Lean, mean and green on Mongrels set

Matt Hutchinson with Destiny, Mongrels, BBC Three Matt Hutchinson with Destiny

It is the box of animal entrails which first alerts me to the fact that Mongrels is no ordinary production. They sit innocuously at the entrance to the Twickenham studio where filming for a second series of the anarchic BBC Three comedy is currently taking place, the first remarkable sight of my backstage tour.

Passing timidly by the lurid props, I am led to the main stage. The set is an urban backstreet, raised metres into the air so that black-clad puppeteers can stand below the show's stars, which they hold aloft and deftly manipulate. A pre-recorded voice track plays back as a foul-mouthed fox swigs from a whisky bottle before smashing it on the ground.

It may be an unusual sight, but puppetry is not the production's only novelty - there's also something different going on behind the scenes. From reusable water bottles filled from tanks of tap water to double-sided scripts, Mongrels is aiming to be the most sustainable production at the BBC.

Pro-active approach

Production manager Francis Gilson is the man in charge of making it happen, with the help of fellow PM Jules Hussey and the BBC Sustainable Productions team, and the agreement of exec producer Stephen McCrum. 'Early on in the production process, whenever we have a meeting - whether it's with a design partner, caterers or merchandising - we're mentioning to them that we are trying to be as sustainable as possible just so they think along those lines,' says Gilson.

This pro-active approach has resulted in reusable or compostable cutlery being used in the canteen, and there also are plans for the packaging on any future Mongrels merchandise to be stripped back to just a bar code.

Gilson is also being guided in his efforts by the gentle but firm hand of Albert the Carbon Calculator, a tool which works out a programme's carbon footprint and then, with the aid of BBC Environment, helps reduce it. At the start of the production he worked out its estimated footprint, and will enter actual figures when it finishes in July to see how they compare.

Gilson already has evidence for the success of one initiative; replacing conventional lighting with fluorescent tube lights. They may currently be more expensive to hire, but compared with the last series, the electricity bill has been cut by a third, a saving of £500 per week. 'I suppose that's the interesting thing about the exercise,' he smiles. 'You can do certain things which are sustainable but actually end up saving the production money.'

More information is available on Gateway about how to make your production sustainable.


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