Quebec’s Audiovisual Industry Is Rolling Green for the Environment

Quebec’s “Rolling Green” program is in its fourth year and going full speed ahead. The early Covid start-up was designed to certify shoots that meet a number of environmentally friendly criteria. It’s been revolutionizing the Quebec film industry ever since. 

“We realized that an average feature film generates a carbon footprint equivalent to 10,000 Montreal-Toronto round trips by air,” said Quebec Film and Television Council (QFTC) chief executive officer Christine Maestracci.

Maestracci was running the QFTC when Rolling Green was launched at a time when the pandemic was at its worst. Today she’s convinced that the film business can play a major role in the fight against climate change.

BCTQ Christine 2022 Photo Officiel Pour Les Journaux
QFTC chief executive officer Christine Maestracci.

If you’ve never worked on a film set, it’s hard to imagine the size of the carbon footprint a single television production leaves in its tracks. And even those working in the industry are shocked at the scale of the GHG emissions produced.

“It’s insane when you do the math on CO2 emissions, and that’s when it hits you just how damaging the output from even one kids show can be,” said Léa Mignault, a production manager with Slalom, a Franco-Ontarian studio. Her commitment to transforming the industry is palpable.

Of course, it didn't take much to convince Ottawa-based Slalom to take up the Rolling Green challenge, after all it mainly shoots shows for children…and they are the future. Thanks to the program, Mignault quickly grasped that transportation was a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. “We have actors travelling back and forth from Montreal to Ottawa all the time,” she said.

Believe it or not, a study of television productions around the world, published by the Sustainable Production Alliance in 2021 showed that transportation and generator fuel are actually the biggest sources of pollution on film sets.

A multi-level, voluntary program

The Rolling Green accreditation program covers three levels of production. “What we’re accrediting is the production itself,” Maestracci said. “The first level is commitment, the second is performance, and the last one is excellence. After three years, eighty-five productions have been or are in the process of being accredited.”

This type of accreditation allows the program to operate on a project-by-project basis. For example, when Slalom became aware of the program, they were almost at the end of shooting the second season of their Makinium children’s series. They opted for accreditation at the first level.

“But for seasons three and four we’re going for excellence all the way,” Mignault said.

Stills shots from youth series Makinium (

Bitten by believer fever 

The first step in being a Rolling Green program candidate is a photo session on set to provide evidence that certain actions have been taken. “There’s a ton of stuff at first and you really have to think about it,” Mignault said. “A good example is taking a photo of a closed door when the air-conditioning is on to show that the film crew isn’t wasting energy. But there, you see, it’s all ingrained now, part of our everyday thinking.”

Another major change that still requires some adjustment for the actors: no more printing out service sheets, a type of roadmap for each day’s shooting. Now actors – and everyone else – have to go online to get the service sheets using their phones or some other device.

Maestracci feels that everyone is on board once they adopt the Rolling Green certification procedures. There really is no turning back at this stage. “Once producers see what they’re capable of doing and understand how they can organize things differently, it can have a real impact,” she said. “They’re delighted to be able to share the knowledge they’ve gained from the training and the course, but also when they see how much further they can take it.”

Accredited productions become ambassadors for the program, and can, if they wish, share their tips with new productions. Maestracci also said there are plans for expanding the Rolling Green program across the audiovisual industry in general. “We’re launching a green guide for visual effects and animation studios as well,” she said. “There’s still a lot more to be done.”


Making a place for eco-coordinators on set

A number of measures had to be taken on film sets to prevent infection and spread of the virus during the Covid-19 pandemic. The position of health and safety coordinator was created to ensure compliance with on-set Covid tests, masks, and social distancing.

“There are also intimacy coordinators for managing certain scenes to ensure that everyone is comfortable with what’s going on,” Maestracci said. “I think these roles have been a big help on set and have become more prominent in the industry.” 

So, why not have on-set eco-coordinators as well? “Of course, we’ll be working on all the tools available as things get more developed,” she said.

It’s a role that Léa Mignault would certainly welcome since she had to add the task to her on-set duties while doing follow-up on Slalom’s Rolling Green certification. A specific role overseeing every environmental aspect on a shoot would be just what the doctor ordered.

A global problem with local solutions

The impact of climate change can no longer be denied or ignored. An endless stream of international climate conferences, alarming reports on the state of the world, and the acceleration of natural disasters are all evidence that greater efforts are going to be needed.

It will take the whole global village to save the planet. “There are so many small initiatives that we all can do to make a big difference, it’s really worth it,” said Mignault. “Obviously, we don’t have bottled water on film sets anymore – in fact, I’m surprised anyone does.” She says it was important for Slalom to get involved “because film sets can be harmful to the environment and there are so many of them.”

But while some measures are easy to adopt, Maestracci reminds us that others are far more complex. “There are matters that need to be organized at other levels, at the municipal level, for example, to make sure that eco-centres are available, as well as facilities for composting and recycling,” she said. “Another example is using electric generators instead of diesel ones, something that rental companies need to change in their offering.”

Maestracci was particularly pleased to discover another driving force for change: young people. “Many new graduates have made the decision to work only on eco-responsible productions from now on,” she said. That refreshing wind of change is already blowing through an industry already reforming the way it works in order to leave less mess behind when making its mark.

Anaïs Elboujdaïni
Anaïs Elboujdaini is a freelance reporter and co-founder of the MENA Film Festival in Vancouver, BC. She worked for Radio-Canada and Noovo Info in Montréal. She covers social and environmental topics.
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