Rescued by Boris... and you?

Location | Mood | Date 11 November 2009
Author (full name): 
Franny Armstrong
11 November 2009

<<< STOP PRESS. Sold Stupid to the BBC at the weekend. Confirmed they will broadcast before or during Copenhagen. Yahey >>>


Yes it is true, the Mayor of London did rescue me from some feral kids* last week, all the gory details below.

But on to a rather more serious rescue... looks like Team Stupid will be bankrupt by the end of this week... eek...

Here's the fundamental flaw: the money which the film makes from DVDs and TV sales and Indie Screenings and whathaveyou goes into the pot to repay the crowd-funding investors (first payment coming before Xmas, btw). And we don't have a distributor with a big cheque book cos we didn't want someone saying no to all the screenings we've been doing (just celebrated the 1,000 local screening booked through Indie Screenings website). Which means that all of our audacious plans involving Global Premieres and UN trains and Copenhagen and The Stupid Show and getting saved by Boris (oh no, that was free), have to be funded from some other pot of gold. We've been winging it in a variety of ways for the last 18 months, but now the invoice pile is just getting too big and wobbly...

But fear not, for I have a cunning plan to save the day....

Why I'm selling my shares in my own film (well, some of them)

When we set out to make Stupid way back in 2004, the theory was that, rather than getting paid properly, all the 100+ crew members would work for survival wages plus a percentage of profits. That way we'd keep the costs down (cos salaries are by far the biggest chunk of any film) and make a big-budget film (animation, orchestral score etc) for a small pile of cash. And having a percentage of profits meant that, should the film turn out to be a success, all the crew would one day get paid a half-decent wage. From my own perspective, I thought I could cope with living on minimum wage for a few years in exchange for a nice little nest egg to fund a future of lying round swimming pools stroking my Oscars.

But after five years working on climate change I've had a change of heart.

As has been said and re-said ad infinitum, we are now right at the end of the time when we could still avert a human catastrophe of unimaginable horror. As in there are just 25 days left till Copenhagen, which is our last chance to get the treaty which could bring global emissions down fast enough to avoid triggering runaway climate change, which is where the warming becomes unstoppable and hundreds of millions of people - if not everybody - dies. And as the best deal currently on the Copenhagen table gives us only a 50/50 chance of avoiding this nightmare, it seems to me that the only logical thing to do for anybody who relies on the climate remaining habitable to human life is divert all their available resources into maximising our collective chance of success at Copenhagen.

Which is why I've decided to take my money out of my own future in order to wager it on all of us** having one. Better to be poorer on a habitable planet, than richer amidst utter carnage.

** Maybe the three girls who attacked me are the exception - they can have the version of the future where we fail to stop climate change.  

So I am hereby putting 20 of my shares up for sale, worth 5,000 pounds each. Please buy one if you can possibly afford it (details of how it works below or here) or pass on the info to rich-ish pals. If we can raise the full 100k in the next week or so, we will have enough money to both pay off our debts and pull off our killer idea for Copenhagen...  which is....

The Stupid Show
The Stupid Show is a 20 min daily web TV show, produced by The Age of Stupid crack team, live from the Copenhagen climate summit. Hosted by Mark Lynas (the man in the shed) and Franny Armstrong (yours truly), our mission is to make the talks comprehensible to ordinary mortals. We'll be doing that by singing updates, interviewing bigwigs in rhyming locations (In Bed With.... On The Floor With.... Smoking Weed With....), drawing abstract concepts Rolf Harris-style for online viewers to win prizes and coordinating daily actions for one's public to get involved in. Think The Daily Show, but sillier, more interactive and on a way more important subject. All details here.

Why web TV?

When I started getting entangled in the McLibel trial, back in the early '90s, it was clear that the new-fangled thing called the internet would be the ideal way of getting the story out. It's all totally obvious now, but the fact that it was global, it was free, it was  uncensorable by McDonald's (the whole trial was about Big Mac trying to stop people criticising them) and nobody much had used it for campaigning meant that when we launched the McSpotlight website on February 16th 1996 it immediately caused a media frenzy and became the "blueprint for all protest websites" (Wired magazine).

(No prizes for guessing who wrote the flowery launch report... "Tears flowed, children giggled, defendants smiled and unfamiliar people hugged each other as the 60-second countdown finished, the familiar logo gently appeared on the screen and everything McDonald's don't want us to know became available for the whole world to see.")

I feel like we are at a similar moment again with Copenhagen. There could be another step-change in the use of new media for world-changing purposes. Broadband is now sufficiently widespread - and watching video online sufficiently commonplace - that millions of people could watch a daily web TV show.... Just because nobody's yet managed to make a must-watch show, doesn't mean it isn't possible... We've got all the elements in place: the high-level contacts, the international fanbase, the skills & team to produce the show, the partners to spread the word and, most important of all, the crucial moment in human history. If we can strike the right balance between humour and history, we may just inspire millions of people all round the world to become actively engaged in the talks.

All we lack is the cash.

Please buy a share or a DVD or a tambourine

Here's how you can help:
-> Buy one of my shares - For 5,000 pounds you can join our 350+ crowd-funders and own your very own slice of the Stupid pie. Basically you get paid a percentage of the profits for 10 years, and as the first payment is coming before Xmas, you won't have long to wait before you start seeing a return. All details about how it works here. Everyone who buys a share at this stage will be buying one of mine, so I'll chuck in a signed DVD as a little pressie... If you'd like to talk to someone before handing over your cash, please email our money man Andrew Douglas on with your phone number and he'll give you a call. (Andrew is only available for discussions about shares, he's not much cop with lovelife difficulties.)
-> Sponsor the Stupid Show to the tune of 40,000 and we'll call it "The Stupid Show bought to you by X" on the opening title sequence and all publicity. Or sponsor one of the strands (eg Song of the Day) and you'll see your name on screen.
-> Sponsor something from the Stupid Show wedding list -  Kazoos, internet connections, bicycle hire, felt tip pens, ferries.... there's something for every budget and you can have your name in the credits, if you like.
-> Buy loads of DVDs or T-shirts or water bottles or stickers from our shop. Please buy them from us rather than well-known internet sellers as we get a much bigger chunk of the cash.
-> Give a donation
-> Forward the share info / this whole message to any medium rich friends
-> Forward the Stupid Show wedding list - - via email, Facebook, Twitter etc - to anyone you know with a spare ten quid.

My Knight On A Shining Bicycle

When the history of why we failed to act on climate change is written, Boris Johnson beating Ken Livingstone to the job of Mayor of London will get a headline slot. Ken's team had developed a comprehensive city-wide strategy called "The London Plan" which was going to cut London's emissions by a whopping actually-tackling-the-problem 60%. Stuff like the congestion charge, low emissions zone and free buses were the first stages of the mega-plan being rolled out. As we were filming Stupid between 2004 and 2008, climate experts were forever telling me that Ken's plan not only made London the world leader, but was also inspiring other cities to finally start taking climate change seriously.

Then the stupid people of London voted Ken out because Boris has better hair. As soon as he got into office, Boris dumped most of Ken's plans, put London back 20 years and pretty much derailed the whole cities-tackling-climate-change train. It really was that significant, imho, as without one city leading the way, the others started floundering again. And with the vast majority of humans living in cities, we are either going to succeed or fail to solve climate change in our cities.

None of which is to say that I wasn't extremely pleased to meet Boris for the first time as I was walking home last Monday night. The situation went from shocking (as I was ambling along the road, texting Lizzie, and suddenly got pushed against a car) to funny (when I looked up and saw that my attackers were three small hoodie girls straight out of a cheap BBC drama) to pretty damn frightening (when they started waving their long metal bar around) to utterly bizarre (as Boris Johnson cycled up and shouted some Borisness (not "oiks" as the media likes to say, but something along those lines which I unfortunately can't remember)) all in the space of about 40 seconds. Ten minutes later - when he'd returned from chasing after them on his bike - we had a good old chat about Copenhagen (yes he's going), cycle lanes (he thinks they shouldn't be segregated, as "all the road should be for cyclists"), 10:10 (going to be hard to cut 10% of the tubes' emissions as there's no AC) and London's bike hire scheme starting next year (beautiful blue bikes - so much better looking than Paris's). Obviously I signed him up to 10:10 and gave him the tag from round my neck as a thank you. F: "You can only have it if you're definitely going to cut your emissions 10% next year". B: "I will, I will".  

Having been wandering the streets of London for 30-odd years without ever either getting mugged or bumping into the Mayor, for both to happen at the same time was...

.... the best thing that could've happened for breaking 10:10 out of Guardianland. The 10:10 crew wouldn't countenance my suggestion that we keep the whole thing quiet on account of being utterly sick of my ugly mug in the media, so they put the story out at 4pm the next day and when I popped home at 5.30 there were already notes from journalists stuck through my door. How the F do they get someone's home address so quickly?!? I headed off to the Grierson Awards (where we didn't win, but the Yes Men did, hooray) and came out three hours later to find 41 voicemails, 24 texts and 100+ journo emails - plus messages from everyone I've ever worked with and even family members who'd been called by the Daily Mail. By the time I got home, the papparazzi were camping outside my house (well, they were sitting in their people carriers fiddling with their laptops), which was about 100 times more scary than the hoodie girl gang.

Friends in Dubai, then Beijing, then Sydney, then Auckland texted over the next few days as the story spread round the world. Boris's heroics made it into Time magazine to the main BBC news to satires like this and this to cartoons in tabloids to discussions on the Today prog to 300 comments in the Daily Mail to a discussion on Have I Got News For You. Think this is my favourite, though funny to read that I said "Oh mein Gott, es ist Boris Johnson". Didn't think my German was that good. Oh and does anyone have copies of the cartoons which were printed in various papers? Would love to see them. Or the animation that was apparently on the ITV news?

So anyhow, I can confirm that Boris does indeed have fantastic hair and a great knack with a soundbite - "It's a slight mitigation of my heroism that the assailants turned out to be 12-year-old girls". As to whether I'll be voting for him next time - as all the press keep asking - the answer is: Boris for SuperHero, Ken for Mayor.

Hope you can help with the money thing,
The Damsel and her Comrades In Distress

PS. As Ed Miliband pins his colours to the nuclear masts, Spain gets 53% of its electricity from wind.

* Quite a few people wrote saying that I shouldn't have used the phrase "feral kids". Yeah, I agree, it wasn't really strong enough to describe small children who go around attacking people, was it?