Creative industries such as cinema have gained growing prominence in the investment and trade promotion strategies of local authorities across the globe for their capacity to generate substantial dividends for their communities in terms of visibility, jobs and creating other opportunities.

The region of Trentino in northern Italy is no exception. TrentinoSviluppo, the local public body in charge of promoting sustainable economic development, launched the Trentino Film Commission in 2010. After some early successes, however, the commission soon had to face up to the environmental cost of its achievements.

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“Up until eight years ago there was no cinema around here,” says Luca Ferrario, head of the Trentino Film Commission. “We didn’t have experience with cinema, but we had experience with sustainability. From 2011 we have managed to increase shooting days from zero to up to 300 days per year. 

“Local economies and communities benefited from that, but we also faced new challenges with regards to the environmental footprint of cinema productions. Therefore, we decided to [tap in] to our cultural attitude towards sustainability to address the issue.” 

Best practices

The film commission grouped together a number of best practices, from energy savings to mobility logistics and waste management, to develop a rating for an acceptable degree of sustainability of a cinema production. Called T-Green film, the rating earned an extra financial incentive for producers that were willing to adopt it and meet certain sustainability standard.

“Movie productions are small, moving villages. We know that if we adopt the same practices we adopt at home where we differentiate waste, or turn off the light, then those productions become more sustainable,” says Mr Ferrario.  

Launched in 2015 on a voluntary basis (producers can independently decide whether or not to rate the sustainability of their productions), the rating system went well above the commission’s expectations, with about half of the productions applying for its support in opting to incorporate the rating system, in part because of the tangible financial savings it offered.

EU standard

Other regions across Europe have shown an interest in the rating system, to the point that an evolved version of the protocol, known simply as Green Film, has been chosen by CineRegio, a network of 48 regional funds around Europe, to become the starting point for the EU to develop a standard for sustainable movie productions.

Local authorities are seeking cinema productions to drive investment and development across their territory. In Trentino, each euro of public money spent on cinema incentives generates, on average, €3.2 for the local economy. Its Green Film rating is designed to ensure this economic dividend is also sustainable.

“Workers in movie productions were the first to welcome this new approach, to the point that I have anecdotal evidence that they carried these practices over to other territories even in the absence of any official rating or incentive,” says Mr Ferrario. “It just makes sense.”