Just outside of Lisbon, plans are underway to build Europe’s, and maybe the world’s, first truly green film studio. The €200 million ($215 million) Tage Studios project, which is set to begin breaking ground near the town of Palmela, southeast of Lisbon, in late 2024 or early 2025, would be the first backlot built top to bottom with environmental sustainability in mind. Every soundstage and facility building is designed to be a near-zero-energy structure, with rooftop photovoltaic panels providing electricity and rainwater recovery and reuse systems cutting down on water waste. Landscaping will be done to ensure preservation of local biodiversity. Even much of the material used for construction will be locally sourced and/or recycled, with at least 85 percent recovery of all site construction waste.
“The idea was to create a benchmark studio, one that will be eco-friendly and self-sustainable from day one, making it the world’s first for film and television facilities,” says David Hallyday, founder and director of Tage Studios (and, in his day job, a French singer-songwriter and son of late Gallic rock legend Johnny Hallyday, aka the “French Elvis”). “When we started this project, five years ago now, we couldn’t find any studio anywhere that was designed like this, to be a green facility from the start.
“There are a lot of measures that we are taking during construction to save resources, from water to energy to things like lighting and heating,” says Maria Quiros Grande, a real estate director at consultancy giant Deloitte, which is advising Tage on the environmental design of the studio. “We know, for example, that our solar panel system will provide 100 percent of the energy consumption for the studio during the day and more than 50 percent overall.”
Tage Studios’ design will also take into account the operation’s broader environmental impact, with planners working with ecologists to preserve local biodiversity and reduce damage to flora and fauna in the region.
“Biodiversity is something that will be integrated into every stage of the project,” says Grande. “It impacts things as seemingly trivial as window design. All our windows will be deglazed to avoid bird collisions. And the lighting system will be such so that there is minimal light pollution, and operations at night do not disturb the nocturnal rhythms of the surrounding wildlife.”
Major European studio facilities, like London’s Pinewood and Studio Babelsberg outside Berlin, are incorporating green tech and environmental sustainability into their backlot designs, trying to retrofit their facilities to be more eco-friendly. Tage Studios is among the very first to attempt to go green from the get-go.
“There are no examples to follow,” says Hallyday. “Designing everything, from fixtures and equipment to the buildings and grounds, to meet both the highest environmental standards and to provide international productions with the top-level service and reliability they expect — we need this studio to be 24/7, 100 percent reliable and safe from day one — that’s been the biggest challenge.”
Tage Studios picked Portugal for reasons both practical — the coastal nation is among the world’s most solar-friendly, with an average of 300 days of sunshine per year (Hallyday calls it “the California of Europe”) — and political. The Portuguese government is a global leader in environmental policy and has set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase the use of renewable energy, and promote eco-friendly practices.
“Portugal is extremely developed in the sense of sustainability — they are already producing nearly 60 percent of their energy via renewables,” notes Claire Havet, the project manager for Tage Studios. “Lisbon was named the Green Capital of Europe in 2020. We’ve been fully supported by the Portuguese government, who have declared our studio to be of national interest.”
Portugal’s sustainability push dovetails with the country’s move to try and catch up with neighbor Spain, which has enjoyed a film and TV boom over the past decade, fueled by increasing demand from local and global streaming services. Portugal, with its 30 percent tax incentive and stunning national vistas, has been successful in attracting some big international projects: Fast X, the latest in the decidedly carbon-heavy Fast and the Furious franchise, shot in the Viseu and Vila Real regions last spring; Netflix thriller Heart of Stone, starring Jamie Dornan and Gal Gadot, filmed scenes in the coastal town of Bordeira last summer. But the country still lacks a major sound studio.
Plans for Tage Studios would see the creation of a 5,200-square-meter (55,972 square feet) major soundstage along with six other stages ranging in size from 2,000 to 3,600 square meters (21,527-38,750 square feet), with an external backlot area of around 55,000 square meters (592,015 square feet) and an outdoor water tank. Once complete, the facility would be Europe’s largest in terms of studio space, ahead of Pinewood (419,793 square feet of soundstage), Warner Leavesden (381,042 square feet) and Babelsberg (301,389 square feet), though Warner’s huge backlot — more than 55 acres of available space — dwarfs even Tage’s ambitious plans.
The Portugal studio’s true competitive edge, however, could come from its planet-friendly design.
Major studios and streamers are now taking the environmental impact of a production into account when deciding where to shoot. And Europe’s entire state-backed film subsidy and tax incentive system is slowly going green. Producers in France will be obliged, as of next year, to submit carbon footprint audits as a condition of securing funding from national film body the CNC. Other national bodies are expected to follow suit. Europe’s Green New Deal, presented by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, sets an ambitious target of making the continent climate-neutral by 2050, a goal that will put further pressure on Europe’s film and TV industry to start making CO2 emissions a factor in funding decisions.
“Planning a studio the way we have, making sustainability and environmental impact a priority at every stage, is very, very expensive and very time-consuming,” admits Hallyday. “But we really don’t have another option. This isn’t something we can do halfway. And we’re confident this is the way the industry is — has to be — in the future.”