One potentially-fatal inflatable ball not enough

Location | Mood | Date 7 October 2009
Author (full name): 
Franny Armstrong
7 October 2009


... they said meekly, emerging blinking from under a large pile of rolled up posters in a corner of a big empty office on 34th Street, New York New York.

This has been the hardest-ever mailing list message to write.... because in many ways the Global Premiere was a total triumph (see below) and so many people worked so hard and pulled off so many astounding feats (also see below), that it seems churlish to be anything over than overjoyed.... But for Lizzie and me, the whole thing was a bit of a carcrash and we are still suffering from PTPD (post traumatic premiere disorder).

It wasn't that the thing was a failure... it's just that we spent so many months - or years, depending on how you look at it - creating a global platform to say what we wanted to say.... and then didn't say it. Mainly because the script for the after-film live show got totally thrown out of the window, for reasons I won't go into. So a lot of people said a lot of good stuff, but it wasn't the ever-more-moving-and-powerful-train-of-thought-climaxing-in-a-simultaneous-mass-global-awakening-in-one-million-brains-worldwide-thereby-ushering-in-The-Age-of-Sense..... Ahem... Guess I should stick to filmmaking, where you get years to sculpt precisely.

In the words of the production manager, Lisa, "You shot high and landed on the moon rather than Jupiter... but it was still a damn impressive place to be". And one of the stalwarts of the NY team, Deirdre, pointed out that our over-ambitiousness took up so much of our limited team's limited time (oh yeah, we apparently should have had a crew of 300 for this event, not 40) that it was darn-near impossible to get all the details absolutely right: what other event would have two different types of inflatable ball, both of which were potentially fatal?!? Was one not enough??? (Answers direct to our newly-employed therapist.)

Loads of wonderful stories below and we've half-updated the Global Premiere page here, which will be finished properly as soon as Team NY get back from their holidays. Sorry that this message is much bigger than normal cos of all the pics.

And the note from the organisers of the Honduras premiere (towards the end) puts all our problems into perspective...

Feeling bad for feeling bad,


Kofi Annan in the New York tent: "We know politicians do follow when the people speak up. Good leaders are good followers
and if we shout loud enough they may follow. So each and every one of us should organise ourselves and get the message across."


- More than one million people watching the film in 63 countries
- A large chunk of whom saw the live event too (about 30 countries)
- Two Presidents and about 15 Environment Ministers watching in one country or another
- Film director Shekhar Kapur speaking to 11 million people on Indian TV after he'd climbed up into the Himalayas to speak to us (see below)
- The survivaballs blocking the green carpet and then going into "turtle position" and diving over the barriers to get out of the way of the celebs heading for the tent
- Reaching a whole new audience - porn lovers - via Heather Graham's "moment" with the Survivaballs
- 40,000 people visiting our website on the premiere day/s
- The Directors of MoveOn, tcktcktck, Oxfam, Peta, Rainforest Action Network, Avaaz and Greenpeace standing together on the green carpet
- Building fantastic working relationships with the world's biggest environmental NGOs
- Setting a new Guinness World Record for the biggest simultaneous film screening
- Guests in the cinema tent eating the Brooklyn-grown edible decor
- Celebs arriving on the sailing boat as the sun set over downtown New York
- Moby singing live on the green carpet, powered by cyclists
- Thom Yorke singing live via satellite and half the tent audience putting their arms round each other and/or crying
(bootlegged - not by us -and up on youtube before the night was out: )
- Everything described below


Movie star Heather Graham arrives by sailing boat


- Extended cinema runs booked for Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Netherlands, Italy, Norway and Germany (Already started in most of these countries - please tell pals)
- Likely cinema runs for Japan, India, Brazil, Argentina.
- (BTW, Canada, which didn't take part in the premiere, has also now launched in about 30 cinemas:
- 10:10 Global launched at the premiere and thousands of people signed up on the night (exact numbers coming as soon as someone works out how to access the database)
- Major brands including Microsoft UK, O2 and Pret A Manger signed up to 10:10 after the premiere
- The Director of a well-known airline texted to say "It makes me think: shouldn't we ground all our planes today?"
- Half the seats at the Hague screening were taken up by employees of our favourite oil company.... Standing by for the lawsuit... .

Inflatable ball 1: The Yes Men demonstrate "corporate America's solution to climate change", The Survivaball,
many of whom could have drowned as they floated down the river towards the premiere...
Their brilliant movie, The Yes Men Fix the World is released in New York today and other US cities in the coming weeks

Inflatable ball 2: contains enough air for four minutes before asphyxiation

Over Ambitious?

- Why did we think we should do it live and subtitled in four languages and from a specially-constructed tent with no facilities and with super-low emissions and with a tenth of the recommended crew and including live links from remote areas with no decent satellite coverage and with a whole green carpet celeb-bash intro and with 12 different forms of arrival transport?
- How it happened: do live event (finish 10pm), go straight back to studio thereby missing own party, edit live event in New York (all night), send low-res version in 10 min chunks to translators in London, translators make subtitle streams in French, German, Italian and Spanish and send to other facility in London (1pm London time), New York sends high-res version to other facility in London, other facility in  London makes high res tapes and adds subtitles (2.30pm London), motorbikes courier tapes to satellite facility in Winchester (5.04pm London time), courier runs with tapes into transmission room (5.59pm London time - NO EXAGGERATION), technician puts tapes into machine and hits go on the satellite (6pm London time), people in cinemas all across the world watch the live event in their language knowing nothing of such dramas. (Except for the Italians, whose tape didn't work, so they got the English version instead. Sorry Italy.)
- The new Michael Moore documentary also premiered that night. He has approximately ten zillion times more resources than us and he went for a simple red carpet, a few celebs and a logo board in one cinema. Hmmmmm. 
- We had no advertising
- There were panic stations a couple of days before the event, when Gordon Brown (the UK Prime Minister) decreed that my old mucker Ed Miliband (the UK Climate Change Minister) should sub for him at a dinner for World Leaders on the very night of our premiere. Yikes. But Plan B was swiftly hatched whereby a satellite truck was stationed outside Ed's dinner (except it was actually five blocks away as there was a security block around the world leaders) and Ed would  excuse himself for 10 mins, go passed the security, run five blocks, speak to us via satellite link (even though our cinema tent was only 20 blocks away), run five blocks back and carry on with dessert as if nothing had happened. Perfectly sensible plan, wouldn't you say? Except there were no satellite trucks left in New York that night, what with UN General Assembly and everything, so we had to borrow one from a fairly far-off city (more fossil fuels up in the air). But then the world leaders ran out of things to talk about (or something), the dinner ended early and Ed was able to come to the tent in person. Thanks anyway satellite boys. And very good job that Ed could be there as he largely saved the day, not least because we totally failed to get anyone from the US Administration to speak, even on the phone. Thanks Ed and Team Ed.
- We could - and no doubt will - beat ourselves up forever about what might have been, but it was probably a mistake to try to do 10:10 in the middle... and perhaps we shouldn't have got distracted for two weeks in Australia and New Zealand.... 


Moby helps charge the pedal-powered sound system in front of the exact number of plastic bottles
America consumes every second, before performing "Natural Blues"


Heather Graham gets the full pap treatment on the green carpet (Note volunteers holding up
Age of Stupid signs behind her as we couldn't afford to make advertising boards)


My favourite article from more than 2,000 all over the world, was from our friends at the Guardian. You've gotta laugh at the order of pictures: Obama, Ban Ki-Moon, Pachauri, Al Gore.... and then....
Funniest press article:
Tonnes more news articles: Google News

President Nasheed of the Maldives accepts his Not Stupid certificate for being the first country
to commit to going carbon neutral within ten years


-> Grist, probably the best round-up:
-> Himalayas on the Indian news:
-> Hilarious video of an American boy band singer suddenly getting climate change (fast-forward to the end for his eureka moment)
-> Not strictly related to our premiere, but hilarious CNN piece about the Yes Men getting arrested as they try to storm the UN by floating down the river in survivaballs
-> Netherlands roundup with great shots of the real green carpet, the electronic goods being handed in as people arrive and the specially chartered tram for the premiere:
-> Netherlands crew's very own youtube channel:
-> Russian TV:
-> Hungary:
-> Amsterdam report (with English subtitles): - Holocaust survivor speaks about our responsibility to keep the world safe for future generations.
-> Another Dutch piece from Amsterdam - good shots of the electronic goods being recycled
-> Argentina:
(Loads of people dressd as lightbulbs. Keep watching until the end to see the Argentinian pop-star and contemporary dance)
-> Argentina:
-> Argentina:
-> Swedish TV:
-> Not Stupid graffiti timelapse in Copenhagen:
-> Thailand reactions:
-> Dutch news report from the New York tent featuring the Dutch Environment Minister:
-> Reactions from Copenhagen:
-> Bucharest Romania - basically just lots of the film on a big screen, some reactions after 5 minutes:
-> News report from France 24, just the film and some interviews:
-> India screening introduction:
-> News piece from Mallorca:
-> Slovakia, just bad quality footage of the panel:
-> Our video channel (lots not on here yet though):


Photos from round the world:
Photos from NY:

Round Six of the Ed vs Franny Featherweight Knockout Series (apologies if boxing terminology incorrect)

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Letter from Denmark

Yesterday evening was NOT stupid! The green grass substituted the red carpet and party leaders, celebs, artists, key journos and CPH environmental mayor arrived at the spectacular Tycho Brahe Planetarium to see the premiere of Age of Stupid. 600 invitations were out and 238 seats out of 240 were confirmed! The cinema was full. We showed the audience beautiful pictures from Greenpeace's Arctic expedition and introduced the growing range of NGO's supporting the film in Denmark. The excitement in the room was massive.

After the film we served the best climate friendly food and sparkling wines. The national TV2 news channel did live interviews with the key guests, being party leaders and celebs. Also our video teams did interviews and asked people to send a clear message to Lars Løkke Rasmussen (PM) and also to send a call for people to attend the big public demo at CPH the 12. december. This material we'll benefit from on social media that we'll push the next days. Løkke will feel the heat from these voices on facebook, YouTube, our homepage and more.

More than hundred people signed a great "Not Stupid" art piece that we'll also deliver to our prime minister. Kofi, Radiohead, Franny and Pete were also with us on the big screen and the evening ended up with DJ Master Fatman, a national icon, playing his music. We left happy and i'm sure the film has got a kick in the a.. by this solid, sparkling and impressive Greenpeace arrangement.

All the best, Henrik

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Blog from The Himalayas

[From the Greenpeace satellite team who trekked up into the Himalayas to provide the live satellite link to New York and then to the world]
After weeks of work by Cedric against the inpenetrable Indian bureaucracy - which is intended to thwart all but the most patient people - we got the go ahead in one of our preferred locations for the live shoot. The one permission we forgot though, was from Shiva the owner of these mighty mountains, who made everything near-impossible weather-wise. I think Shiva had a word to the satellite gods too though, as they decided to block our video stream several days before and not even Gianluca himself could appease them.

So It's 6 hours before we go live, New York are ready to do the test link but I still have no functioning satellite, a monsoonal downpour is closing in and there's still 2000m to climb from Manali to Rohtang, really not looking good. But this is when our friend the rainbow spirit must have had a word with Shiva. As we climbed and climbed one of the highest road passes in the world, we left the storms below us and the dawn opened up with the pure himalayan sunshine. Just in time, quickly setting up the gear, I attain the strongest Bgan signal I've ever seen, and I'm able to stuff that link with high quality video, right as I hear "go himalayas" from the control room in NY, our celeb [Shekhar Kapur, director of Elizabeth] starts his spiel and I hear the applause come back through the link. I honestly can't believe everything came together like this. it really was a moment.

After this we're on quite a high, especially our celeb who has sucked down most of our oxygen and was consequently quite lyrical for the next live link to 11 million Indian breakfast TV viewers. I think the best quote was from Shekhar Kapur himself, after the gig (and on the third bottle of oxygen) when he said "I didn't know greenpeace could do this stuff, you guys walk the talk".

This was really a magnificent effort from the Indian team, and all players in New York, Amsterdam, Indonesia.
Cheers, John

-> Shekhar Kapur's blog about the trip:
-> Himalayas team on the Indian news, watched by 11 million people (!):


Elizabeth-Director Shekar Kapur speaking live from the Himalayas. See his eye-popping blog here

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Letter from The Alps

[From Fernand, the French mountain guide in the film, who watched in his local cinema in Chamonix]
Congratulations, your film has had a big success here around Chamonix. I quote the local newspaper this Sunday: "and after the applause at the end of the movie, the conversation between Fernand and the audience was very intense... and people were very moved and impressed...". You and Lizzie have done an amazing job and I am so happy that I gave a little participation in your environment movie: THANK YOU. We were thinking about you for the NY premiere. It's gonna be a big hit. Love Fernand & Nicole

Stupid star Fernand (and his great grandkids with whom he climbs a mountain at the end of the film) in Chamonix


Stupid star Layefa at a private screening in Nigeria after the Lagos premiere got pulled by the Government


Stupid star Alvin in the New York cinema tent


Stupid stars Jamila & Adnan unfortunately couldn't attend this rooftop screening in Amman
which was arranged specially for them - we searched and searched but they were nowhere
to be found. Maybe they've gone back to Iraq

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Letter from Hungary

8 NGOs cooperated in order to promote the film and create a campaign, called Not Stupid. Our mission is if people come out from the film and they are depressed we would like to be there saying don’t be stupid! We organized the premier on the 22th of September with green carpet and a lot of celebrities (20) including actors, musicians, TV-stars, climate scientists and politicians (minister of environment etc.). Even the Head of the Copenhagen delegation, our Climate State Secratary was present.  People could walk through grass to the screening room and come out on sand representing climate change. It was great to see how the movie touched people. What is also great is that the movie can now be seen in cinemas in Budapest. We invite the Hungarian media and of course the tabloids, photographers and video-makers who can help us to communicate our common message to TV-News, Daily News and naturally to the everyday people. After the film we hold a cold buffet with Fair Trade products; like coffee, tea, sweets and wine. We put our petition on a big board hold by two polar bears which could signed by the people there. Two famous actors gave speeches before and after the film.

Dóci Gabriella

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Letter from Russia

The premier here was more modest and calm in comparison with other countries but we take a risk despite the fact that Russian cinemas and Film Company worried a lot that nobody will come. They were wrong! It went well. We had also invented a nice badge for all the people that came to see the film. People really loved and keep asking us in our blog where thay can take it. As there is no ads in Russia about the film people will use it to promote “Age of stupid”. We will also sent the copy of the film to our President Medvedev as we have mentioned it the press release.

-> Russian TV piece:

Buenos Aires
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Letter from Delhi

I am still getting over the green carpet premiere of AOS last night in Delhi, after deciding that we will be getting involved on the 14th of September finally managing at least a months workload in a weeks time was a big challenge but the team managed it pretty smooth, the venue was a posh south Delhi multiplex called PVR which has a seating capacity of 422 people,  after a couple of days of promotions, 100 posters put up across Delhi, print ads in the two leading English dailies, promotions on radio, non stop slogging for a week we were ready for the Big day.

A green carpet was laid at the venue with 10 volunteers running the show on ground, the guests started pouring at 6:30, among the vips we had director Shekhar Kapur who had given a message the same morning to New York from Rohtang pass, among other guests were also, co director of slumdog -luvleen tandon, photographer Raghu rai with his family, Jaya jaitley, ex climate negotiater and advisor with the planning comission on energy-surya sethi, a barrage of NGO's school principals, our cyber activists, supporters, friends and colleagues all added up to around 320 people occupying the Auditorium 4. 

It started with Shekhar Kapur sharing about his morning experience at the himalayas, which was followed by a one minute footage of his morning message to UNGA, then the film took over, i could only see the film in parts as i had to step out of the auditorium frequently to ensure reactions of people leaving midway but in end i did hear a huge round of applause for the movie. For me the highpoint of the day was, volunteers running the show on ground and our Fund-raising team were the guests of honor.


Kuala Lumpur

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Bad news from Honduras

I'm the person in charge of the AOS screening in Honduras, Central America. We were ready to present it in four different locations and free of charge to the general public. The venues were pier in a small caribbean island (Utila), a university in a coastal town, an artsy bar & a beautiful museum in Tegucigalpa. All of the owners and managers agreed to show the movie voluntarily. Now, because of the political instability and the human rights violations that have not ceased since yesterday (link to the BBC and an independent newspaper provided below), we are forced to draw back from the event.

The "de facto" government have set up a nationwide curfew until 6 pm, but will likely extend until tomorrow and who knows when. Independent tele and radio stations have been cut off, roads blocked, tear gas, "rubber" bullets and a handful of thousands disarmed people who are resisting are painting a heartbreaking canvas. It is disgraceful. Truly.

Hey thanks for making such a film and distributing freely across the world. People like you, in times like this, are a source of inspiration. We will present your film once the situation improves.  Best of luck and my very best wishes for the rest of the world presentation.

Sincerely, Helder

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Letter from Slovakia

how are you doing? im still having a huge sleep deficit. yday we did the age of stupid premiere + discussion - it was really successful and the place was crowded.


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Letter from Vanuatu

We just finished our screening at Nambawan Cafe's seafront open air cinema in Port Vila, Vanuatu - one of the first pacific island countries to have to relocate villages due to climate change - to a standing ovation! Thanks for a fantastic night!



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Letter from Australia

Rather dramatically as the climate conference and world AOS premier were happening in NY, here in Australia we had a massive dust storm; caused by years of drought and overfarming no doubt - huge winds from the west picked up all the dust on its way through and dumped it all on us on the east coast - great pics here, Ade

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Letter from Chile

Dear Franny, I just got back from seen your film, here in Chile, South America, isn't it amazing? there were no more than 50 people in the room, however I'm sure The Age of Stupid had a huge impact on all of us. I'm a teacher and I will do as much as I can to show this film to the largest number of people, it is must for those who still don't get it. Thank you for that amazing job. You're not alone in this world. Love, Veronica Gonzalez
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Letters from Thailand (with elephants)

Over 500 people, including 5 well known thai celebrities from music and movie industry, representatives from Thai royal family, journalists and tv crews, supporters, staff and their families along with friends from our alliances braved the thunderstorm and heavy rains to watch the premiere of Age of Stupid at Siam Paragon’s Royal Pavalai theatre.

We also used the opportunity to show a short film on Chang(e) caravan that was followed by welcome remarks by Shai, Tara and Scott Stuart (thai translator of the film) and a climate activist. Our guests also had the opportunity to interact with Greepeace staff and sign the AOS action pack, our petition to Obama and network with tcktcktck allies. The overwhelming presence of expats and regular movie goers proves that the pre-publicity done by our number 1 comms team, was very effective.


Signing the Copenhagen Pledge in Bangkok

I was personally pleased that most of our Chang(e) crew and its international guests (shepo, cho and shane) were also able to join the team. We will make sure that the caravan crew that stayed behind to take care of our fellow travelers and great friends the elephants get an opportunity to watch the movie as well. A number of you pitched in to make this event happen, despite the busy schedule, limited budgets and absolutely stretched human resources. Thank you all, I am sure the AOS team appreciates your efforts and so many more people will probably be less stupid.

Best, Shai


Not quite sure where this is, but such impressive colour coordination
Hi Lizzie,

I got a full page spread up in the north of Thailand in the equivelent of the News of the World about the screening plus notes out to a lot of people, give me your address, I have a copy I can send to you.  All the way leading upto the screening they ran the trailer inscessantly.  They also ran a series of discussion groups live on air prior to the event giving background to the whole issue of global warming so that when it was shown people at least had some background.
I have watched the world of media change so much over the last ten years, who would have thought I would be shooting HD using a stills camera! or filming onto disks the size of my thumbnail. The barriers for entry into filmaking are down,  it is now more than ever  'do you have an idea or something to say' there is nothing else to stop you. Nowhere has this been encapsulated better than what you have achieved with Age of Stupid and the setting up of indiescreenings.  I salute you.  - Alex

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Letter from Paris

Dear all, The premiere at La Géode in Paris was clearly a success. It was perfect for the audience to assist to the AOS screening at La Géode "a giant disco ball theater" : perfect adequation between topic and place. 400 people hastened to the screening and stayed for the satellite link event. It couldn't be more exciting. Our speech was well listening and we collected hundreds signatures for our Ultimatum Climatique petition. Good game !
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Letter from Tokyo

The Tokyo Premiere went smooth.  I have word from Ms. Ogawa of T-Joy 144 attended the 148 capa cinema.  Just 4 off from a sell out.  Not bad, not bad for the real tight ad time.  There was clapping at the end and Ms. Ogawa says quite a few viewers walked down the 9 floors from the cinema deep in thought.

Comments from friends are still to come. Ms. Baba, Secretariat of the Sloth Club reports the film was packed and moved real fast, maybe a bit too fast for the slothful sort.  But the personal stories were real good. Ms. Seguchi of Friends of Earth - Japan reports this was more than a "climate change" movie more like a "limits to growth" movie. And Tetsunari Iida, the authority in renewable energy in Japan has the following comment.

"What we thought was “correct” at that time, at that place with our nearsighted views, turns out to be absolutely “stupid” in the long-term, on the scale of the Earth’s
time" this is the point thrust upon us by this film." - Tetsunari Iida (head of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies in Tokyo)

Good winds to all,
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Letter from Amsterdam

Dear Franny and Lizzie,

What an UN-BE-LIE-VABLE evening.... What a gentle power, convincing conviction and humble dedication was talking to mankind from that simple stage in NY. You both did a wonderful job there. I saw coureageous strong women, I saw a new generation that is going to midwife our species into a new era. Big words, but I was moved to tears really, like many, many in the big cinema hall. The director of X, a well-known airline, who was present too, literally just sms'd to me: "It makes me think: shouldn't we ground all our planes today?"

Bank directors, big pension investors, soapies, famous rock bands, they were all there -and after the film had ended there was a emotional silence in the room. And then applause (quite un-Dutch!). I gave a speech afterwards and there was absolute, absolute silence (not so much because of me I guess, but because people were really moved, their heart was touched -and that is were any change comes from. Both my daughters (17 and 14) and my son (30) and my old mother (83) were in the cinema yesterday. They told me they now even better understand why I am and act like I do.

warm, warm, warm regards!
Maurits Groen

-> Netherlands roundup with great shots of the real green carpet, the electronic goods being handed in as people arrive and the specially chartered tram for the premiere:
-> Netherlands very own youtube channel:

Dutch Environment Minister, Jacqueline Cramer, signs up to 10:10

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Zimbabwe, where the ticket price included planting a tree for each of the 250 guests

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Thank Yous

Soooooooooooooooooo many people were involved in every aspect of the Global Premiere that our minds boggled as we tried to list them all for thank you emails..... Had to admit defeat at person number 350... So please accept this joint thank you from all 350+ to all 350+. It was most definitely the most teaming of team efforts any of us have ever been involved in.

Five particular rounds of applause:

- Lizzie, who ended up coordinating the whole thing, as yours truly and quite a few key members of Team Stupid were diverted to 10:10 duty. The tough Kiwi managed to withstand the joint pressures of our corporate partners threatening to pull out every other day (and then threatening to sue us during the live event - nice),  the bank threatening to pull the plug, countless people in countless countries complaining about everything under the sun - and her mother threatening to disown her from the family for lack of attention. The silly gal is now feeling that she let everyone down as not everything went to plan, so if anyone wants to reassure her, she's on

- The ever-more-brilliant Team Stupid in London and New York who worked 48 hour days (double speed, there was so much to do) and then waived their salaries when we ran out of cash.

- All Mobile Video - the satellite crew in New York who gave us a free office for the whole summer, were endlessly patient with our oh-that-one's-cancelled-instead-it's-an-Indonesian-rainforest-it's-gonna-be-brilliant madness, held our hands as we stumbled blindly through EVSs and EPTs and EVOs and never once stopped smiling.

- Arts Alliance - the international cinema bookers who dared to take on this crazy project, put their whole company on the line, invented a new distribution method to get the live stuff out in time - and then succeeded in persuading 300 cinemas from Tokyo to Stockholm to put aside their commercial concerns and play a subtitled documentary about climate change for the sake of the future of humanity.

- Greenpeace, coordinated by Martin Lloyd in Amsterdam, who provided the intrepid teams with satellite gear in their rucksacks in the Himalayas and Indonesia, as well as setting up eight of the country premieres (many described above) and providing a non-stop stream of friendly advice at any hour of the day or night on everything from Copenhagen policy and translating protocols to international money transfers and the different products produced from chopped-down rainforests.

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