Celebrity excess often overshadows the Hollywood green movement, undermining the best of intentions. But, private jet rides notwithstanding, there's lots of cutting-edge environmentalism happening here behind the scenes -- and an increasingly urgent, even competitive, interest in doing more.
Or at least that's the idea behind the Hollywood Goes Green summit, a two-day conference starting Tuesday at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It comes at a pivotal time, with environmental activism fractured into "light" and "dark" green: the light side advocating eco-chic consumerism as a means of gradually effecting change and the dark seeking an immediate paradigm shift. Meanwhile, the entertainment industry is in a state of barely restrained panic as market share continues to plummet and advertising and audiences head to the Internet, leaving executives scrambling to find cost-saving and attention-grabbing opportunities. It's as good a time as any to find some common ground.
"Living a more sustainable life has been a hot consumer topic for some time now, and businesses have started to figure it out as well," said Lauren Zalaznick, who heads NBC Universal's Green Council. "But it's key that the entertainment industry embraces these issues, as we can use our massive content, marketing and distribution resources to help communicate in an entertaining yet digestible manner how to help effect change."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, December 11, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Green Hollywood: An article in Saturday's Calendar section about the iHollywood Forum's eco-conscious conference this week incorrectly spelled the first name of the forum's president, Zahava Stroud, as Zahara.
Conference attendees hope it will stimulate a crucial dialogue. As Rich Lechner, a vice president of IBM, points out, Hollywood's decision makers have the power to shift attitudes globally.
"To the degree they take a leadership role in becoming greener, they will influence the way the rest of the world goes," he said.
Organizers expect about 300 attendees, including TV, film and music executives, eco-entrepreneurs, and environmental and tech engineers. Warner Bros. Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Co., MTV and NBC Universal are among the major industry players involved, all of them driven to find new ways to curb the entertainment industry's vast consumption of resources and make (or, more likely, save) some money in the process.
"This is the time we need to take action," said Zahara Stroud, president of iHollywood Forum, the company producing the event. "People are bothered by the fact that they're wasting energy and they want to find ways in their day-to-day operations as a company towards making change."
The summit isn't exactly a civic undertaking. Attendees are charged as much as $895 per ticket by iHollywood Forum for the two days, a price point clearly geared toward corporate executives. (Nonprofits, guild and trade associations are eligible for discounts.) And title sponsors IBM, NBC Universal, General Motors and Subway pay to deliver an on-topic keynote presentation and to be included on panels. IBM, for instance, has secured three panels and a keynote address by Lechner, all publicizing its innovations in reducing energy generated by large data systems.
For the most part, this is a pragmatic, nuts-and-bolts affair addressing efficient fleet management, green event planning and eco-friendly TV and film production. (That can't necessarily be said for the 50 exhibitors, among which are ReProduct's recycled greeting card service, Bloomsberry & Co. chocolates and Desert Essence Organics spa items.) The only celebrity on the agenda is die-hard environmentalist Ed Begley Jr.
The Natural Resources Defense Council's senior scientist, Allen Hershkowitz, will tout the corporate savings from going green. GM will display its electric concept car, the Volt.
One panel discussion on how studios can build and design with more energy efficiency features a board member from the U.S. Green Building Council. Another panel brainstorms ways to incorporate green themes into film and TV scripts. Yet another looks at how new state legislation that caps greenhouse gas emissions will effect Hollywood.
One discussion will examine the effectiveness of Live Earth, the global concert series criticized last summer by activists for being wasteful and self-congratulatory. Along with the chief operating officer of Capitol Music Group and the sales and marketing head of Warner Music, that panel includes Live Earth President Nina Guralnick.
Stroud, a former trial attorney, and her husband, Michael Stroud, a former business journalist, co-founded iHollywood Forum six years ago to create for-profit conferences addressing the digital boom's effect on entertainment, by linking Hollywood with Bay Area venture capitalists, software developers and content owners. Earlier this year, they decided to tap the rapidly accelerating market for all things green.
"The whole goal," she said, "is to bring together executives from business, creative and manufacturing to develop partnerships towards building a sustainable future."