• Jess Costa

Sustainable Filmmaking with Fishtown Films

The first zero-waste feature film.

ArtCube Nation is a Professional-Social Network that is committed to saving things from the dumpsters and finding a way to work more sustainably to combat our wasteful industry. The Fishtown Films’ feature, Citywide, is something to marvel at and takes it to the next level. They made a zero waste feature film (yes, you read that right).

Emily and Austin, the co-founders of Fishtown Films, started to play with this idea since they are zero waste in their everyday lives, but it felt wrong to abandon that once that got to set; Austin joked that we can’t treat set like “summer camp” for waste.

They tested this idea out on a punk rock music video, a genre always known for being radical can now take that approach to make their content. “The product you make is just as important to how you make it.”

They created only 4 oz of waste — that’s including meals, waters, and all of the messiness that comes with set life. They took on a short film following this and only created 8 oz of waste. This past year, they brought this to the next step: a feature film, known as Citywide.

Emily and Austin realized we’ve all been on those runs where we’re picking up cases of water, plasticware for lunch, throwing out half-drunk coffee cups — and that all takes time. Why not use that time to wash the reusable coffee cups with someone’s name on it, fill up a water dispenser, run the dishwasher for plates for the next day?

It feels so much better working sustainably and it saves the production money since now all you’re using is time — the same time you were before.

An element of a successful film is time management. Fishtown started from the end and worked their way backward to account for every detail, which now included: washing dishes, adjusting for everyone’s diets (being a vegan set truly helped with that), time to thrift props and costumes, and even find individual makeup soap.

“At the end of the day you are a little bit more mindful and you have a lot less trash to take out.”

Their crew and cast felt taken care of since each part was thought out thoroughly and they were excited to be a part of this movement. Onset, you’re already invested in this idea of creating something bigger than yourself and now their set felt even larger since they took on that environmental level.

Citywide Breakdown:

People. 37 total. Cast (speaking roles): 17. 14 women, 3 men. Extras: 10 Main Crew : 3

Auxiliary crew (BTS Photographer, Hair, Makeup, PAs): 7

Locations. Sets constructed: 0 Sets found, used as-is: 100% (funds local businesses to use existing spaces. Some of the sets used were a dive bar, an indie bookstore, and the office of a print shop).

Costumes. Costumes bought new: 0 Costumes thrifted / salvaged / vintage: 100%

Props. Thrifted / salvaged/borrowed: 95% Bought new: tote bag, reusable coffee cups (3) given as gifts to the actors, caution police tape (donated to local salvage theatre/film supply company)

Food. Caterers (all willing to work zero waste): 4 Vegan food: 100% Reusables for catering, water bottles, coffee, snacks, etc: 100% Disposables used: 0 Coffee roasted + brewed by local coffee shop into large reusables thermoses each day. Keeps it sustainable and funds local business.

Within the film: Reusable coffee cups were featured, cotton bags in place of pastry bags and tote bags were featured, food wrapped in cloth napkins, glassware for beverages, or recyclable aluminum cans.

Transportation. Bolt Bus to/from Philly to transport actors 2 plane rides for LA + San Fran actor (both direct flights) Lyft within Philadelphia when walking distance was too far.

Within the film: Walking/bicycling/bus/Lyft ride were featured as mode of transport for characters

Film Gear. Owned: cameras, audio kit, lens, SDXC memory cards, monitor Rented: Lights, grip kit Primarily used: LED lights + battery packs All reusable batteries used on set.

Housing. All housed in Airbnbs.

Pre-production: February — November 2019

Production: December 2019 — January 2020 (21 days filming)

Post-production: January 2020 — present.

Total Trash. Collected from February 2019 — February 2020: 16 ounces.

Working in the art department, we aren’t involved in every step, like Fishtown, but there is a lot we can do in our own department. Most importantly remember “it’s not perfection but progress.”

Be a part of the progress and make films sustainably; join ArtCube Nation to pass on and/or sell your props and your sets to the next production. One set is always starting as another wraps!

Connect with Fishtown Films

“A Zero Waste Film Studio. Make art, not trash.”

Website | Company Instagram | Film Instagram

“Our mission is to produce content that resonates with viewers, regardless of scale, resources and ability. From creating the overall strategy, to organizing and executing the shoot, to managing the multifaceted post-production process, we ensure our clients’ projects are seamless from start to finish.”

Austin Elston

Writer + Director

A director and writer, Austin co-founded Fishtown Films with the vision of creating a company that focuses on art, collaboration and sustainability. Austin began his film career while at University College Dublin, where he earned his Masters in Film. Over his fifteen year career, his work has won multiple awards for direction. Visual Literacy, turning words into images, continues to fuel his work.

Emily Gallagher

Cinematographer + Editor

Emily is a cinematographer and editor who earned her Masters in Film at University of Dublin, Ireland. Emily’s passion and respect for the planet has driven her to create the first zero-waste film studio. Her mission is to tell inclusive stories while showcasing a new style of filmmaking, one that is significantly less wasteful than the norm. With extensive film experience under her belt, Emily has a unique perspective that she brings to both the lens and the editing suite.

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