Emily James is excited to announce the upcoming release of her in-the-works documentary, Just Do It: Get off your arse and change the world. Ms. James has been following climate activists all around the UK, capturing their risky behaviors on film. Hoping to have Just Do It viewed by at least one million people in 2011, James and her team are relying entirely on crowdfunding to help launch their project so that the whole world can eventually view her documentary for free upon it’s completion. Don’t Panic wanted to know more, or anything really, about the UK’s climate activists and Just Do It, so we had a little chat with James.
Tell us about your film?
The film is about Climate Camp, Plane Stupid, Climate Rush and various other activists who are all kind of part of a community of people who work together to do non-violent direct action. There are three official groups, but we followed groups that formed around specific events and actions. One of the projects that we followed was called WACT, the World Association of Carbon Traders,
It was an irony block, they went on various marches posing as bankers and carbon traders – using that as a way to get people to think about the fact that carbon trading was the only thing on the table at Copenhagen and seemed to be the only “solution” for climate change.
This is really problematic because it was a market driven solution to a problem that had been caused by a market. You’re trying to use the same thing that’s causing the problem to clean it up. They wanted to do something creative to point this out.
Did the organizations contact you to film Just Do it?
No. Originally I got involved in all of this because I was recruited to be the videographer on a couple of actions. I filmed the people coming into Stansted and positioning themselves on the runway. That job entails being told where to stand and then turning up in the right place, then turning the tape out and getting it to the news. Pretty much immediately I could see there was a much bigger film to be made about direct action. I started asking about trying to get access to film the planning and people pretty adamantly said no.
Mostly security concerns. If you film people planning an action, that’s a lot of material that could potentially be used against them. Conspiracy charges carry much higher penalties than what people normally get on these types of actions, such as aggravated trespass or criminal damage. They can go after you for things that seem quite small, mostly because the thing that you’re really doing, the political non-violent direction, isn’t illegal. So they have to find technicalities.
People also, quite rightly, were afraid about how they were going to be portrayed. It puts a huge amount of trust into a filmmaker to allow them to gather a lot of material about you and you have to really believe that that person is going to tell a story that you’re going to be comfortable with.
Are you still filming now?
We’re finished filming. We filmed from April 2009 to April 2010, so we covered a year. Essentially our narrative lives within that. We’ve been editing since then.
When do you plan on a release?
The film should be done early next year, and we intend to be releasing by Spring 2011 if we can make it.
So, we’ve all seen videos of activists chaining themselves to trees and things like that… what’s the craziest or most surprising scene you saw while filming for Just Do It?
I’ve seen so many fascinating, different plans through making this film. I guess The Great Climate Swoop in which about 1500 activists descended on Ratcliff Power Station and politely asked Eon to shut it down. Surprise surprise, Eon didn’t shut it down, so the activists said “Right, we’re going to shut it down for you.” They announced what day it was going to happen so the police were ready and waiting for them. A lot of actions are surprises, but they couldn’t do it as a surprise because they needed to get everybody there on mass. So they were really bold about it… all of these people met up in the forest and marched straight down to the power station in the full daylight view of the police, and just tried to do it anyways. Really defying authority, but not doing it in anger.
What was the result? Did they shut it down?
They managed to breach the fences quite a few times and get the fences down, but unfortunately they never managed to shut the power station down that day. The entire event is a symbolic gesture. It’s the idea of people coming together as a group and acting together as a group; they can potentially achieve something that they could never do as individuals.
How are you funding your entire project?
We made a decision to do this as a completely independent film. To be able to make the film that we wanted to make, we did not want to be beholden to broadcasters editorially or legally, and equally because we want to be able to give the film away for free under a creative commons license, we didn’t want to take on investors. So we have decided to embrace crowdfunding as a mechanism. Crowdfunding is a relatively new idea in which you try to get your would-be audience to pay for the film upfront and to make donations that will enable you to make the film.
How can we donate?
You can go on our website, www.just-do-it.org.uk
, which is not the most elegant website in the world, but another company holds the slightly more elegant version of the “Just Do It” website… Nike. But if you donate from the 20 days following 12 October, we have a match fund in which Lush cosmetics will give a pound for every pound that people donate on the site because they want to encourage this idea of crowdfunding and people coming together to support something that they think is important.