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'JUST DO IT - And That Means Environmental Action, Not Trainers' by Charlie Phillips



Photograph by Mini Mouse

Environmental activism has changed the game in the last year. The third Heathrow runway has been defeated, renewable technology is being encouraged as a trump over NIMBY planners, and a post-oil world is being serioulsy considered – albeit with a little help from BP’s careless drilling. The tedious anti-scientific rhetoric of climate deniers hasn’t drowned out the clamour from noisy climate campers and activists.

A new doc celebrates it all, called Just Do it, and it’s being made with the participation of all those lovely anti-capitalists and agitators. They’re involved because of the way it’s being funded and distributed – by you! Have a look here - and give your money. This isn’t some pretend Tory invite to join the Government, this is a real chance to take the reins of power in funding the arts.




Photograph by Mini Mouse

There’s been a lot of fuss in film circles in the last 18 months or so about whether independent movies can be funded from the crowd rather than by big boss-men and women. The consensus has been that it’s a long and winding process that filmmakers have to crucify themselves for, with little output. So they go back to the loving arms of the big money and sell their rights for all platforms to avoid the breadline.

But The Age of Stupid has been rightly held up as the big moment when crowd-funding went mainstream. Franny Armstrong and team (including Emily James, the agent provacateur director of Just Do it) blitzed international philanthropists and the concerned middle-classes and fought for their money and conscience. Their success was remarkable, and the impact of the film and campaign continues.




Photograph by Kristian Buus

But it can’t be the end. There’s still work to be done, both in proving that crowd-funding can work for documentaries (if not necessarily fiction because of the higher budgets involved) and in keeping the need for environmental activism in the public eye. The Age of Stupid has arguably been colonised by the political class as their ticket to eco credibility, and a dose of environmental film radicalism needs to be reinjected to the debate. Emily James makes films that aren’t lazy advocacy, she makes ones that are wild, passionate and on-the-hoof. Broadcasters want less of it - we need more of it.




Photograph by Rob Logan

But this isn’t just a call to support the content of the film, simply because I agree with the politics and think the people on and off screen are ace. I’m also not just excited by the crowd funding. I’m more excited by the open distribution of the doc. It’ll be released for free under a Creative Commons licence for anyone to distribute as they wish. That’s genuinely open media, and it’s a weapon against the expectation documentary has to be profit-motivated and capitalised.

You can be an activist from your laptop chair, in the name of radical film and radical politics. Have you had a better motive to spend your money this year? I doubt it.