Over the past ten years, Twentieth Century Fox has taken every opportunity to make its global production operations among the most environmentally sustainable in the industry. From taking aggressive steps to responsibly manage energy and waste at its Los Angeles production campus to spearheading best practices for filming on location, the studio has consistently undertaken innovative projects that address the unique sustainability challenges facing film and television production. These efforts began with the launch of parent company 21st Century Fox’s corporate sustainability program in 2007, prompting the leadership at Fox Studios to make early investments in solar power and LEED certification. That same year, the studio broke new ground with its plan to make the seventh season of FOX’s action thriller 24 the first ever completely carbon neutral television series. Since then, Fox’s green production practices have expanded their scope to include responsibly-sourced lumber and food, alternative fuel sources, and a significant push to donate or reuse all leftover set materials. As a result, more than 50 Fox film and television projects have received the Green Seal from the Environmental Media Association. The company’s two-pronged approach of driving sustainability both on the lot and on location is key to its success and has made Fox’s environmental program in leading presence in the entertainment industry.
At first glance, the full environmental impact of a film or television production can seem difficult to precisely track. Variables such as set construction, heating and cooling, catering, makeup, props, costumes, lighting, and transportation all fluctuate according to the project’s specific needs, and after shooting ends, the post-production process continues at Fox’s offices and recording studios. Yet, the Fox Studios lot has implemented a number of long-term, lot-wide initiatives to conserve energy and natural resources no matter what the demands of the individual production, giving each project the resources it needs to operate as responsibly as possible.
One of the studio’s first steps following the launch of 21CF’s sustainability program was to invest in solar power on the lot. Fox installed its first solar array, measuring at 160 kilowatts, on its Crafts Building in early 2008, a system that paid for itself through cost savings within only three and a half years. This speedy return on investment paved the way for subsequent solar installations, with systems going up on soundstages, parking structures, and even golf carts. To date, Fox has invested nearly $6 million on these projects, and in 2017, it completed three new rooftop installations that nearly quadruple its existing solar power, bringing the total to more than 1.4 megawatts.
Another early focus for Fox Studios was to pursue LEED Certification for all new buildings constructed. LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Certification it the U.S. Green Building Council’s third party verification system that recognizes building strategies and practices for their energy efficiency. The company’s first LEED-certified building was completed in 2010 with the help of the firms Environetics and Gensler:
In 2014, Fox opened its second LEED-certified structure, the Richard D. Zanuck Production Building, the first ever LEED-certified post-production facility in the city of Los Angeles. The building took three years to design and construct, boasting the following environmental benefits:
The project was completed with the help of architecture and construction firms ARC Engineering, Gensler, Tectonics, and Brooke Rege. Brightworks served as the project's LEED consultant.
Beyond providing alternative energy sources for its offices and soundstages, Fox has placed a special focus on greening its transportation fleet. In 2008, the company introduced new 5-ton hybrid trucks to transport materials to and from sets and other locations. The trucks save an estimated 50% on fuel in comparison to standard diesel 5-tons. Fox also recently added a completely electric mail van to make local runs from the Lot to area post offices.
For employees, the company launched the Fox Commuter Program in 2009 to incentivize ride sharing and energy efficient travel. Since the launch of the initiative, employees using the program have:
In response to the ongoing drought in California, Fox has increasingly prioritized water conservation as a critical component of its sustainability plan, looking beyond the traditional areas of water use such as plumbing and cooling to develop more creative solutions to the water scarcity issue.
Responsible waste management has been a priority for Twentieth Century Fox since the early 1990s, with the studio now regularly diverting 85% of its waste from landfill. Fox expects to reach zero waste to landfill diversion rate within the next few years. Key components of its waste management program include:
DOE Commercial Buildings Partnership
In November 2010, Fox was one of only three companies selected for a multi-year project with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Commercial Buildings Partnership to assess the sustainability of its soundstages. Top scientists and engineers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) provided detailed energy tracking of the stages at Fox Studios and proposed an innovative set of sustainability measures to increase their efficiency, including upgrades to LED lighting and major retrofits to the cooling systems. The three-year project, which included a multi-million dollar investment from Fox, has yielded energy savings of more than 2.6 million kilowatt hours per year, cost savings of approximately $1,000 per day, and CO2 emissions reductions of 1,081 tonnes per year. In addition, Fox committed to releasing these findings publicly, equipping the film industry at large with critical resources for building a more sustainable, responsible business.
On location productions tend to accumulate larger environmental footprints than those shooting on the studio lot. Adria Vasil of Corporate Knights found that a blockbuster film can generate up to 1,000 metric tons of waste just from set construction, and a single season of a television show can consume up to 175,000 liters of gasoline. In addition, seemingly small actions such as printing scripts, using plastic utensils for on-set catering, and throwing out used makeup and costume materials can quickly add up to significant amounts of waste.
Fox’s sustainability program is dedicated to providing ample resources for responsible production, even when the project shoots on location and is unable to take advantage of the studio lot’s extensive environmental resources. Beginning with the seventh season of 24 and continuing over the next decade, Fox has kept an updated Green Production Guide for best practices in sustainability. The guide has become a standard resource for crews across the industry, as well as an invaluable tool in mitigating the sustainability challenges that accompany shooting on location.
24: Season 7 and the Green Production Guide
In 2007, Fox announced that it would make the seventh season of 24 the first ever completely carbon neutral television series. The steps taken during production, such as using 20% biodiesel fuels, purchasing green power, prioritizing hybrid vehicles, and tracking each department’s energy consumption, served as a roadmap for future productions both at Fox and across the industry, ultimately resulting in the FOX Green Guide, a comprehensive series of environmental best practices for other television, film, sports, news, and event producers.
The guide is composed of three components: how to set core sustainability goals for the production, how to communicate these efforts to cast and crew members, and how to work with vendors to meet the set goals. The guide accommodates any production regardless of size or location and contains step-by-step advice for every stage of production within every production department. Fox’s efforts on the seventh season of 24 helped form the basis of these recommendations.
Following a collaboration with the other major studios and the Producers Guild of America, the FOX Green Guide evolved into the Green Production Guide, a comprehensive resource for the entertainment industry to calculate the carbon footprint of its productions and access green vendors all over the world.
Green Production Overview
Green production requires managing a wide variety of departments, each with its own unique set of opportunities for more robust sustainability:
Although many of the above best practices are standard across Fox productions, each project approaches sustainability differently, with varying challenges and opportunities arising depending on where a particular project is filming in the world. Multiple productions in recent years have gone above and beyond green production baselines to achieve major sustainability success stories:
X-Men: First Class
In the fall of 2010, Twentieth Century Fox's X-Men: First Class began filming on Jekyll Island, Georgia. The scenes called for a massive crashed air-craft, a beached submarine, hundreds of non-native palm trees, and fires burning in the background--no small demand on the delicate eco-system of Jekyll Island's quiet beaches. Yet, in spite of these challenges, the X-Men: First Class team was able to completely restore the beach and preserve native habitats and wildlife. After production wrapped, the crew worked with Environmental Services in Savannah to bring in the appropriate sand to re-sculpt the beach, diaper all hydraulic and fuel lines to prevent oil spills, re-plant more than 30,000 plants, install a sprinkler system to ensure their growth, and clean up the Styrofoam and plastic debris that remained after the set was torn down. Local authorities say that the team left the beach in even better condition than when they found it.
Fox took extensive measures to green the production of 2008’s The X-Files: I Want to Believe, with enthusiastic support from director and series creator Chris Carter. “When I first started working in the business, we would just take sets and throw them away,” Carter said. “That’s changing. There is a new sensibility. There is a new directive, and I think Fox is at the forefront of that directive, using recycled materials wherever possible, recycling what you do use, looking at it as a total approach, and I was very excited about that.”
When Twentieth Century Fox Television greenlit a new X-Files event series in 2016, the crew seized the opportunity to continue the green production work they started on the film seven years earlier:
For Legion, FX Networks’ eight-episode drama set in the world of the X-Men, Fox once again hired Zena Harris of Green Spark Group, who also served as sustainable production coordinator on The X-Files event series, to oversee green initiatives behind the scenes. Harris worked directly with each department throughout the nearly six-month shoot to review best practices from the Green Production Guide, as well as identify opportunities to innovate new techniques for energy saving, such as partnering with Portable Electric to pilot their new mobile power stations. By both building on the success of previous series and identifying new opportunities for innovation, the crew managed to divert 55% of the waste from landfill, avoid 252 metric tons of CO2 emissions, and collectively save nearly $48,000 USD.
For a detailed look at the Legion crew’s work behind the scenes, view the video below: