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Oil and Gas in Our Lives: At the Movies


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Hollywood’s silver screen would be significantly less magical without the critical contributions of oil and gas

By Shawn Logan

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Without lights or camera, the film industry would have very little action.

Whether going to the movie theatre or curling up on the couch to stream the latest Hollywood blockbuster, it’s worth taking a minute to consider that bringing the stories we love to the screen takes more than just actors and scripts.

Making movie magic would become exceedingly difficult without oil and gas, as well as petroleum products, playing a starring role.

From running generators that fuel massive sets in remote areas to transporting crews around the world to the perfect location, Hollywood leans heavily on oil and gas. Meanwhile, petrochemical products are used extensively for creating props, set design and pyrotechnics.

But just how big of a part do fossil fuels play in filmmaking?

According to a 2021 report by the Sustainable Production Alliance, the average blockbuster has an average carbon footprint of 3,370 metric tonnes, the equivalent emissions from powering 656 average homes for an entire year. Even large- and medium-scale productions use plenty of oil and gas, creating 1,081 metric tonnes and 769 metric tonnes of carbon emission respectively.

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Of that, nearly half is directly used for fuel for production vehicles and generators. About a quarter is used for air travel and some 22 per cent for utilities.

Last year, 449 movies were released in Canada and the U.S.

Streaming giant Netflix said its carbon footprint in 2021 was 1.5 million metric tonnes, more than half of that attributed to production of films and TV. The company is looking to slash emissions in half by 2030 and use oil and gas industry-pioneered innovations like carbon capture to ultimately bring its footprint to net zero.

Beyond transportation and power, the basic building block of any film requires an abundance of gear that rely on petrochemical products.

From durable carbon fibre used in sound booms and set design, to plastics used to make cameras and movie props, to assorted polyester, nylon and spandex used in costume design, it would be nearly impossible to find a movie set without a healthy dose of equipment derived from oil and gas.

Gas generators are essential to keep shooting going into the night as well as providing reliable power for trailers used by actors for relaxing.

Even the director’s clapperboard used to set the scene is commonly made from a white acrylic so it can be used with dry erase markers.

Once produced, films are then displayed at movie theatres on large white vinyl screens to theatre-goers sitting on seats packed with polyurethane foam.

So next time you reach for the popcorn and hunker down for some silver screen escapism, spare a moment to thank the contributions of oil and gas.

The unaltered reproduction of this content is free of charge with attribution to Canadian Energy Centre Ltd.

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