“Like it or not there is an onus on actors,” said Mank star Tom Burke of the idea of global stars taking on the Green Rider unveiled earlier today, which will empower artists to add clauses to their contracts that work towards an environmental culture shift.
“We have been afforded an inordinate amount of power,” added the actor whose past credits include Strike and The Musketeers and who played Orson Welles in Mank. “I don’t want to start policing anyone on set but to know this is the sort of thing that can be talked about is realistic.”
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Burke added that there has “probably been an anxiety” around actors openly discussing these environmental issues in the past.
Opening the Edinburgh TV Festival, Burke said actors he speaks to are “concerned about people taking the p*ss” when it comes to over-stressing environmental issues on set.
“I know there are things that won’t save money [contained within the Green Rider] but they will have to be pushed for,” he added. “Nobody is trying to build a utopia and no one is saying difficult conversations will disappear. If anything we are encouraging those conversations to happens as before we were nervous about them full stop.”
Burke, Hayley Atwell, David Harewood and Ben Whishaw were among more than 100 UK actors backing the proposal for the Green Rider, along with the likes of Bella Ramsey, Mark Rylance and Paapa Essiedu. Akin to other forms of Rider such as the Inclusion Rider, it will help actors avoid high impact choices such as large trailers, private air travel or fossil-fuel powered road vehicles, encourage producers to provide low carbon transport options and push stars to consider the environmental cost of additional food or comfort requests that require runners to go off site.
Introduced at the start of the session was an Equity survey that found all respondents to have recognized the climate emergency but nearly half saying they are not confident asking questions about it at work. Of those who said they were not confident, 56% said they were scared of losing their job or being branded a ‘troublemaker’.
Speaking alongside Burke, I May Destroy You actor Fehinti Balogun said being open is key.
“The biggest shift in culture that can lead us to where we want to go is transparency,” he added. “You’re left out of that conversation [at the start of your career] and once you’re in it’s like ‘I deserve to be here.’”
Sky Studios UK drama head Meghan Lyvers said including actors in the battle to improve industry sustainability is the best approach. “It feels like the missing piece of an obvious puzzle and another step in terms of the transformation of dialogue,” she added.
Lyvers stressed that the Rider will be roadtested and there will be “different circumstances around different projects” with which it is used.
Backing the proposals, Manda Levin, a drama exec who used to be a Senior Commissioning Editor for the BBC, said some of the clauses contained within the Rider will be “cost neutral or even save money” in the long term. She pushed the idea of using sustainability consultants on set.
The Edinburgh TV Festival is running from August 22-25 and featuring the likes of Jesse Armstrong, Sally Wainwright and the heads of the major broadcasters and streamers locally.
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