Eco Voice Q & A: Kirsty B. Carter and Joe Harrison from WhaleX

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An award-winning Australian filmmaker and journalist, Kirsty captures the dynamic spirit of the people and marvels on our planet. Collaborating with broadcasters such as Bloomberg and the BBC, she combines the probing eye of a journalist with the heartfelt vision of a storyteller, infusing her work with distinct warmth, curiosity, and humour. As the creative force behind a Boutique Production company, Painting in Pictures, Kirsty’s directorial efforts go beyond the screen; she’s a trailblazer for the environment, steering impactful projects like the WhaleX initiative—a bold endeavour in the XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition that reflects her commitment to our planet’s future. Her documentaries, spanning the untamed jungles of Borneo and Papua New Guinea to the vibrant urban heart of Brazil, do not simply offer views into diverse landscapes—they are powerful narratives that drive viewers towards global consciousness and action, connecting them intimately to the wonders and urgencies of the world. Kirsty’s ever-packed suitcase, overflowing with curiosity, marks her perpetual quest—each destination a chapter in the unfolding narrative of our times.


With a decade and a half of cinematography and documentary filmmaking under his belt, Joe Harrison has a track record of capturing compelling stories. His work ranges from projects for well-known brands like Beats and Qantas to shooting the official anniversary re-release of Bob Marley’s “One Love” music video. Each project has contributed to his deep understanding of visual storytelling and his knack for engaging audiences. In recent years, Joe’s focus has transitioned to documentaries that foreground environmental narratives. His cinematography has graced screens for broadcasters like BBC, Bloomberg, and CBS, underlining his pivot to content that not only captures attention but also encourages viewers to think critically about the world’s ecological challenges.

To provide insights into the challenges of eco-conscious film-making, Tim Langdon, publisher of Eco Voice, had the pleasure of facilitating a Q & A with Kirsty B Carter and Joe Harrison from WhaleX.

Q1. What does eco-conscious filmmaking involve?

Kirsty B. Carter: Eco-conscious filmmaking, at its core, is about harmonising the art of storytelling with the imperative of environmental responsibility. It’s a multifaceted approach that goes beyond just reducing the carbon footprint of a production. For us at Painting in Pictures, it starts with the narratives we choose to bring to life. Our recent project, WhaleX, is a prime example – it’s not just a film; it’s an exploration into the nuances of the climate crisis and the innovative solutions inspired by nature's own mechanisms, like the role of whales in carbon sequestration.

The process involves a deep commitment to sustainable practices at every stage of production. This means prioritising renewable energy sources and making conscious business choices that veer away from fossil fuels. It’s about being mindful of our carbon footprint, which we actively monitor and manage with specialised tools. But it’s also about the smaller, everyday decisions – opting for hybrid vehicles, embracing local resources and communities to minimise transportation emissions, and innovating in the face of limitations to reduce excess consumption and waste.

Spurred by witnessing excessive waste on traditional film sets, we’ve adopted a minimalist approach, demonstrating that high-quality work can coexist with low environmental impact. This philosophy aligns with our clients, including BBC Planet futures, Environmental Defenders Office, and XPRIZE, reflecting our dedication to environmental consciousness.

But perhaps most importantly, eco-conscious filmmaking is about using the power of cinema to illuminate environmental and social issues, to tell stories that matter. It’s a tool for education, inspiration, and instigating change. With each project, like our upcoming documentary Dayakland, we aim to not only spotlight pressing issues but also to foster a deeper connection and understanding of our planet.

In essence, eco-conscious filmmaking is a commitment to creating art that respects and protects the world we live in. It’s about ensuring that our creative processes contribute positively to the planet and society.

Q2. What are examples of sustainability-focused initiatives used in the making of the film WhaleX?

Joe Harrison: In creating WhaleX, we embraced a holistic approach to eco-conscious filmmaking. We integrated green principles right from the start, using renewable energy sources and engaging with local crew and communities to minimise our environmental footprint.

We maximized resource usage and prolonged the lifespan of our equipment, opting for sustainable practices like using hybrid vehicles and car-sharing. Meticulously monitoring our carbon footprint was crucial, and we utilised specialised tools for this purpose.

Kirsty B Carter: Our focus wasn’t just on green production; it extended to the subject matter of WhaleX. The film explores innovative carbon sequestration methods inspired by nature, specifically the role of phytoplankton and whales in the carbon cycle. This project, showcasing artificial whale excrement to boost phytoplankton growth, mirrors our commitment to minimal environmental intervention and highlights the potential for imaginative solutions within constraints.

Moreover, WhaleX transcends the technical realm, serving an educational purpose. We aimed to raise awareness about the significance of whales in our ecosystems and inspire conservation efforts, underpinning our belief that impactful filmmaking and environmental responsibility must go hand in hand.

Whale Breach

Q3. Are filmmakers increasingly considering sustainability when they make films?

Kirsty B. Carter: There’s a growing awareness in the film industry about the importance of sustainability. Filmmakers are recognizing the impact our work has on the environment and the powerful role we can play in promoting eco-conscious practices. From using renewable energy sources to implementing waste reduction measures, there’s a concerted effort to minimise the ecological footprint of film production. It’s not just about making movies; it’s about making a difference. As storytellers, we have a unique opportunity to inspire change, both in how we create our films and in the messages we convey through them.

Q4. How important is sustainability in filmmaking?

Kirsty B. Carter: Sustainability is paramount in filmmaking now. It’s not just about reducing our environmental impact, but about rethinking our entire approach to storytelling. As filmmakers, we have a responsibility to consider the ecological footprint of our productions, from energy consumption to waste management. Sustainability drives innovation, compelling us to find creative solutions that are both eco-friendly and narratively enriching. It’s about setting a standard in the industry, showing that we can create powerful films while also safeguarding our planet for future generations.

Integrating sustainable film production with consultation of traditional landowners involves a respectful and collaborative approach which helps us to better understand the cultural significance and environmental aspects of each filming location.

Joe Harrison: In the realm of filmmaking, a significant environmental impact has been an undeniable reality. This industry’s environmental footprint is extensive, marked by high energy consumption, frequent travel, elaborate set constructions, and significant waste generation, often in environmentally sensitive areas. These elements are inherently intertwined with the process of creating films. Amidst this backdrop, a shift towards sustainable practices is gaining momentum.

The global film industry’s journey towards sustainability is notable, yet in Australia, the pace of this shift presents both challenges and opportunities. Despite lagging behind regions such as Canada, the UK, and the US, there’s a burgeoning awareness and commitment to change. Sustainable Screens Australia, with the support of major entities like Netflix, ABC, SBS, and Paramount, is taking on the challenge of bridging this gap in the Australian film industry. They are offering many free courses and resources for screen practitioners to engage in and educate themselves on ways in which they can do better.

At Painting in Pictures, we believe that sustainable filmmaking isn’t just an option; It’s about leaving a legacy that extends beyond the screen.

Q5. What are some initiatives governments can implement, or expand on, to support eco-conscious filmmaking in Australia?

Kirsty B. Carter: There are several ways the government can make a significant impact. Firstly, offering tax incentives and grants for productions that adhere to sustainable practices would be a huge motivator. Additionally, incorporating sustainability standards into the criteria for film permits can enforce eco-friendly practices. Investing in sustainable technology and providing educational programs and workshops would also equip filmmakers with the necessary tools and knowledge.

Establishing and supporting funded programs with landowner representatives, which Involve them in planning, aligning industry sustainability practices with significant cultural and environmental values, and cultural protocols. Lastly, recognizing and awarding films that demonstrate exemplary sustainable practices would not only encourage filmmakers but also set a precedent for the industry.

Joe Harrison: Screen Australia could play a pivotal role in promoting eco-conscious filmmaking by offering dedicated funding streams to projects and producers that demonstrate a high level of sustainable practice. This would directly incentivize the adoption of environmentally friendly methods in the industry. Additionally, introducing a tax incentive for productions that maintain a low carbon footprint could further encourage filmmakers to prioritise sustainability. These financial mechanisms would not only support the shift towards greener practices but also make it economically advantageous for film projects to reduce their environmental impact, fostering a more sustainable Australian film industry while acknowledging the increased cost and complexity for production companies that want to implement these measures.

Q6. How can publications, such as Eco Voice, play their part in promoting sustainability in your industry?

Kirsty B. Carter: Publications like Eco Voice are instrumental in our industry’s shift towards sustainability. They have the power to amplify the conversation around eco-conscious filmmaking. By highlighting the efforts of those in the industry who are making a difference, they not only celebrate these achievements but also set a benchmark for others. Additionally, they can provide valuable insights, resources, and guidelines that filmmakers at all levels can use. This kind of platform can foster a community of learning and sharing, which is vital for encouraging more sustainable practices across the industry.


First published in 2003, Eco Voice is your go-to publication for sustainability news in Australia. Eco Voice prides itself as an independent news platform with a clear focus on sustainability, with articles coming from a diverse range of contributors – all levels of government, corporations, not-for-profits, community groups, small to medium sized businesses, universities, research organisations, together with input from international sources. Eco Voice values community, conservation and commerce. Eco Voice is a media partner of the prestigious Australian Banksia Sustainability Awards – The Peak Sustainability Awards.


Painting in Pictures, an award winning, Sydney-based production company founded by Kirsty Carter and Joe Harrison, is renowned for its compelling storytelling and unwavering commitment to sustainability. As leaders in eco-conscious production techniques, they craft visual stories with minimal environmental impact. Their work not only entertains and informs but also serves as a catalyst for positive change, reflecting their dedication to a greener future through the power of film. This commitment is evident in their impactful projects, including ‘BBC’s The Miraculous Power of Seaweed’, X Prize’s award winning carbon removal film, ‘WhaleX’ and their upcoming feature documentary Dayakland, where they seamlessly integrate storytelling with ecological mindfulness, leaving a lasting impact on both audiences and the environment.





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