Lights, Camera, Action: Emellie O’Brien

Local resident Emellie O’Brien is in the industry that creates superheroes. But she is the kind of hero we look up to. Even Spidey recognizes the power of her impact.

Emilie O’Brien was working as a consultant, advising how the film crew could reduce waste on the set of Noah in 2012, when superstorm Sandy smashed into the east coast, leaving swaths of New York City flooded and without power.“It made me pause because our city is in distress and our community is in need, and here we are making a movie,” Emellie said. “There’s got to be a way to give back.” It was then that Emilie set up her eco consultancy Earth Angel.

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Emellie initially struggled to come up with a plan that would direct some of the production’s resources toward disaster relief, as it was crucial to avoid excess spending.

Emellie managed to turn that epiphany into Earth Angel, an environmental consulting company that focuses on helping both film and TV production companies reduce their environmental waste on set. Through firsthand experience, Emellie was all too aware of how wasteful the production process of both TV and shows and movies could be. Indeed, the very construction of sets creates thousands of pounds in landfill materials. Necessities such as lighting and the use of film trucks burn through fossil fuels and other natural resources, all of which contribute to climate change. Moreover, when the production process is over, TV and film companies usually get rid all equipment and used materials as quickly as possible rather than considering environmentally-friendly methods of disposal. With thousands of movies and TV shows produced in America each year, the environmental impact of the entertainment industry should not be underestimated.

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That’s precisely where Earth Angel comes in. Through a combination of education, carbon tracking, resource management, and waste reduction, Earth Angel is providing companies with sustainable solutions to environmental challenges inherent in the movie and TV production. Each production is assigned an Eco Manager who is responsible for tasks, such as finding sustainable vendors, sourcing sustainable products, overseeing proper waste management, strategizing with department heads, and tracking the production’s carbon footprint.

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Although it was only launched in late 2014, Earth Angel has already experienced success. Emellie and her dedicated team have worked on high-profile TV shows such as  Madame Secretary, Vinyl, and Billions, and films such as Disney’s Queen of Katwe. In terms of positive environmental impact, Earth Angel’s numbers speak for themselves.

To date, Earth Angel has accomplished the following:

  • Worked on 12 New York-based productions and 1 international production
  • Diverted over 2,500 tons of waste from landfills
  • Prevented more than 5,250 tons of CO2e emissions from being released
  • Kept 563,270 plastic water bottles out of landfills
  • Donated 81 tons of excess food, wardrobe set decoration and props to local charities

Earth Angel saves hundreds of thousands of pounds of material that were once originally bound for landfills. For instance, on the set of Noah, Emillie was able to send 450,000 lbs of steel to scrap metal recycling instead of the dump.

Despite the amazing early success of Earth Angel, Emillie already has her sights set on a wider audience. She says, “I want our impact to be behavioral. Crew members are already inspired everyday by the way we turn lamented waste into possibility. Many carry the practices home, and of course onto future sets.”

Despite the hard work she is doing, her team finds ways to have fun on set by playing pranks on each other:

“On each movie set, we have bins for compost, recycling and trash. I made it clear that it’s important waste is separated and sometimes we go through the bins to make sure the recyclables are in the recycling bin, and the crew knows that. I saw a piece of trash in the wrong bin, and it was attached to a bull horn, unknown to me. So as I yanked  the trash out, the bullhorn went off during the filming of the movie! I was so embarrassed but laughed it off,” Emellie explained.

Through the power of the entertainment industry, Earth Angel hopes to spark community outreach for the betterment of the environment. We can definitely get behind that idea. If you’re interested in helping out as an eco PA for Earth Angel, visit: