UGA MFA Film program goes green

UGA MFA Film program goes green

April 12, 2023

Film sets are hubs for creation. They are where concepts and ideas turn into visual, captivating works of art. But, unfortunately, television shows and movies aren’t the only thing created on film sets. Historically, film sets have also been notorious for creating tons of waste, pumping plastic water bottles, plates, utensils, coffee cups and more into landfills.

The UGA Master of Arts in Film, Television and Digital Media program, however, is on a mission to make sure that on its sets, waste is as minimal as possible. 

Matt Hudgins, sitting, on the set of his short film “Wokelahoma.”
Matt Hudgins, sitting, on the set of his short film “Wokelahoma.” This shoot used all natural light and rechargeable batteries, so no generator was utilized. Over 80 percent of the props, set dressing and costumes used were already owned, borrowed or thrifted, and all newly purchased costume elements were taken home for use by crew and cast members. Location scouting was done via carpool in a hybrid car. (Photo: Meg Barker)

Leading this sustainability charge is current MFA Film student Matt Hudgins, who, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history from UGA in 2009 and before enrolling in the MFA Film program in 2022, spent years on film sets working primarily in craft services, providing food and beverages to film and television crews. 

“There are tons of sets that don’t have, in practice, a real recycling program,” said Hudgins. “They might throw some recycling bins out, but there is not enough manpower or signage to manage that or advance crew education.” 

“Tons and tons of food gets wasted on a lot of sets and goes to the landfill,” he added, “which creates methane gas. Food waste, really, is a resource. If it is treated correctly, it doesn’t become food waste. It becomes a food resource.”

Soon after enrolling in the MFA Film program, Hudgins applied for and received a UGA sustainability grant, which enabled him to serve as the program’s sustainability supervisor. In this role, Hudgins is in charge of purchasing materials needed to improve the sustainability practices of the program, contacting partners and making connections to help the program achieve its goals, and leading the charge on helping the program make it into the Green Film School Alliance (GFSA), a group of film schools across the United States committed to reducing the environmental impact of content production. 

“We intend to join The Green Film School Alliance, in good company with all top-tier film schools in the nation, with full compliance of environmentally sustainable set practices: no single-use plastic bottles; all trash must be separated for maximal recycling, and food waste must be composted,” said Neil Landau, executive director for the MFA Film program.

Hudgins has been weighing and tracking the MFA Film program’s waste and practices throughout the year in preparation to submit a GFSA application by the end of the spring 2023 semester. 

“The sets I’ve been on that do it well, they have a dedicated sustainability team that will handle all of the waste on set,” said Hudgins. “They have lots of signage. They have people who are dedicated to being there, at the high traffic areas to make sure things go to the right bin, whether that’s compost, recycling or landfill.”

“Even just the attention and commitment to educate and emphasize putting things in the right bin can make a huge difference,” he added. “Our program is eliminating single-use plastics as much as possible. We’re focusing on reusables.”

Landau explained that additional sustainability efforts include encouraging carpooling to and from locations, using reusable canvas bags, and using recyclable cardboard and/or reusable containers for transporting craft services and catering for cast and crew. 

The program has already purchased reusable water bottles, which can be filled at water stations both on campus and at Athena Studios, a state-of-the-art learning center and studio space used by the program.   

“This is not only good for the planet, but will also save student filmmakers from purchasing bulk water bottles for single use,” said Landau. “It’s win-win for everybody, especially for Mother Nature.”