Durban no, everywhere else yes 8/12/2011

- To edit your subscription or to unsubscribe from this list, go to: -


I have no doubt that, like me, you are closely following every moment of the current UN climate negotiations in Durban and are fully on top of exactly which politician is currently screwing up future generations' chances of living on a habitable planet. But just on the off-chance that the whole thing has passed you by, my Dad's gang, OneClimate, are out there in South Africa producing a daily webstream of interviews and analysis live from the talks - or follow the ever-inspiring, who always know what's happening where.

Linking from climate catastrophe to conspicuous consumption... Not got started on your Christmas presents yet? You could do worse than buy your friends&family a Spanner Films boxset (Age of Stupid, McLibel and Drowned Out DVDs) - order before 12th December to definitely receive for Xmas - or a chunk of a school's solar panel via 10:10's Solar Schools (complete with cute gift wrapping and a message on the website for your presentee). If you're too skint to buy pressies, 10:10 have got a big pile of copies of a great new book, "The Rough Guide To Community Energy", which they're giving away for free (because the distribution has been sponsored, not cos its rubbish) - to get a copy or two, just send in a stamped addressed envelope, details here.

Speaking of Solar Schools, one of the nine schools taking part in our pilot - E. P. Collier Primary in Reading - is only 645 pounds off reaching their £10,000 total. If they can somehow raise the last 645 today and tomorrow they will be able to hit the Government's Feed-In-Tariff deadline, and so get loads more cash to spend on books and equipment for their pupils as their panels generate clean electricity over the next 25 years. Please pitch in (ha) with some cash if you can.

Speaking of getting solar panels up in time for the FIT deadline, my boyfriend and I very proudly sent off our certificate yesterday - see pic of our panels going up on Tuesday - and heard back this morning that everything is in order and we have been accepted onto the FIT scheme. Hurray. I think we must have set some kind of record, as we only moved into our new house two weeks ago. ("Hello, yes we're looking for someone to install solar panels for a reasonable price in the next few weeks during the most frenetic time the solar industry has ever had - and in terrible weather - on a house we haven't even exchanged on. Hello, hello?")

In other Stupid and 10:10 news, the Welsh Government has only gone and beaten its 10:10 commitment and cut a splendid 11% of its emissions, a town in Perthshire is the first (that we know of at least) entire town to cut its entire carbon by 10%, our term "crowd-funding" looks as though its heading into the Oxford dictionary and "The Age of Stupid" is being used more and more as a standalone phrase without any reference to the film (eg in last week's Herald Sun in Australia where a right wing journo rants on about global warming not existing. Ha ha - I wonder if he knows where the phrase comes from...)

We ran our SWOTS film course a couple of weeks ago - see pics and feedback below - and were genuinely shocked at the outcome: we re-inspired ourselves to make another film! After spending two days teaching 34 charming SWOTS everything we know about filmmaking and distribution - going through all the highs and lows of the 15 years we spent making McLibel, Drowned Out and Age of Stupid - we realised what a brilliantly exciting, charmed, fulfilling and, most importantly, effective old time we had.

(I do have a bit of an idea for a new project actually, which I'd love some help with if you have a minute. Here's a question: what one change in society would you most like to see happen? eg banning advertising, introducing a minimum wage, closing all factory farms or outlawing tax havens. Please email me by hitting "reply" to this message or tweeting @frannyarmstrong, thanks v much.)

Anyway, the SWOTS course was such a triumph that we've decided to go against what we said before about not doing it again for another two years and instead do it next month. So your luck is in if you wanted to come last time but couldn't make it. We've set the date for the 14th and 15th January 2012, most likely in the 10:10 office in Camden again. I'm sure we could rustle up a lovely Christmas card thingy if anyone felt like buying a place on the course for somebody's Xmas present (email us on and we'll have the website up and running in the next few days, so you'll be able to book a place direct from:

SWOTS 2011: Charlie Phillips from Sheffield Doc/Fest explains how to maximise your festival-going experience

Feedback from the SWOTS of 2011
Stunning overview - the Earth didn't stop moving for me
Totally invaluable advice - I can't believe I was lucky enough to spend my weekend in such super company
A real privilege to spend two days picking your brains
Incredibly useful and inspiring and a resource you'd not be able to find on the net or read in a book
Like an indie doc massage - getting into all the knots and tensions
INTENSE - refreshingly honest and explanatory particularly about things that go wrong
Excellent - great to get the inner thoughts of Franny and Lizzie. Two v inspirational girls with masses of energy and ideas
Amazing!!! I am leaving today totally satisfied. It's the most knowledgeable weekend I have ever had in this field
The best 300 quid I've ever spent

What was the best bit?
- Your honesty in admitting your mistakes
- Franny and Lizzie's clarity and up-front presentation. No bullshit.
- Pitching & feedback from great guests
- How happy everyone was to share - great for doc community
- Question time. Learnt a lot from other people asking questions
- The laughs and the speakers = QUALITY
- the pitching session
- all the dynamic presenters and their openness and willingness to share
- the speakers were exactly the people I wanted to hear from
- learning that you can do something without having done it before - you just need to go for it

Dogwoof's Oli Harbottle, Sheffield Doc/Fest's Heather Croall and yours truly give feedback to all the SWOTS brave enough to pitch their documentary ideas.
(Does Oli really need such long legs?)

Good people doing good things:

- Stupid's Lizzie and other London-based green Kiwis are celebrating after the New Zealand Green party had their best ever showing in their general election last weekend. They won almost 11% of the vote which means there will be thirteen Green MPS in their new parliament. After running the London campaign over the last few months, Lizzie's crew are eagerly awaiting the final counting of more than 20,000 overseas votes which might mean one more Green MP in the house.

- Remember our pre-Stupid climate film Baked Alaska? Even back in 2001, the sea ice around the Alaskan villagers we visited had melted by 40%, which had completed upended the villagers' traditional way of life. Some of those Alaskan villages have now launched a legal bid to hold fossil fuel companies liable for the damage caused to their homes and livelihoods. Bloody good luck to them.

- A billion trees are being planted in Kenya and other countries to honour the great Wangari Matthai

- Also in Kenya, my old friend Susie Weeks (she who made the elephant corridor last year) is making big progress in her fight against elephant poaching: "We are very excited about our 'still in training’ horse patrol team for Mt Kenya. Elephant poaching and other illegal activities have increased at an alarming rate over the past couple of years and reached an all time high in the first half of this year. Mt Kenya Trust and KWS will be much better equipped to patrol the northern quardrant as the horse patrol will be able to cover more ground on a daily basis. "

- Another friend, Isabel Allen, has spent the last five years working with TV eco-dude and 10:10 fan Kevin McCloud to design and build 42 new low-cost low-carbon homes in Swindon. "Anyone can build an eco-home," Kevin said in an excellent Observer article about their project, "but it doesn't solve anything. There is nothing to stop them turning up the thermostat. What's more interesting is the way people live and behave. So the Triangle has allotments and polytunnels where people can grow their own food, and a car club and a scooter club that make their use of transport less wasteful." There's a two-part TV programme, "Kevin's Grand Design" following the project starting tonight at 8pm on Channel 4.

- Stupid crowd-funder Deborah Burton has launched a funding drive for the "We Are Many" film about the Iraq war marches.

- Maybe just maybe the tabloids not hounding Gary Speed's family marks the beginning of a new post-Leveson era.

Bye Fred, see you soon

And finally, the wonderful Fred Mulder, who introduced us to many of you, is stepping down as Chair of The Funding Network: "Our final event of 2011 is taking place on 8th December and is set to be an important and special occasion. Fred still intends to remain an active member of TFN but this event is the perfect time to reflect on his successful 10 years at the helm. We will also be officially welcoming Michael Maynard who is taking over the reins and Jon Snow, our inaugural Patron. All the details about the event, and information about the five great projects pitching, are on our website."

"Think selfishly for a minute, how great are you going to feel when you look back in 20 years and 10:10 is a huge international success and you can think "Wasn't that smart of me to support them right at the beginning?"". Video of
Fred explaining why he supports 10:10

Without Fred, neither The Age of Stupid nor 10:10 would exist. As one of the original 13 "crowd-funders" he kicked off the film's funding drive in December 2004 - and he personally corralled many of the 350 people who went on to become his fellow funders over the next five years. He connected us to the Hollywood screenwriter ("I'm his art dealer") who wrote Pete's dialogue in the film, he donated Arsenal tickets and a Picasso print for us to raise additional cash, he stored hundreds of our back-up tapes in his attic and he and his partner Fenella dressed Lizzie and me in their best finery so we could look like proper media types when we interviewed a top exec from Shell. They also allowed 20 journalists to take over every room of their house to film TV interviews with Pete Postlethwaite for our "press junket" (think of the scene in Notting Hill where Hugh Grant gets to meet Julia Roberts by pretending to be a journo from Horse and Hound). When Lizzie was between homes, they put her up in their guest bedroom for six months. And when the film's Global Premiere in New York was on the brink of collapse, Fred saved the day with a major cash loan - meaning a million people in 63 countries were able to watch the film and listen to the speakers that night. Most of all, Fred continued to believe in us - or said he did, which was just as good - through the dark and lonely years when it looked as though we were making a turkey. Fred, we salute you, we adore you, we thank you and we look forward to many more joint adventures in the heady world of social change filmmaking.

Merry Christmas,

Twitter: @frannyarmstrong