Andy Depledge Tribute

- 27th December 1968 - 21st August 2019 - 
Franny Armstrong's tribute to Andy, read at his funeral 

I met Andy in about 1996, when we were both in our mid 20s and I was in the very early stages of making my first film, McLibel, about the epic court battle between two ordinary people and the burger giants McDonald’s.
Andy had got in touch via a friend of a friend, saying he wanted to work in film, and I liked him immediately: he was sweet and earnest and committed, but also hilariously self-deprecating and the King of Bad Puns. He and I went on to spend the best part of two years, on and off, living at my Dad and Stepmum's house in the woods in Oxfordshire, grappling with dial-up modems, wobbly piles of old-school Beta tapes (all labelled with Andy's codename “Paris” in case McDonald’s, er, broke in and stole our tapes?!?) and tens of thousands of pages of court transcripts. Fuelled by veggie burgers and salt’n’vinegar discos, Andy, me and a handful of others created what eventually became our documentary, McLIBEL. The film went on to be released in cinemas in America, Australia and the UK, and was broadcast on BBC2 and on mainstream TV in 25+ other countries. Later, it was featured in the British Film Institute’s series “Ten Documentaries Which Changed the World”. 
[After the funeral last week, a few of us from Spanner went back to Andy’s cottage and were enormously touched to see photos of the McLibel edit suite from back then displayed on his bedroom wall.]
Right from those early days, Andy had a gift for figuring out how to use new gadgets and software - this was at least a decade before you could google the answer when you got stuck. I remember him lying on the sofa at my dad’s house, with Holly the dog at his side, paging through the biggest editing software manual you can imagine, trying to find the solution to why a particular shot was the wrong resolution or how to input audio that had been recorded at 44 kilohertz instead of 48. All our manuals from that time ended up covered in yellow post-its with Andy’s tiny hand-scribbled notes on them.
Andy in March 2019 at the Age of Stupid 10th Birthday crew party

This talent meant that over the next 20 or so years at Spanner Films - on and off - Andy turned his hand to everything from digitising, transcribing & logging footage to editing video, authoring DVDs and creating special effects. Whatever we threw at him, he quietly worked out how to do it and then beavered away until the job was done - usually working late into the night and then sleeping on whatever sofa or patch of floor he could unroll his sleeping bag onto. Always with his unerring desire to never take the credit and to never step into the limelight – he would literally squirm if we ever tried to take a photo of him. 

Andy’s winning combination of clear-eyed enthusiasm, undercut by his unique brand of witty cynicism meant he fitted in with and balanced the ever-changing team at Spanner Films perfectly. Everyone liked him. Nobody ever had a bad word to say about him – except perhaps for his ridiculous file-naming systems. I remember one called “Final final final final final FINAL DVD output version three”.
Andy was charming company, never dull for even a second. When we were trying to output the fiendishly-complicated EXTRAS DVD for our film DROWNED OUT – the office was in my flat in Camden at this point - Andy would hit “output” on the computer and then we’d have to wait up to 12 hours for it to do its thing. During this time, Andy would keep us amused with his encyclopaedic knowledge about, well, seemingly everything. Whatever random subject came up, he’d know loads about it, whether it was a detailed history of the launch of the Wispa bar to the precise formation of the Roman Army as it crossed the Alps. And at the end of the 12 hours, more often than not, the computer would come back with eg “Error 16” and Andy would sigh and re-open the manual, trying to figure out why it hadn’t worked this time. 
In 2007, when we’d almost finished our climate change drama-documentary, THE AGE OF STUPID, Andy and I filmed a test version of the drama scenes with him and me playing two Greta-like teenagers in the future. [Watch the video here - obviously it would have been cast with real young actors had it gone ahead!]. I thought it was quite good, but when we showed it to a packed preview screening at the Curzon Soho cinema it went down like a lead balloon. After that ignominious failure, we decided that the people in the future shouldn’t be angry teenagers but instead be a single sorrowful old man… and that’s how the character which ended up being played by Hollywood star Pete Postlethwaite came to be.
Andy told me that the day we filmed with Pete Postlethwaite – in the very glamorous location of a carpet warehouse in Willesden - was one of the best days of his life. For several hours, Andy lay squashed under Pete’s chair, not making a sound, hardly daring to breathe, holding a video camera which he'd rigged up to play directly into Pete’s autocue. As Pete said a particular word in the script, Andy would hit play on the video camera – accounting for the three-second pause for the camera to warm up - so that Pete would then see the right image which he needed to interact with on the screen in front of him. Needless to say, Andy pulled it off faultlessly. [See the drama shoot in the Making Of The Age of Stupid - Andy is, unsurprisingly, in many shots, helping carry dead giraffes, setting things up, plugging things in...] 
Andy (right) setting up his home-made playback system with me (back to camera) sitting in Pete Postlethwaite’s chair 
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Perhaps Andy’s finest moment with us was single-handedly creating Stupid's “Big Oil” animation, which lays out the links between the oil corporations and the American political system. His brief was to create a 60-second video which looked like it had been made by a teenage conspiracy theorist alone in his bedroom late at night, drinking too much coffee. Andy knocked it out of the park. Age of Stupid went on to be released in cinemas and on TV in over 30 countries and more than 15 million people watched Andy’s sequence. Earlier this year, it was re-broadcast on BBC for its 10th anniversary. I have no doubt that many braincells were activated and many hearts moved by Andy’s work.
The last time I saw Andy was at the Age of Stupid 10th birthday party in February this year. He was in top form: hilarious in his usual deadpan way, and full of stories and ideas. I am so glad that we had that reunion, that I was able to see him one last time, as I always loved Andy, and I always will. 
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Franny Armstrong
20th September 2019
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Andy as Edward Scissorhands at Lizzie’s 30th birthday party in 2008, along with Franny (Dorothy), composer Chris Brierley (Tin Man), photographer Karen Robinson (Wicked Witch) and Franny’s sister Boo (Lion)
Age of Stupid 10th Birthday crew party, five months before Andy died