As production on the series Five Days At Memorial wrapped, 3rd Assistant Accountant Stacy Morris came up with a brilliant plan to donate the show’s leftover materials to Sheridan College’s film program. Stacy’s recycling initiative then inspired DGC Ontario’s Sustainability Committee to create a Circular Economy program currently in development.
To celebrate Circular Economy Month, we sit down with Stacy to discuss the benefit of sustainable practices within the industry and how creative thinking can save both dollars and the environment.
Can you share what initially sparked your interest in recycling and the circular economy and how it has evolved over time?
Initially, I was just interested in finding ways to help my daughter during her final year at Sheridan. She had a small budget of $3,000 to make her thesis film, and most of the funds were spent on the 2 locations for the shoot. I thought that if I asked, I might be able to get donations. I mentioned it to a few crew members at the production I was working on, and they were happy to help out.
Could you walk us through the process of collecting leftover items from the production Five Days at Memorial to donate two carloads of materials to Sheridan College?
We were already well into Post Production in 2021, and I was almost at the end of my contract. I knew that most of the stuff that was left after liquidation could not be sold, so I asked if they could be donated. These items included juice boxes, cans of pop, granola bars, film gels, black and white pieces of foam core, green screen, tiny metal pulleys, grid cloths, masks, face shields and small bottles of hand sanitizer, wipes, etc. I knew film students needed these items, and they would be happy to get them to use them in their productions. There were 20 student film productions greenlit at Sheridan that year, and I was volunteering on four film sets, including my daughter’s film. I gave the list of items to my daughter, who was Directing her thesis film. She then posted on the group chat for film students in key roles. The students, in turn, texted me to let me know which items they wanted. Then I set up appointments where each of them would stop by my apartment for pick up. There were a few rolls of gel left over that the kids did not take, so I gave it to the equipment room staff at the school.
When did you join the DGC Ontario Sustainability Committee, and why? What do you hope to accomplish while on the Committee?
I joined the Sustainability Committee in 2022; I was asked if I was interested in volunteering as a Member of the Accounting Caucus. I am still relatively new to the film industry, and I thought this would be a good way to learn more about filmmaking. I began working in the film industry during the pandemic, so it was also an opportunity for me to meet new people working in other departments. I hope to continue contributing and becoming a promoter of sustainable business practices.
Were there any significant challenges you encountered during the collection and donation process, and how did you overcome them?
The challenge for me was transporting the open packages of leftover gell rolls. I had about 30 of those in various colours, and they were very long, and my car is very small. Also, the foam core was very wide, so we had to cut them up into smaller pieces so that they could fit in the trunk. I asked my daughter if any of her friends had a larger vehicle that could help me transport the materials. There was one young man who volunteered to borrow his Uncle’s van, and he came by the studio so we could load up the van. I also remember he locked his car keys in the van at one point, so we had to wait for CAA to come by and unlock the van. We actually spent more time waiting for CAA than loading the van!
In your opinion, how do recycling and circular economy practices align with the broader goals of the film and television industry?
I am very much a minimalist; I don’t like a lot of clutter, and I believe we can do better to reduce waste in the film industry. I often assist my daughter when she is working on other films, and one of the rules we have is that we think about how we are going to dispose of an item before we use it in production. We intentionally get items we can either return, sell or donate. If we do not have a strategy for disposal, then we do not get the item. I live in a very small apartment, and I cannot house the props and set dressing. If we are aware of other shows that have used the item, then we can borrow it; If we are aware another show is going to use the item in the future, then it is worth it for us to get it. We have also been able to save a lot of money for productions by doing this because the final expense is usually substantially less than the budget. I shop at a variety of thrift stores, and I ask friends and family to loan us stuff every chance I get. I think it is the only way for us to move forward, not just in the film industry but in everyday living. As a single Mom, I have learned that asking for help is not a bad thing. The worst that can happen is that a person says no, and then you just ask someone else.
How can the film and TV production industry as a whole better integrate sustainable practices?
The film and TV industry can better integrate sustainable practices by making sure our resources continue their life cycle. I think we can make the circular economy a priority and incorporate it when we are planning and budgeting film projects. Sharing what we do is also good practice because people are more likely to buy in when you share why you are doing something. I like to think that we all benefit when we collectively decide to commit to something – it’s not seen as an exception; it becomes the norm.
Can you share any lessons or best practices that you’ve learned through your experience with recycling and sustainability within the film industry?
The takeaway for me is that everything does not have to be brand new, and each of us can actively find ways to recycle and repurpose. One of the best compliments my daughter has ever given to me was just a few years ago when we first moved here from Alberta, and we were trying to adjust to our life in Ontario. My girl said, “One of the best things about my Mom is that she knows how to make something out of nothing.” I really like that expression because it makes me feel like I can also be creative. I am not a Writer, an Actor or a Director, but I can still be creative in finding ways to save money and resources. The work that I do is not visible on screen; nevertheless, it can still be very impactful.