August 21, 2023

Lights, Camera, Sustainable Action: How Matchbox Pictures Makes Sustainability the Star of Their Productions

Read the story of Matchbox Pictures — leaders in Australian film and televsion, driving change within the industry to put sustainability at the centre of all productions.

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Meet Matchbox Pictures: an Australian production company helping lead the way in sustainable screen practices. Established in 2009, Matchbox Pictures, which is part of Universal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group, have always had a passion for sharing stories that touch on issues that affect humanity.

From day one, sustainability has been a part of their DNA, and they are helping Australian productions embed sustainability into their everyday production practices.

  • Matchbox Pictures integrates sustainability into their core values and production budgets, driving eco-conscious practices at all stages of production.
  • Educate and inspire crew members to make sustainability part of everyday life by nominating ‘Sustainability Champions’ to lead the implementation of environmental policies in their departments.
  • Sustainable production practices are being implemented across the Australian screen industry. Data-driven insights and industry-wide collaboration help these practices to be more effective and deliver greater impact.
  • Matchbox Pictures has hit the ground running in an industry ready to tackle the challenges of climate change.
  • There are so many ways to begin — don’t get left behind.

"There's no point telling stories unless we have a place to tell them."

It was the wake of the devastating 2019 Australian bushfires that set Matchbox Pictures on their journey, shifting sustainability from an ideal into embedded practice. The fires' impact deeply moved Helen Panckhurst, co-founder and Head of Production. She knew that urgent action was needed, and the time to address Matchbox's impact on climate change and the environment was immediate. This led to conversations within the management committee, who all agreed that something had to be done. These conversations paved the way for sustainability to become one of the organisation's core values, ensuring that green practices would always be at the centre of every production.

"Integrating these practices so that they become a part of everyday life for us in film and television production — that's essentially our goal."

Lily Rolfe, Production and Sustainability Coordinator at Matchbox Pictures, has been instrumental in helping to drive change within the organisation. Having led sustainability initiatives on a number of productions, Lily's expertise has been invaluable in building the framework for Matchbox's green practices. At the centre of this framework has been the introduction of baseline requirements for all departments to follow to ensure they act sustainably, including composting, reduced plastic use, an opt-in printing policy, no idling and much more, transforming how they operate. Eco-conscious practices are woven into every stage, from pre- to post-production, through regular meetings and leadership-driven reflective practices, exploring what's going well and what could be done better.

Notably, Matchbox Pictures has included a dedicated allocation for sustainability within production budgets, where leadership on every production can use the money for initiatives such as hiring electric vehicles or battery generators.

"Everybody has the ability to make subtle changes within their own world and within their own work environment."

Change can sometimes come with resistance. Matchbox Pictures tackles these challenges by ensuring clear messaging and the 'why' behind the movement. Engaging 'sustainability champions' who are on the ground and leading by example is instrumental in motivating and exciting people to do the work. By reducing barriers, making sustainable goals attainable, and framing these initiatives as something to be proud of and to feel good about, Matchbox Pictures nurtures a culture of positive impact and encourages people to get on board. Lily and the team have found that even the littlest changes can drive significant impact — like renaming waste bins to 'landfill bins' to help people stop and think before they throw their waste.

"Most people have the right intention, and they want to be involved. They just don't know how to take that first step."

Production companies across the globe have already deeply embedded sustainability into their everyday practices, and Matchbox knows that Australia can get there too. They want to help drive behavioural change within the industry here and now, raising awareness and shifting expectations for what is possible. Their next step? Data-driven reporting, using albert's carbon calculator to measure and report on their impact to even further drive their initiatives forward.

"People just need to take this leap."

Helen, Lily, and the team at Matchbox Pictures know that change is possible when creative minds unite and uplift one another to join the cause. Like any movement, behavioural shifts must come from people's willingness to collaborate and work together to create the future they collectively envision. Matchbox wants others in the industry to connect, share ideas and experiences, and use their collective power to inspire action. As Lily puts it, "You can't make a film on your own, and neither can you build momentum for a movement — collaboration is key".

Matchbox Pictures is part of Universal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group.

Want some tips to help you get started? Here are some small but powerful actions that you can take into your production right now:

  • Hire hybrid battery generators and electric vehicles
  • Only use reusable cups, plates and cutlery
  • Commit to a ‘meat-free’ catering day once per week
  • Manage waste with a three-bin system and donate any leftover materials or food

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