Indigenous voices highlighted in 7th annual Sustainable Production Forum

The film conference kicks off in Vancouver on October 1.

Sustainable Production Forum

Credit: Carmen Henriquez. Indigenous actor and producer Simon Baker (right) is helping kick off the Sustainable Production Forum

The film conference kicks off in Vancouver on October 1 

The seventh year of the Sustainable Production Forum will look quite different from years past. That’s partly due to the fact that the most recent couple of years have seen the conference, which focuses on accelerating sustainability in the motion picture industry, go online. This year’s production will consist of both virtual and in-person events, starting with a kickoff event in Vancouver on October 1.  

Of course, that’s one day after the National Day for Truth Reconciliation, and Indigenous voices will be highlighted at the SPF.  

“I can’t say I’m an activist, but I can say I’m aware and wanting to spread the word more and more of how we can lessen our carbon footprint as much as we can,” says Simon Baker, an actor and producer of Cree, Haida and Squamish descent. Baker is SPF’s opening reception MC and its fireside chat moderator. Other speakers in attendance on October 1 will be Creative BC CEO Prem Gill, Dr. David Suzuki and Squamish councillor Wilson Williams.  

“It’s kind of scary how much in terms of emissions [the film industry] puts out there,” Baker adds. “You don’t even think about it. You go to set, do your lines and call it a day. Now that I’m a producer, I’m thinking more about it and what the next generation will have to put up with.”

Indeed, the film industry is a prolific emitter of greenhouse gas. According to a release from the SPF, an average blockbuster film production emits roughly 3,370 metric tons of carbon dioxide—equivalent to some 33 metric tons of CO2 emissions per shooting day. A film set’s biggest environmental footprint? Equipment and vehicle fuel consumption.  

The SPF was created to bring awareness to environmental issues in the film industry. In addition to the Vancouver gathering, it will host events in Toronto (October 6) and New York (October 11).  

Environmental impact is something that’s also been on Baker’s mind as a member of the Squamish Nation, which is currently planning its massive Sen̓áḵw development.  

“We are the protectors of our Mother Earth—it’s our rightful duty to be there, but we are a part of this economic development,” says Baker. “We want to be making money, but if we need to spend that extra dollar to make it greener, we’ll do that. That’s one of our big pushes in any development we do—making sure we have our green thumb as part of that. With Sen̓áḵw, we’re spending over $2.4 billion just in making it sustainable. That’s why it’s going to be higher priced. But we want to think of ourselves as looking after our Mother Earth number one, and number two, making it economically viable for all of us.” 

Baker has been working as an associate producer with production company Real World (which also produces his documentary series Native Planet), and has steadily seen the increase of Indigenous voices in productions across the world. He’s recently come back from Calgary, where he just wrapped a movie in which he stars with Adam Beech and has a project called New Energy that he’s working on with FortisBC.  

“It’s our time to come in and tell our stories, rightfully and in the right way,” says Baker. “The industry likes to dramatize or romanticize us in this sort of way, and make us only the two-feather Indians. We’re not that, we’re educated. We have doctors, lawyers and very respectable people. My thing is, you know, I want to tell our stories, make ourselves present in society, and let people know we’re just regular people. It’s our time—people are interested in what we have to say.” 

The Sustainable Production Forum runs from October 1-22, with both online and in-person events. You can find the program guide here.