South Africa’s first green film


South Africa’s first “green film’, a comedy-drama called Somer Son (“summer sun’),
has just recently seen the light of day. Directed and produced by Clinton Lubbe, it
was shot on location in Legogo, Mozambique.

Somer Son tells the story of a 30-something South African couple (played by
Reynard Slabbert and Juanita de Villiers) who decide to take a romantic getaway to
Mozambique in an attempt to get their marital spark back. An accident along the
way sends them on an unexpected adventure.

With the uncertainty of Eskom, Lubbe believes that filmmakers will soon realise that
“greening’ is not just a PR exercise, but saves production costs and can be a viable
option in the long run.

Lubbe started his career as a stills photographer for the likes of Afrikaans singer
and television personality Nataniel. In 2014 he became the DOP for season 4 and 5
on the hit KykNet series Die Nataniel Tafel. He saved the producers over R250 000
by changing the outdated cameras to a Canon Cinema C300 multi-cam environment
and adapted the lighting configuration to suit these light sensitive machines. A
passion for greener filming was born and he demonstrated that it is profitable for
producers too.

He further proved his concept for a “leaner film production model’ in 2014 while
filming Bok van Blerk’s Land van Melk en Heuning (“land of milk and honey’) music
video in Mozambique.

“You read all about the Canon Cinema camera’s ease of use and how it allows you
to move and shoot faster and lighter but only in practice do you get a true sense of
its worth with how many more shots you get in a day,’ says Lubbe. There wasn’t a
single crew member on set – only Van Blerk and Lubbe and the results were still
big, breathtakingly cinematic and professional. A dream to shoot a movie in this
paradise was born and soon after they started writing Somer Son.

Greenflim SA was born in an attempt to produce the first ever carbon neutral green
film in South Africa. The goal was to make the entire set, with all the departments,
more environmentally friendly and to leave a lower carbon footprint. At the
beginning of the process a carbon assessor, Susan Scholtz was brought in to advise
and guide from the perspective of The Carbon Protocol of South Africa. She warned
that it would be near impossible to be carbon neutral but incredibly impressive if
they were to end up anywhere close. Although the production did not end up
meeting the requirements for being carbon neutral, they did come close and in the
top category prescribed by Scholtz.

The biggest change was the use of solar panels for all power requirements. Energy
and lighting company Ellies, along with Procos Energy Solutions, assessed the
energy requirements of the project and custom built a power solution for the set.
This included six large 235watt solar panels feeding a 24volt battery bank with a 3
000watt inverter. This might not sound like a lot of power but, according to Lubbe,
that is the point of greening – to use fewer resources.

“Ultimately it has to be a total solution – from how you write your scene to which
camera you choose down to your lighting requirements.’ They stuck with the tried
and tested Canon Cinema C300 with a C100 as a B-unit camera. “I understand
arguments for various other more expensive camera systems and some are
absolutely valid but you don’t always need to drive your 4×4 down to the
Attention was given to every department, and to Lubbe’s surprise, hair and makeup
was the most difficult department to make more energy efficient. “I could replace a
1K light with a 150w LED but a hairdryer seems to be 1200w minimum. For the
power it took to do hair in the mornings, I could run a set and production office for
the entire day.’

Sponsors also added to the greening process. Action Ford provided fuel efficient
4x4s with the new EcoBoost engines. Ripcurl provided iron free swimwear from
recycled materials. Paul Mitchell supplied environmentally friendly hair products.
They made use of gas stoves for cooking and replaced all plastic items on set with
reusable glass and metal cutlery and crockery. Even the occasional pee in the bush
was encouraged – the guys were calculated to have saved over 5 000 litres of
flushed water!

The pre- and post-production office was a paper free zone. Only the final script
(version 21) was printed for the actors. The greening extended through into the
post-production process which was also solar powered. This included editing, sound,
mixing, viewings and colour-grading.

Lubbe said that to be 100% carbon neutral would take another attempt,
implementing what they learnt, but that they are determined to get there.

Meanwhile, they planted a few trees along the way to make up for it.

Somer Son opens in South African theatres on 8 May.
– Reynard Slabbert


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