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The Nature of Movie Making

Updated: Apr 26, 2019

How Hollywood and the motion picture industry aim for big numbers at the box office while having a small impact on the environment.

Making movies and television shows can be exciting work. It provides opportunity to work with some of the most talented and creative people in the world. It also enables cast and crew members to visit some truly beautiful locations for filming. Some of these locations are natural areas that serve as critical habitat for plants and wildlife.

It is the job of crew members who work in a department called locations to help manage the production area in these wild places, often paying special attention to ensuring sensitive species or resources aren’t disturbed by the crew’s activity. Key Assistant Location Manager for television and feature film production, Mark Gaffney, will coordinate with local agencies like Department of Beaches and Harbors or the Mountain Recreation Conservation Authority to determine the best ways the crew can avoid damaging the habitat in places.

CALABASAS, CA (2018) The lush green hills and Santa Monica Mountains are a popular filming location for film and television. (Photo: Rick Evans)

On one particular shoot, Gaffney says he and the crew were shooting in the Mount Charleston area near Las Vegas and they had to be extra careful not to destroy a specific flower on site because it is a vital resource for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, which is listed as an endangered species according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Other occasions require the locations department to hire on a wildlife handler to comb through areas like Big Sky Movie Ranch to find any dangerous species like venomous snakes. The handlers will catch the animals and release them somewhere nearby on the property, but far enough away they won’t bother the crew.

There has also been a response from organizations like Earth Angel, a Brooklyn based company aimed at helping to mitigate trash accumulated from TV and movie productions. They will go on set to make sure all the trash gets thrown away to the appropriate facilities as well as taking care of the recycling of reusable materials like plastic. They also donate some material to local charities to reduce waste.

The business of film and television production has created a massive industry. That’s why it’s so important for the productions to hire locations crew personnel like Mark Gaffney to help them find and manage locations, but also to make sure the environmental impact is kept to the bare minimum when shooting in natural habitats.

CALABASAS, CA (2019) Malibu Creek State Park is a location famous for productions like MASH and Planet of the Apes. It's also critical habitat for wildlife like this Red Tail Hawk. (Photo: Rick Evans)


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