From Paramount to Fox to Warner Bros., there are dozens of Hollywood studios where movies and television shows are made. About 18 miles southeast of Hollywood, a lesser known but up-and-coming facility in Manhattan Beach has built its reputation on eco-friendliness, and it has "Avatar" director James Cameron to thank.
MBS Media Campus has 15 soundstages on 23 acres, 10 of them leased long-term by Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment, and they've been tailored specifically so that the "Avatar" sequels could be carbon-neutral. "The push to be more eco-friendly started with Jim — it was the mandate when we did our deal. But we thought it was what we should be doing anyway," says MBS Executive Vice President Mike Newport. Lightstorm's 10 stages are covered in 36,000 solar panels, which generate about one megawatt of power.
"They've been here for the last 2 1/2 years, in preproduction. All the motion capture will be done here," says Newport. "They'll be working here and in New Zealand on a 24-hour schedule, sending data back and forth." While "Avatar 2" is slated for a December 2016 release, the third and fourth installments of the franchise will also shoot at MBS. Cameron's deal also includes a screening room and corporate offices, and inspired green improvements throughout the lot.
"It was progression that happened over the last six or seven years," notes Newport, outlining the various eco-elements now in place. "All the irrigation water has been reclaimed. We have charging stations for electric vehicles through the lot. We have 10 electric golf carts and a 150 bikes that people can check out for free and leave anywhere on the lot. We have premium parking spaces for electrics and hybrids. A lot of people end up buying Priuses to save on gas for the commute."
The MBS Media Campus has a bike-sharing service to encourage low-emission travel from studio to studio. (Photo: MBS Media Campus)
Additionally, Newport continues, "All the bathrooms have low-flow toilets and use eco-friendly products — biodegradable paper and hand dryers in high traffic bathrooms. We have recycling bins everywhere," for the disposal of paper, plastic, construction materials, and batteries. "We have a composting station at our café, which uses recycled packaging and utensils. A lot of the productions are incorporating LED lighting. It costs a bit more, but it saves on power usage," he points out.
At the on-site Production Resource Center, or studio store, supplies are sold at competitive prices because they're purchased in bulk, and eco-friendly items like low-VOC paints are front and center. "We want people to shop here rather than go to a store outside," says Newport. He points out plants and trees in buckets with an R on them, indicating they belong to the ABC show "Revenge," currently on hiatus. "We have a nursery center and replant them when they're not on set."
Although the "Avatar" stages were off-limits, we got a tour of the two huge (18,0000 and 25,000 square feet) that house "Revenge's" elegant Hamptons mansion, beach house and bar/waterfront sets. Newport reveals that the drama's pilot was filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, "and they were going to keep it there. We got it because of the size of the sets. There aren't many studios with big enough soundstages." He adds that star Emily VanCamp at one point was shooting "Revenge" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" simultaneously, and fortunately both were at MBS — Marvel Studios is another client.
Other recent productions include interiors for the buddy cop show "Battle Creek," which is on CBS's midseason schedule, and TNT's summer drama "The Last Ship," which filmed ship interiors and the captain's bridge scenes on two stages. Every week, a live audience of 300 gathers to watch "League of Legends," an online video game so popular that 10 million players log in daily to compete.
As it turns out, MBS's green policies have proved to be an incentive in getting productions to sign up. For "Battle Creek," "Sony's green team came to the lot to check it out and make sure we were in line with their guidelines. It was very helpful that we'd already put in practice a lot of these things. We didn't have to start from scratch,” notes Newport, who is wiling to go the extra mile to satisfy client's needs. "It's difficult to get people to come down here to the South Bay so any advantage we can give them we try to do," he says. "Right now it's working — we're full through the end of the year."
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