Sony’s Cemetery Junction, the first co-directed feature from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, is one of an increasingly number of productions trying to be greener.

Cemetery Junction not only marks the first co-directed feature from the UK’s successful TV comedy partnership of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, it is also responsible for planting 56 new trees throughout the UK.

The film, produced by Sony Pictures and now in post-production, was planned to be environmentally friendly, says production unit manager Joan Schneider.
“Sony has certain rules [regarding inventory], which is great because it was included in the production budget from the start.”

There were two key initiatives implemented on the relatively low-budget production ― replacing plastic water bottles with metal containers that could be refilled, and planting a tree for every day of the shoot.

“Not using plastic bottles is a really big thing as you can go through thousands a week,” says Schneider. “We bought everyone a permanent bottle with the crew or cast member’s name on it and the film’s logo as a kind of incentive for keeping it, and the bottle could clip on to belts to make them easy to carry. They became like a souvenir; we even had some go missing.”

While some plastic bottles were on standby for the days when big crowd scenes were shot, on the whole the initiative went down well. “I thought there would be a lot of hassle from the crew but they were actually really pleased,” says Schneider.

The downside, she admits, is that the initial financial outlay for the bottles was quite high, which is why Schneider says it is essential for such schemes to be included in the production budget from the start. “Otherwise people will look at it and then say they can’t afford it.”

The production’s other major environmental undertaking was the tree-planting, which is continuing at locations across the UK (the film shot in London, Oxfordshire and the East Midlands). The production also spent extra on bio-degradable cutlery and plates for catering ― again to avoid adding to plastic waste.

While Schneider says Cemetery Junction could have gone further, she points out that it is not easy to be green on low-budget films. “I’m very proud of the things we did and that we didn’t have thousands of plastic bottles left over at the end. The more Green Screen is out there, the more people working in the industry can add suggestions, as it will help to hear what other productions have been doing.”