Berlin Market Pushes for Sustainability, Both Environmental and Psychological

Courtesy of European Film Market

Alongside efforts to cut its carbon footprint, Berlin's market and film festival are focusing on improving the mental well-being of people working in the industry.

Few of the executives hustling from meeting to meeting amidst the non-stop stress of this year's European Film Market in Berlin would take the time to think of the environment, much alone their own mental health.

But people's growing awareness of the global climate crisis and, within the film and television industries, of a home-made mental health crisis, have put both issues in focus.

Ahead of this year's EFM, market organizers published a manifesto on "sustainability," highlighting both problems and possible solutions. EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol says the response was overwhelmingly positive.

"People really appreciated how the market, and the festival in general, positioned themselves to the topic [of sustainability]," says Knol. "These are the first steps and of course there are many, many more things to do but the start has been very positive and very constructive."

On the environmental side, EFM took several concrete steps this year to reduce its carbon footprint, from increasing the use of sustainable and reusable materials for market stands and marketing materials to banning single-use plastic cups from its locations and encouraging visitors to BYOC (Bring Your Own Cup). While the CO2 impact of travel — particularly air travel for international visitors to Berlin — is hard to avoid, the EFM says it is “actively encouraging” visitors who can to use lower-impact alternatives, such as train travel, and is working on a rewards system to help them do so. From 2021 on, EFM also hopes to have developed a greener alternative to its current shuttle system, which transports visitors between the market, screening rooms and the main Berlinale hotels.

The issue of environmental sustainability within the film industry was picked up by MPA chairman and CEO Charlie Rivkin in his Berlinale speech on Friday to industry professionals and policymakers. Titled "Film Goes Green: Sustainability in Film Production," the talk addressed ongoing efforts to reduce the industry's global environmental impact. The MPA, along with 30 other signatories — including the German association of public service and commercial broadcasters, the German Producers Alliance, pay-TV group Sky and regional and national film boards — signed a joint declaration on Feb. 19 pledging to pursue sustainable film and series production.

“Few issues could be more compelling than the dangers that climate change poses to all of us,” said Rivkin in his talk. “With the stories that we are capable of bringing to the screen and the ways that we conduct ourselves as an industry, we have it in our power to make a difference.”

How the film industry conducts itself with regards to the thousands of men and women who work within it was the other aspect of sustainability in focus in Berlin this year. The shocking statistics released Feb. 12 by Britain's Film and TV Charity, which revealed that 87 percent of people working in British cinema and television have experienced a mental health problem, compared to 65 percent of people in the U.K.'s general population, highlighted the urgency of the issue.

As part of its Event Horizon program, which looks at broader trends in the film and entertainment industries, EFM held a session on Saturday on “the connection between creativity and mental health.” Panel participants included psychologists, neuroscientists and representatives from companies that couch firms in how to better their employee's mental well-being.

“We're a market so we wanted to put the focus on the link between mental health and creativity and the economic advantages of addressing [mental health issues]” says Knol. He noted that companies who follow a program giving their employees one down-time day per month, to allow them to mentally and physically recharge, see significant increases in creativity and productivity.

“As a creative industry, the main resource we have is basically our own health,” says Knol. “[Mental health] is the elephant in the room because, if you look at the numbers, this is a personal topic for many, many people in our industry.”