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[For an audio/vlog version of this story, click here.]

‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.’

It makes a lot of sense. Damage the relationship with those who give you sustenance, in whatever form, and hardship is likely to ensue.

The pernicious pull of the black hole that is film and TV

Cognitive dissonance: Brendan ‘Wrong Way’ Corrigan gets miked up for a minor TV series role.

Sometimes, however, we may be doing both ourselves and society at large a favour by not only biting that gifting hand but devouring the whole body.

A harming hand
Imagine if, in 1941, Blondi had consumed the hands, head and heart of her loving master. OK, contemplating counterfactual histories opens the door to numerous alternative probabilities but surely a world that rid itself of Adolf Hitler in the early 1940s would be a better place today. Surely.

A world without showbiz, though, would be a culturally poorer place, and a whole lot duller, wouldn’t it?

Whatever one’s opinion, the film and TV industry has become so entrenched in our daily lives that few can envisage a normal, nay liveable, life without it.

And seeing how this industry has been one of my most reliable forms of income over the last number of years, I more than most shouldn’t be nefariously nibbling at its paying palms.

Nonetheless, I’ve called out its inconsistencies and inequalities before. For example, see, Enticing extras: The siren call of our times and Agents of short-change.

Flights of fancy
This time, I’m focusing on the film world’s substantial carbon footprint.

It’s something that I’m adding to as I write these lines, having been flown, twice, over 1000 km north of Bogotá to Santa Marta, whence I was chauffeured about 90 km east to the Caribbean coast town of Palomino to play a minor role in a new Spanish production.

Those flights, particularly the mid-filming return to Bogotá for four nights, really got me thinking about the excessive energy needs and waste for which this industry is responsible.

From a mere budgeting perspective — who cares about financial prudence these days, eh? — had the production company given me the cost of that return flight back to Bogotá, I could have used the money more wisely, and reduced my carbon footprint in the process, by staying in one of Palomino’s budget hotels/hostels until I was needed on-set again.

I’ve seen private rooms advertised for 30,000 COP per night. That’s decent value in a town that has become quite touristy over the last few years. It was more tranquil and less trodden when I first visited in 2013 (see https://wwcorrigan.blogspot.com/2013/08/palomino-and-cabo-de-la-vela-lighter.html).

For the record, rooms at the beachfront hotel resort where the production company put me up, Hukumeizi, range from about 300,000 to 600,000 COP per night.

‘Viewed from a distance, the film and TV industry may appear full of stars. Yet, up close, it’s more like a big black hole.’

As a relevant aside considering the theme of this piece, Hukumeizi’s claim that some of its rooms are ecological is rather questionable. The bathrooms in said ecological rooms are so lacking in natural light that one has to turn on the artificial lights during the day to see properly. What’s more, the hotel’s policy appears to be to force guests into buying water from small plastic bottles. How ecologically benign that is!

Coming back to those flights, I was just one of over a dozen such Colombian-based actors — I’m using the label actor lightly for me here — who were flown back to their base mid-filming.

In addition to our transport to and from Santa Marta’s airport, another van was used to carry our luggage. Keep those carbon emissions flowing, folks!

This is not to mention all the flights to and from Spain transporting both equipment and personnel.

Hungry stars
Then there’s the filming of the series itself. It involved over 300 staff, all of whom had to be fed and watered — 300 ml plastic water bottles being the preference on set — and most, apart from locally sourced extras, had to be housed.

Add in the not-very-natural make-up used to mimic everyday dirt — a lot was needed for a series set in the 1490s, as this is — plus the chemicals used to remove this make-up, and the waste tab becomes considerable.

And one must ask, all this for what? What net benefit does it give to humanity?

OK, for me it has provided a badly needed income and a rather surreal, pleasurable experience. And I imagine that when the series airs, millions will enjoy it.

But surely the energy expended in this production could be put to a more beneficial use for both humanity and the environment in general.

There’s also the argument that such high-cost productions give little back to the viewer. They’re flashy and slick yet not very fine or stimulating. Easy on the eye but with little educational value. Some, however, view such opinions as arrogant and ignorant. It’s a nuanced debate.

Voracious vanity
Whatever one’s thoughts on the end product, it cannot be denied that it comes at a huge cost on many levels. A Time magazine article published in March 2024 says that large productions such as Barbie or Oppenheimer can emit up to 3,370 tonnes of CO2 equivalents, enough to power 656 homes for a year. One assumes that’s referring to homes in high-income nations.

Advancements in artificial intelligence should help production companies reduce these costs while still delivering visually impressive content. AI can be a positive force, in some areas.

As for the living, breathing thespian talent, there’s always live theatre to separate the true actors from the pretenders. There are no second takes — never mind third, fourth or fifth ones — once the curtain’s up.

So society at large could do worse than appreciate more so the live stage rather than the big and small screens.

For viewed from a distance, the film and TV industry may appear full of stars. Yet, up close, it’s more like a big black hole.

Having been pulled into it, I can see its voracious vanity. Yes, it occasionally feeds me. But at what price?
Listen to The Corrigan Cast podcast here.

Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan — The Blog & IQuiz “The Bogotá Pub Quiz”.

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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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