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Silver Screens Need to Go Green

When the lights come on after the credits have rolled, one is used to seeing coated paper cups, popcorn boxes, 3D glasses, sweet wrappers and ticket stubs strewn about the cinema. With hundreds of thousands going to cineplexes to help Hollywood blockbusters break box office records, you can only imagine how much waste is being produced every day, week and month. What happens to this packaging and waste between screenings and where does it all end up?

Cineplexes are starting to gravitate towards employing green initiatives. For instance, it's reported that the Linway Cinema in Goshen, Indiana have adopted a pioneering recycling programme, are reducing their carbon footprint through energy efficient technologies, reducing their water consumption and using environmentally friendly cleaning products. They are doing this by recycling beverage bottles, cardboard, batteries and bulbs, while installing low demand toilets and energy efficient light fixtures.

Silver Screens Need to Go Green - Movie Theatres Recycling

Movie theatres have predictable waste streams, which means that they are much more in control of what gets consumed and the means by which it gets consumed... So why aren't more adopting eco-friendly policies around waste management and going green in an age when reducing, reusing and recycling is becoming necessary rather than nice.

In South Africa, many malls and businesses are using recycling bins at various exchanges and encouraging customers to separate their waste. This shows some promise, but whether consumers are complying or not is another story. What can and can't be recycled is a big part of the reason why many of these recycling bins become contaminated with non-recyclable waste and ultimately fail, or become unmanageable.

When asked about their recycling policies... Nu Metro and Ster-Kinekor, the two biggest cinema chains in South Africa, weren't able to or failed to comment. Visiting a number of their cinema sites, chances are you won't find recycling bins. They also continue to use plastic lids and straws in their drinks and from the looks of their general refuse bags, it seems as though there isn't a recycling policy at play. Whether they're using waste management services who take care of the sorting and recycling of these bags at their numerous cineplexes across the country remains to be seen. Their silence on the matter would suggest that recycling and green initiatives are not a priority right now.

As a concerned global citizen living in a city that has been forced to become environmentally-conscious during an on-going water crisis, it's becoming clear that we need to be pro-active rather than re-active. While Cape Town's water-saving initiatives could have been implemented years ago, let's hope that this learning can be applied across the environmental spectrum and serve as an example.

Consumers have the purchasing power and leverage to demand change, whether immediate or gradual, from the companies they support. Businesses that adopt better environmental policies realise it's not only good from a public relations point-of-view, but leads the way for other businesses and creates awareness about issues that will have both direct and far-reaching consequences for everyone.

For movie theatre chains, reverse engineering their controlled environments can force their product suppliers to comply and hopefully result in massive savings in terms of packaging, printer ink, electricity and water utilities. Moreover, introducing in-house discount programmes could result in more effective marketing and customer loyalty.

Here are some simple ideas that movie theatres can employ in order to recycle, reduce waste, minimise their carbon footprint and become more energy-efficient.

Lids and straws...

Most plastic lids and straws are non-recyclable and are thought to take between 450 and 1000 years to decompose. Many local restaurants are opting to serve beverages with glass or paper straws, or in some cases not openly offering or forcing customers to rely on the plastic variant. Movie theatres would probably argue that they serve drinks in cups with plastic lids and straws in order to prevent spills and cut down on cleaning costs. An effective solution would be to provide recyclable paper cups, compostable lids and paper straws - products that would become cheaper the more mainstream they become.

Recyclable cups or bottles...

Some coffee stores provide their customers with the option of using or buying a Keepcup, a product which enables coffee drinkers to return with their own cup and receive a discount instead of having the store provide a takeaway cup or be required to wash their own cups. Surely cinemas could employ a similar tactic, using it as a branding exercise and as a way for customers to get a discount on confectionery stand items, which already have a substantial markup? Or if they aren't already, using compostable drink cups could make all the difference without having to do away with the traditional soda fountain machines.

Cardboard boxes...

While most cardboard boxes should be recyclable, something should be said about the amount of popcorn that gets wasted. Filling the box to the brim makes it look more generous to have popcorn spilling out, but it would be far more sensible for the full line to be a few centimetres down. While it may not look as pleasing to the eye, it'd be much easier to carry and would result in fewer spills. Allowing patrons to opt for half a box of popcorn could also reduce the waste.

Reuse 3D glasses...

Films like Avatar may have been good for creating awareness around the environment on a subconscious level but were also responsible for introducing millions of pairs of 3D glasses. While IMAX boast that their glasses can be washed up to 500 times, most 3D glasses are only used and washed a few times. Cinemas charge a nominal fee to include 3D glasses as part of the offering, but they should rather be charging a refundable deposit for glasses that are returned for recycling and repackaging. Or failing that, encouraging cinema goers to make use of their 3D glasses several times before recycling them. Damaged 3D glasses can be reduced to pellets for use in the plastic industry but with the continued growth of 3D films, it seems almost necessary for cinemas to offer high-quality 3D glasses that people would want to keep indefinitely.

E-tickets instead of ticket stubs...

Some cinema chains such as Ster-Kinekor have toyed with the idea of using QR code tickets. These coded signatures are scanned before moviegoers enter the cinema instead of tearing the ticket stub. For some reason, the ticketing kiosks and online systems still force you to print paper tickets instead of giving you the option to have it sent to your smartphone. If many event companies are providing users with digital tickets that can be scanned off their smartphone or tablet, why is this not being implemented to save on printing and reduce waste at cinemas?

Recycling bins...

Providing recycling bins and signs is only half the solution as education plays an important part in effecting a sustainable recycling system. However, once movie goers are sure that by contributing to the system they're actually making a difference - it can gradually become as much a part of social culture as going to the movies.

Starry, Starry Nation: Fostering a Film Identity and Celebrity Culture in South Africa

South Africa needs its own identity, culture and celebrity when it comes to film. Hollywood had the star system, which enabled movie studios to leverage their stars in order to gain more traction when marketing their films to an adoring public. This was done by creating personas for the young actors and originally came about because audiences wanted to know their names. In the early days of cinema, it was considered an embarassment to move from theatre into the seemingly substandard medium of film and many of the performers weren't actually identified. We've come a long way as evidenced by tabloids, intrusive paparazzi, bankable names, celebrity obsession, public personas, political clout and extraordinary salaries. There's something in us that compels humanity to raise a celebrated elite to take centre stage.

In South Africa, our sports stars have occupied this territory with names drawing more attention for sporting achievements and major endorsement deals than our entertainment industry. Social media and television personalities are also beginning to stake a considerable claim in this influential fandom, but film is languishing. There are moves for South Africa to play catch up with the idea of introducing a "star system", to help create a similar excitement around the idea of film stars. Somehow, we've been lagging when it comes to the development of name stars in our own country.

starry starry nation

Charlize Theron and Sharlto Copley, who recently co-starred in Gringo, have demonstrated that we have got the talent and star quality necessary to make it on the international scene, so what's wrong? Part of the problem is the fact that we have low self esteem as a film-making nation, not having really created our own film culture or identity, making us feel less than. This is perpetuated by the justifiable decision to leverage international stars with inherently South African films. Idris Elba and Naomi Harris were used to garner attention for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. People tend to hinge their viewing decisions on names, which makes recognisable stars critical to drawing an audience. If only we were able to build our own stars and have them carrying films rather than relying on outsiders to do the job.

It's great to see Sean Cameron Michael, Fana Mokoena, John Kani and Kim Engelbrecht making waves on the international stage, but we should be celebrating these breakthroughs and we've got a plethora of local actors who deserve much more attention than they're currently getting locally. Deon Lotz (Skoonheid, Faan se Trein, Shepherds and Butchers) is someone who you will recognise instantly if you've seen more than two South African films in the last decade. Thishiwe Ziqubu (Hard to Get, Man on Ground, While You Weren't Looking) has star quality and is turning in a number of significant performances. Christia Visser (Tess, Hollywood in my Huis, Alison) is a brave young actress with a bright future ahead of her. It's amazing that Israel Makoe (Four Corners, Avenged, Beyond the River), an actor with great presence and fierce energy, hasn't got more focus.

The media has a lot to answer for, not giving our talent enough space and commercial territory with which to create podiums. We need to believe in our stars and their amazing talent, and encourage the public to do the same. South Africa is so busy focusing on big international releases, that the smaller stuff where the real talent is blossoming is largely ignored. When we do shine with official Oscar contenders and those breaking into the international scene, there is some definite interest, but there is still not enough buildup and hype.

Generally-speaking, we have a conservative culture, which means that stars who are recognisable aren't at risk of being mobbed by fans. Perhaps this conservative, downplayed narrative needs to change. More needs to be done around stars and their media profiles to the point that the public becomes familiar and interested in them. We shouldn't be waiting for their talent to be acknowledged on a worldwide platform, but raising them up and celebrating them ourselves. Whether that be through publicists or based on merit alone - it needs to happen!

This doesn't only end at celebrity culture, but also requires a boost in support of arts and culture. Local film productions don't get enough attention in the buildup to opening weekends, which generally means that they don't last more than a week or two on mainstream circuit. Many don't even know when there is an opportunity to watch local film content. Our industry is growing in leaps and bounds but because there is still a stigma around the perceived quality of South African film, many don't really give local content the attention it deserves.

There should be a greater focus on getting South Africans to see local content, exposing them to faces that become more recognisable and generating hype around the idea of film stars. Growing confidence is essential to a viable, structured, credible and blossoming film industry. If the media takes an active role, the public becomes more interested and industry benefits, this will create a healthy self-replicating cycle. So I implore you, South African citizen, journalist, filmmaker, star, or potential funder to take a much more active promoting our country, arts and culture! Let's start these conversations, start tracking great local content and stars. Our spend follows our passion... so let's get excited about the stuff we're doing well, support it with more than a 'like' and there will be more of it!

Cinema Code of Conduct: 10 Rules to Make Movie-Going Great Again!

Cinemas are struggling to stay relevant to consumers. Traditionally, cinema complexes had a major competitive advantage offering films you couldn't see elsewhere, an unrivaled movie-watching experience and the opportunity to do movie night out with the gang. The struggle is trying to stay ahead of piracy, legal and illegal online content platforms, offering formats and experiences that surpass what's available commercially via home theatre technology.

While cinema chains like Nu Metro and Ster-Kinekor are rolling out the big guns with 3D, IMAX, Xtreme, D-BOX and VIP cinemas, they're missing one critical element of the experience... the patrons. Cinema goers are enticed by the rollicking movie experiences being offered, but the constant that is continually gnawing away at the overall experience is the human factor.

It's difficult to tell people what they can and can't do, but if one customer is destroying your product experience for another customer, you need to make changes and fast! The idea of movie-going has shifted from a regular occurrence to an occasional one... at least this is the way media conglomerates are treating the situation, diminishing their dedicated space for movie content and condensing their entertainment sections into a one size fits all. Everyone you meet will be able to tell you about a time when they had a bad movie experience, the problem is that more often than not, these experiences are avoidable.

Gyms have rules, so why can't cinemas too? You're meant to bring a sweat towel to the gym, not walk around barefoot on the weights floor and wipe down equipment after use. If everyone was being considerate and responsible, we wouldn't need rules. While our society strives to be considerate and responsible, guidelines and rules are there to uphold basic standards.

The cinema experience is a sacred one for people wanting to be transfixed by a film. Unfortunately, this isn't a view shared by everyone, which makes the buy-a-ticket-and-watch principle problematic. Not wanting to uphold any standards and trying to be everyone's buddy is actually doing more harm than good.

If cinemas introduced a code of conduct, they would go a long way to attracting movie goers for repeat experiences, turning occasional movie-going to a regular occurrence. Changing a culture isn't achieved overnight and if they're in it for the long run, they should be gently influencing their customers for the better. After opening the code of conduct idea to SPL!NG fans, we were able to come up with this list of ten basic rules that should be adhered to in order to improve cinema experiences.











Spling is encouraging cinemas to pin this poster up in their foyers, circulate this code of conduct on their channels even if it means making their own set of guidelines and campaign. If the build up trailer and ad segment is a good place to warn customers about holding onto their stuff, switch off their phones and what to do in the event of an emergency, this is a good place to influence behaviour. As an avid movie fan and someone who doesn't want to see cinema chains go down the same route as video stores, it's time to act now before it's too late. If you love movies, you'd want this list of rules to find its way to your cinema - so help us get there by sharing this poster on your channels!

Book Review: The Three Wells of Screenwriting - Matthew Kalil

three wells of screenwritingMatthew Kalil's The Three Wells of Screenwriting is a game-changing self-exploration and fresh perspective for budding to experienced writers. Identifying three sources of writing inspiration, namely: Imagination, Memory and External Sources, Kalil sets about re-organising the tools at the disposal of the writer. By understanding these three springs of inspiration, the writer is able to channel their imagination, access dormant emotions or memories and an array of experiences to hone their craft. Great screenwriting requires a balance of these three foundational inspirations and Kalil's able to activate these three channels, taking his own advice in the process.

By acknowledging, understanding and identifying the sources, one is able to use each perspective to self-analyse one's writing, to rewrite with more purpose and in some cases to cure writers block. Tapping into one's imagination, memory bank or trove of pop culture is empowering, and Kalil is able to plumb the depths of the mind to activate secret weapons: motivating writers to realise their true potential, coaching them to better utilise their unique frame of reference and training them to leverage experiential knowledge to aid their writing. Through carefully laid out and fun writing exercises, one is able to apply his principles, using techniques to open the floodgates of creativity and mining parts of the mind that seemed abandoned.

Through inspirational quotes, classic movie references, honest sharing and referring back to knowledge gleaned from conducting screenwriting and acting workshops, he unfurls great wisdom and many critical teachings in an accessible and entertaining manner. Using his insights, gathered over more than two decades of industry experience and coaching, he's perfectly poised to motivate screenwriters to up their game, reposition their craft and stretch their boundaries with some challenging and honest advice.

The Three Wells of Screenwriting is an excellent filter to prepare for writing and rewriting, and serves as a wonderful source of inspiration worth revisiting. In addition to acquainting us with the concept of The Three Wells, Matthew Kalil shares a number of insider tips on the writing process, visualisation, testing a scene by acting it out and creating a much richer canvas for the story to unfold. While geared toward screenwriting, The Three Wells of Screenwriting is a worthwhile read for any creative writing process or conceptualisation. Whether you're writing a novel, screenplay or just wanting to stretch your imagination or memory recall, you will find The Three Wells of Screenwriting a valuable resource and an empowering read. (Read sample, ISBN: 978-1615932863)

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