MI3 : Media Industries, Infrastructures and Institutions

# On Greening Film Festivals

A Roundtable on the Environmental Impact of Film Festivals and Their Future Design and Operation
13 January 2022, 8–10 pm CET, online

Now in the shadow of COP26 (UN Climate Change Conference) and as the global pandemic recedes, it is time to consider the future shapes and flows of film festivals in relation to the reduction of their environmental impact.

This international roundtable brings together several film festival organizers and scholars not only to compare notes on the general impact of festivals on the environment and the important initiatives that have taken place at the Locarno Film Festival (Switzerland) and San Sebastián International Film Festival (Basque Country, Spain), but also to anticipate future directions for festivals, among other types of events. around the world as the effects of climate change become more pressing and cultural policies begin to require corrective action.

Any event demands an investment in and exchange with its material environment. Film festivals are no different, for example, they require the transportation of their guests. The more important or prestigious the festival, the more air travel is taken for granted, but this creates a significant carbon footprint – How might such travel be mitigated without denting the festival’s identity? Similarly, other aspects of the material festival as an event are also important, such as the recycling of ephemera, electric lighting, heating, cooling, and so forth. Furthermore, the nascent subfield of environmental media studies aims to create new methodological and theoretical frameworks for the study of the material environmental consequences of media of all sorts – How ought energy sources themselves be taken into account when considering online video streaming or internet cloud storage? Energy sources range from, e.g., coal to nuclear to wind, yet each has a very different impact on the environment. As post-pandemic film festivals continue to explore online delivery, this question becomes pressing.

The Locarno and San Sebastián festivals are quickly becoming models for others to consider and adapt to their own situations. The roundtable participants will contribute their knowledge and expertise to help inform and shape the film festivals to come.

Participants (in alphabetical order):

Laura U. Marks works on media art and philosophy. She led the research group Tackling the Carbon Footprint of Streaming Media and is founder of the Small File Media Festival, www.smallfile.ca. Marks teaches in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Fabienne Merlet is Head of Communication and Marketing at the Locarno Film Festival. After graduating in Applied Languages and Translation, she now attends a part-time Executive Master in Corporate Communication at Rotterdam School of Management. She led the conception of the festival’s first sustainability report in 2021.

Amaia Serrulla holds a BA in Audiovisual Communication from the University Pompeu Frabra, Barcelona She has worked at the San Sebastián International Film Festival since 2011 and is currently Head of the Documentation and Films Department. For six years she was a member of the Selection Committee at Festival and since January 2020 she has been Head of the Thought and Discussion area, where, among other projects, the project focused on the transition towards sustainability of the festival has been developed.

Marijke de Valck is Associate Professor of Film and Media studies at Utrecht University. Her research deals with transnational media cultures, media industries and art cinema. She co-founded the Film Festival Research Network, co-edits the festivals review section in NECSUS, and has published widely on the topic of film festivals.

Ger Zielinski is principal investigator of the SSHRC research project “Buffering Online and Off” on video streaming culture, festivals, and their environmental consequences and is co-founder of the SCMS Film and Media Festivals Scholarly Interest Group. He lectures in the School of Professional Communication at X (Ryerson) University in Toronto.

Organizers, host and registration:

The roundtable is organized by Marijke de Valck and Ger Zielinski and hosted by The Creative School Catalyst, Toronto.
We wish to acknowledge the generous support from the School of Professional Communication and The Creative School Catalyst, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), The Film Festival Research Seminar, and the Toronto Film Festivals Research Group.