Exclusive: 'Greenlit' Documentary Reveals Challenges Of Creating A Sustainable Hollywood
Even though the term “going green” has seemingly pervaded almost every industry in our society, getting beyond those words and manifesting real change in the never-ending, relentless machine of our modern economy has been a tough challenge to chew on. Here at the Razz, we often report on press releases dropped by Hollywood studios extolling the green efforts of their latest movies — but beyond the numbers of diverted waste or bottled water saved from the landfills — we’re never quite sure how the productions get from Point A to B. Who are the people behind the scenes? How do the producers, directors, cast, and countless others involved get on board the balance beam of creating a sustainable Hollywood production? Isn’t there enough to worry about beyond what bin the remains of my 15-minute lunch should be divided into?
Those questions are answered in the new documentary Greenlit — which follows the cast and crew of the movie The River Why as they bring on the firm Reel Green Media to help with their sustainable shift. Lauren Selman, who regularly contributes here on the site, founded the company several years ago to help studios understand what “going green” actually means. This documentary, in many ways, shows just how hard that language can be to communicate.
The film, which lasts just over 50 minutes, is directed by Miranda Bailey — herself an actress/producer in Hollywood. Its told from her point-of-view as she struggles to figure out what green filmmaking is all about, why global warming is important, etc. To be sure, there’s no agenda here — in fact, Bailey makes it clear in the beginning that she’s skeptical of why spending more money on sustainable filmmaking is actually a good thing. As a producer, she understands that every penny needs to be spent as wisely as possible. It’s from this angle of exploration that Greenlit succeeds in roping you along for the ride. Since Miranda, like those at home, has little idea of what “going green” might mean on the set, there’s not much that flies over your head. Everything from why Hollywood is considered a major polluter to how it can change is presented in a straight-forward, entertaining setup. When we finally do get to the set of The River Why, you’re insanely curious as to how this is all going to turn out.
While I won’t spoil the drama that unfolds, I will say that Lauren Selman and her Reel Green Media team are pioneers in the battle to turn Hollywood green. As such, the walls they hit in both participation and enthusiasm from cast and crew reflects just how difficult changing ways in this industry can be. Deadlines, union restrictions, and unfamiliar environmental practices all add up very fast to make supervising a sustainable film set a very tough order of business. While we see the end result of a press release with positive spin and celebratory green numbers, Selman and her crew work their butts off making those very difficult goals a reality.
The other area Greenlit succeeds in is the interviews it captures of cast and crew reacting to a “green” film set. A whole range of emotion is presented — from encouragement of the process to skepticism to blunt criticism of “what is actually achieved beyond replacing water bottles”. If there was ever a yardstick to show just how far Hollywood has to go where everyone is on the same page regarding the environment, this film would be it. You’ll find both hope and indifference — but more than that, you’ll share in the frustrations of the process.
In a sea of environmental documentaries, Greenlit offers an honest touch of reality to the movement. We can tout how easy it is to go green and chastise those who have yet to embrace the idea, but until we see how all elements of a particular industry must be reformed, our expectations should be tempered. The best we can do is support those out there, like Reel Green Media, on the front lines of the industry educating through action and ever-slowly chipping away at old, wasteful practices. After all, as the film relates, if we can make greening film sets the rule instead of the flashy, press-release-worthy exception, we may arrive at that happy ending and finally turn the page on Hollywood as a major polluter.
Want to see it? Expect Greenlit to hit the festival scene first and then trickle onto the green television networks. Sundance or Planet Green most likely will embrace the doc — especially with its under 60-minute running time. We’d also love to see it turned into a series with Selman and her crew greening various movies throughout the year. Make it so, TV land!