When I read in 2017 from Lapin Kansa newspaper master brewer Leo Andelin’s life story, I was surprised to find out that Leo’s amazing story had not been made into a film before. We both live in Tornio in Finnish Lapland, on the opposite sides of the great Tornio River. I felt obliged to make a documentary film about Leo. The local film crew from Lapland started working on the film with special connection and passion. I worked on the film as a scriptwriter, director and producer. Due to small budget and production delays caused by COVID-19, The Master Brewer was finally completed in 2021. The film is a magical comeback story about Leo Andelin, who in 1963 developed the most famous food of Finland – Lapin Kulta beer.
During the pre-production in 2019, just before the main filming commenced, I heard about Albert certification system for sustainable film production. Albert is a British environmental organization aiming to encourage the TV and film production industry to reduce waste and its carbon footprint. My initial impression about Albert was that film productions are not “polluting factories” and therefore do not have much to do with climate change. However, after reading some case studies on Albert website, I understood that film productions too should consider their environmental impact and act as role models for “heavier” industries.
My first step was to participate in two free training courses provided by Albert: 1) Sustainable Production Training and 2) Editorial Training. Both courses lasted 2 hours online. The first course focused on the knowledge and skills to create productions in a more sustainable way, including environmental basics, film industry’s impact, production case studies and introduction to carbon calculation and certification. The second course taught me ways to use authenticity and creativity to create content that supports the transition to an environmentally sustainable society. This included the inspiring idea of “planet placement” (instead of “product placement”).
To achieve Albert certification, a film production company needs to calculate its estimated carbon footprint for a film project, then make a carbon action plan to reduce the carbon footprint, and finally provide evidence for the reduction efforts. After calculating The Master Brewer’s estimated carbon footprint with Albert’s free online calculator, I decided on the main actions we would take to reduce that footprint.
Storytelling in The Master Brewer advances as Leo’s bitter sweet journey to the abandoned Tornio brewery grounds. To minimize travel between different locations, I decided we could organize all our filming needs on this one location, even if it took a little bit of extra work. We were just in time, because our filming location was demolished just weeks after the principal photography was completed in 2020. To minimize energy consumption for creating new goods, we did not buy or construct any props, all were borrowed from local museums and collectors. We also used LED lights and rechargeable batteries to reduce waste and energy consumption. All catering for the cast and the crew was vegetarian food. On average, emissions from plant-based foods are 10 to 50 times smaller than those from animal products.
My decision to use local film crew from professionals living in Lapland was based on the content of the film: people living in Lapland have a special connection to Lapin Kulta beer. However, this turned out to be the best decision also in terms of carbon footprint. Travel, especially by airplane, is one of the biggest sources of pollution in any film production. Most crew members for The Master Brewer live in Tornio and Rovaniemi, so travel distances were quite short and carbon footprint was further reduced by carpooling. The editor Mikko Sippola lives in Helsinki, so travel to editing facility was an important consideration. I managed to hire an editing facility from the University of Lapland for two weeks in autumn 2020. Mikko travelled to Rovaniemi and back to Helsinki by train. I also travelled by train to Helsinki to do the archival research in YLE and KAVI and to direct the colour grading in Whitepoint grading facility.
Post-production for The Master Brewer was completed during the spring 2021. I was then finally able to provide comprehensive evidence to Albert about our carbon footprint reduction efforts. For example, I uploaded to Albert online system receipts from rechargeable batteries and train tickets. The Master Brewer was awarded Albert certification on the 28th of April in 2021. I was surprised to discover that our film was the first environmentally sustainable film production in Finland to receive Albert certification.
The Master Brewer is a film about honoring and preserving traditions in an era when global market economy destroys many important local histories and customs. It is our collective responsibility as filmmakers to be leaders in preserving our planet for future generations by making our film productions more sustainable.
The Master Brewer film website: https://www.panimomestari.fi/english-summary/
Albert certification and trainings: https://wearealbert.org/