Angel, email info@earthangel.nyc

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