Less lights, more action: How video production became more sustainable through COVID

Guest Writer's picture
by Guest Writer

Things have changed irreversibly for video production since March 2020, says Simon Owen, MD of Standby Productions.

It’s time for every business in the sector to come together and show their commitment to the environment and sustainability before it’s too late.


To say the Northern video scene has changed a lot over the last ten years is an understatement. Back then, we mainly saw moving footage on TV and some websites - and that was certainly echoed in the briefs we received. 

Looking back a decade, there wasn’t anywhere near as much demand for video content as there is now - partly due to slow broadband loading time online and also because businesses were only just waking up to the fact that video was (and still is) the best form of communication. 

When I started Standby Productions in 2011, there was a real need to educate clients on why video was important or useful. We had to sell the concept of video as a whole, which feels inconceivable to think of now, as we scroll through endless video content on our phones.

A big industry shake-up came through the rise of smartphones and dirt-cheap editing apps, which saw everyone suddenly playing around with video. This could have been the end for a lot of video production companies, as brands took some productions in-house, but instead it was the catalyst it required. 

Creating quality video content that represents your brand in the best light proved to be harder than initially thought, so the impact for the industry was one of the most pivotal it’s ever faced.

And now we’re choosing to do things differently again. 

The thing is, a lot has changed in the last 13 months. When the world stood still and the reels stopped turning, I was able to listen in the quietness. I could hear the birds outside, even in the once-deafening city, and as soon as we were permitted I found solace in nature, even if only for one hour a day. 

This felt like an awakening for the entire business community, never mind the video production industry. We were challenged with being a different level of creative to ensure productions were still being delivered. And with that came a wash of responsibility for the space around us.

There’s no escaping the fact that sustainability is a buzzword right now. But it’s happening for real at Standby Productions. We’re so much more mindful of our environment and the need to do our bit to protect it before it’s too late, so we’ve committed to positive change.

We recently announced our partnership with Lancashire Wildlife Trust, and have pledged a financial commitment of 1% of total turnover on top of filming donations, and volunteering on peatland across Greater Manchester, Lancashire and North Merseyside. 

The funds will go towards protecting precious peatland, which plays a vital role in our ecosystem as it soaks up twice as much carbon as the world’s forests. It will only make a small dent in our profits, but the impact for them will be huge.

On top of that, we’re paving the way to a more environmentally friendly video production industry across the board through initiatives learnt, many as a result of COVID. 

It’s hard to deny that the old ways of working were damaging to the environment. Hundreds of plastic water bottles for every shoot, costumes and props binned and destined for landfill, and meetings for meetings’ sake - not to mention flights to exotic locations just for good light. Something had to give before the planet did.

Becoming COVID-compliant forced the industry to realise that having fewer people on set is doable, as is managing airflow better and social distancing. I even directed a shoot from my sofa last year due to having a cold. Essentially, it’s all very simple stuff but it can make a huge difference. Fewer cars on the road, fewer people on set, and less waste.

But while we’re embracing these planet-saving changes, it’s hard to see many others following suit. Or if they are, they’re not shouting about it. Which is just another part of the problem. 

We’re calling for video production studios across the North to join us, copy us, do as we do. Together, we can make a massive difference - produce less waste, save energy and be part of the solution, instead of continuing to contribute to the problem that’s destroying the globe. 

Collectively, video production companies have a big voice in the marketing arena, with access to clients with a gigantic reach and a message to share. 

What if we could encourage our clients to talk about their own efforts to help the environment and build it into their campaigns? What if we tried to find out what our clients are doing to help save the planet, then build that into their video content?

We know we’re not the only ones with this on our radar. There’s talk across the marketing industry about how we can collectively help make a difference, and that’s really exciting because it’s when change happens.

Outside the sector, we’ve got clients who are already helping and challenging the destruction of the world’s rainforests by pledging to plant a tree for every project completed. This is massively important as, globally, 15 billion trees are cut down every year and the rainforests stand at half their original size. We’re sure many other companies are doing their bit to help and I’d encourage them to shout about it. 

We’re vehemently committed to making positive changes for the sake of our planet and hope as many others in the industry continue to join us.

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