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Star Wars-based research to make UK film more sustainable

A group of figurines from Star Wars

There can be no adult in the western world who hasn’t heard of Star Wars nor seen the out-of-this-world props and costumes from Stormtrooper uniforms to other equally ubiquitous items.

It’s those props that are the key focus of a new sustainability study, led by an Open University academic, that could show filmmakers how to source and provide greener props in the future.

And Star Wars fans will also be green with envy at the work about to be undertaken by Dr Rebecca Harrison, who is a Lecturer in Film and Media at the OU.

Her study Environmental Impact of Filming (EIF) will look at the lifecycle of four Star Wars props from the extraction of raw materials all the way through to their disposal or repurposing.

The research begins hot on the heels of the release of Andor, the new 12-episode Disney+ Star Wars TV series, which is due to hit the small screens this month.

Rebecca’s study begins in October for a 20-month period and is supported by sustainability experts at BAFTA Albert, the home of environmental sustainability in the film and TV industry, and the National Science and Media Museum.

How the film industry will benefit

As a result of the research, Rebecca aims to provide a tool kit of resources that will help the UK’s film industries to improve their sustainability practices.

She wants EIF to support the UK’s film industries in their ongoing work to improve sustainability practices and will show how the filmmakers of today might learn about sustainability from the prop and costume practices of the past.

Rebecca said: “The research will help us design workshops and online resources that encourage filmmakers to go greener, with advice about things like recycling props, choosing eco-friendly fabrics, and cutting carbon emissions.

“The wide range of materials and processes used by UK-based creative talent to make Star Wars props and costumes are brilliant for thinking about good practice – and areas for improvement – from the 1970s to the present day.

“It’s exciting to think about what’s changed for the better over the past five decades, while also asking if there are sustainable practices from the past that we might want to revive.”

Rebecca, a self-confessed Star Wars fan, says her feet will remain firmly on the ground:

“It’s good to keep some critical distance from it. However, it’s so big and the storylines are so complicated that you do need an understanding of the films.”

She added: “I don’t really collect Star Wars memorabilia, though since doing this research I get gifted a lot of Star Wars socks!”

Rebecca has also written a book on her study of the 1980 Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back

A version of this story, written by Philippa Green, originally appeared on OU News.

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