'Evan Almighty' Director Tries Carbon-Neutral Set The film Evan Almighty is Universal's first attempt at carbon-neutral production. Director Tom Shadyac says carbon emissions were counted and then offset by planting trees. But he also made changes on the set, including a lot of recycling, bikes for crew members, and double-sided scripts.
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'Evan Almighty' Director Tries Carbon-Neutral Set

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'Evan Almighty' Director Tries Carbon-Neutral Set

'Evan Almighty' Director Tries Carbon-Neutral Set

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It seems that being carbon-neutral is all the rage these days so it's no wonder that the trend-conscious folks in Hollywood are trying to become more conscious about the Earth. In the beginning there was "The Day After tomorrow." In 2004, it claimed to be the first film to offset its carbon emissions by planting trees. In 2005, "Syriana" said it was the first to go carbon-neutral by investing in renewable energy. Last year, "An Inconvenient Truth" claimed the title first carbon-neutral documentary.

Now you can only get so many firsts, but tomorrow, Universal Pictures says it's releasing the first carbon-neutral comedy.

(Soundbite of movie "Evan Almighty")

Mr. STEVE CARELL (Actor): (As Evan Baxter) Who are you?

Mr. MORGAN FREEMAN (Actor): (As God) I'm God.

Mr. CARELL: (As Evan Baxter) You're God?

Mr. FREEMAN: (As God) Yes. And I want you, Evan Baxter, to build an arc.

Mr. CARELL: (As Evan Baxter) Okay. You know what? This conversation is a little thing I like to call over. But I got to get going because, frankly, I have an arc to build. Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy. Nice seeing you. Take care.

NORRIS: That's Steve Carell and Morgan Freeman in the comedy, "Evan Almighty." And I'm joined now by the director of "Evan Almighty," Tom Shadyac. Hi, Tom.

Mr. TOM SHADYAC (Director, "Evan Almighty"): Hello. How are you? I'm the first green director. We were just claiming a lot of firsts there. I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon.

NORRIS: Well, since we were talking about first - first of all, let's lay out the specifics. When you try to make a movie and you're trying to make sure that you offset your carbon emissions, where do all those emissions come from?

Mr. SHADYAC: Well, you know, there's - on this movie, there were 400 crewmembers. On the average movie, there's about 75 to 100-plus. We fly airplanes. We bring lots of equipment to sets. So we're putting a lot of carbons into the air just to get to our locations. So those poisons, we chose to neutralize through planting trees.

NORRIS: So when someone actually got out a calculator, figured all these out, what did you have to offset in the end? What was your, I guess, they call it your tonnage?

Mr. SHADYAC: Well, I don't know what the tonnage was but I can tell you that the price was very reasonable. You know, we're a very expensive comedy. We're in the $170-plus-million-range because the effects and the animals et cetera, and we had to build this arc four different places. I think it was hovering, you know, in the low tens of thousands of dollars to plant the number of trees that we needed to sequester the carbon to zero out of our footprint.

NORRIS: Now when you were trying to figure out what you had to offset, there's the world that you controlled but then you also worked with a lot of contractors. Did you also count up the contractors' carbon emissions? The caterers? Whoever actually transported the animals to the set?

Mr. SHADYAC: Yeah, I believe so. All that was taken into consideration. Everything, you know, I don't want to say that we had every bottom line considered, but I do know that they took into account the catering and animal travel, et cetera.

NORRIS: You know, when you're talking about the animals traveling to the set, I'm also wondering when they're, you know, you see the pictures of them traveling two by two onto the arc. I mean, what about the, I guess we'll call it, the methane emitted by all those cows and the sheep and the frogs and the elephants?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHADYAC: And let's not forget the crewmembers.

NORRIS: Ah, well, them too.

Mr. SHADYAC: The grips and the - yes. I'm not sure if that was calculated. Of course, you know, we all know that the cow emissions are quite problematic. I'll have to ask the people at the conservation fund if they took into account burps and other such gases being released.

NORRIS: You can get back to us on that.

Mr. SHADYAC: Yeah. Exactly.

NORRIS: So if you are trying to go green on a big production like this, what changes in terms of the day-to-day production on the film?

Mr. SHADYAC: Well, you feel very little of it. It's really - this intent that you set very early and we had to change our habits, for example, of throwing things out. We had recycle bins everywhere on the set. And we found that if those recycle bins weren't as convenient as the trashcans, those trashcans would get filled with lots of recyclable items. So we had to learn. There's a learning curb on the movie and it happened very early, but we put recycle bins everywhere.

NORRIS: I understand that you used double-sided scripts. I'm wondering if that's ever a problem because I know when double-sided scripts come into the studio in here it can create a fair amount of confusion if you're not careful.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHADYAC: Well, you know, it's a very learnable thing. And I used to complain about it because I write quite a bit, and I used to complain about the double-sided script. Oh, how will I take my notes? And then I realized you just turn the page over. It's not that challenging. It's just a matter of habit. You know, if suddenly single-sided scripts were outlawed today and we were living in that kind of regime, we would figure it out.

NORRIS: You talked about the intent, trying to stay green in the production of the film. What about the marketing of the film? Are things that you are still trying to control? I read in the Chicago Tribune that several planes were flying around Lake Michigan recently. They all been dragging banners, advertising your film "Evan Almighty." That doesn't sound environmentally friendly.

Mr. SHADYAC: I'm very aware of the hypocrisy of that. And actually, I was in Malibu when I saw the banners go by. Yeah, you know, look, I mean, all of us are, you know, imperfect. And the idea is to minimize that hypocrisy. You know, I certainly saw those planes and we'll zero that out, you know. And I don't believe zeroing out is ultimately the answer because there's only so much Earth surface and, you know, you could only plant so many trees. So I think it's about finding alternative forms of energy. And again, once the intent is there, I think, at least, the ship is steering in the right direction. We can solve these problems.

NORRIS: Tom Shadyac, thanks so much for talking to us.

Mr. SHADYAC: Pleasure.

NORRIS: Tom Shadyac is the director of "Evan Almighty." The film opens tomorrow.

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