The famous street that houses the official residences and offices of the premier and chancellor, Downing Street, has recently become a dumpsite. During a speech on tackling plastic pollution, an empty plastic bottle hits Boris Johnson in the head and as he continues his speech, more plastic items start falling down the street. This weird avalanche is digitally triggered by Greenpeace UK in a campaign about a problem that is pressing on the shoulders of the UK and that is overwhelming other countries’ recycling systems as well.
A major contributor to the world plastic crisis, the UK dumps its plastic waste on other countries. What viewers see in the “Wasteminster: A Downing Street Disaster” video, made with the help of Park Village and directed by Studio Birthplace, is actually the amount of plastic the UK dumps on other countries every single day. Last year, the UK exported 688,000 tons of plastic waste, which translates to approximately 1.8 million kilograms per day.
After being carefully sorted for recycling by people, the plastic is being shipped off to other countries, such as Turkey or Malaysia, which can’t cope with this problem either. Much of the plastic ends up illegally dumped or burned, harming the oceans and marine life, with a newly discovered species even carrying the name of this pollutant, but also causing health problems to local people.
To put pressure on the government — which wants to be a leader in tackling this environmental problem — and raise awareness about the crisis the UK is fueling in other parts of the world, the NGO decided to “dump” the plastic on Downing Street. The animation features Boris Johnson and Michael Gove voiced by Matt Forde and Jon Culshaw, having as lines these politicians’ own words.
“We didn’t want to put words into Boris’s mouth so we went through hours of interviews and speeches by Boris and the government where plastic pollution and the environment were discussed and quotes were extracted. All statements in the film were made by Boris and the government,” said directors Jorik Dozy & Sil van der Woerd.
The creative team believes that when addressing such a tragic story, comedy can be an effective and powerful communication tool. This is why mannequin versions of the politicians were created. According to the film production company, their “intention was not to ridicule politicians but to place their dummy-personas in a direct conflict with the invisible consequences of their own actions.”
Nina Schrank, senior campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “The dedication and outstanding technical ability that has gone into this animation is phenomenal. We’re so grateful for the creativity of Studio Birthplace and Park Village, the ecological ethos of directors Sil & Jorik, and the CGI skills of Method & Madness. This powerful film will show people the shocking truth about what happens to plastic the government tells us is being recycled. And who better to enlist for the voiceovers than impressionists from the legendary Spitting Image, the impeccable voice talents of Jon Culshaw and Matt Forde.”
To bring the campaign and the big pile of plastic to life, the team analyzed plastic items in detail. They invested time and worked with CG specialists to build a digital Downing Street set, where a computer simulation was unleashed. Located in different places around the world because of the pandemic, hundreds of gigabytes of data were exchanged between the artists.
“In total, the two-minute film required roughly 14,600 hours of render time, or 20 months, to create the final shots. The CO2 emitted by our render farm was compensated for,” concludes the team. But the work paid off: According to a Park Village Instagram post, Turkey has already announced a ban on the UK’s plastic waste.
Client: Greenpeace UK
Creative & Concept: Studio Birthplace
Production: Studio Birthplace & Park Village
Directors: Jorik Dozy & Sil van der Woerd
EP: Tom Webb
Producer: Adam Booth
Producer: Sean Lin
Brand Partnership Consultant: Peter Myers
V.O. Boris Johnson: Matt Forde
V.O. Michael Gove: Jon Culshaw
Recording Studio: GCRS London
V.O. Sound Engineer: Gary Turnbull
Sound Design: Wavefarer Audio
Music Composer: Weng Onn San
CGI Production: Method & Madness
CG EP: Tan Wen Hao
CG Director: Alex Scollay
CG Producer: Christian Fontaine
CG Previs: Kevin Chua
CG Artists: Abdul Rahman, Pilipino Reyes, Fabrio Wasques, JiaJun Haw
Compositing: Simon ‘Duck’ Rafin