Docs Crusader Raises New Capital
Crusading documentary filmmaker Franny Armstrong is seeking a second capital injecttion for her latest global project, a film about global warming. She has been working on the new film with Oscar-winning Producer John Battsek for the last 18 months. The film is destined for theatrical release.
Armstrong predicts that her film will bring about a change in public perception of global warning.
"We are now facing the possibly catatclysmic consequences of global climate chaos, " she says, "So it's a real thrill for me to be in at the 'ground floor' of a film which could have a seismic effect on public perceptions of the problem."
Armstrong's first feature, McLibel, famously followed two London campaigners in their legal struggle with fast food giant McDonalds, long after news broadcasters, fearful of receiving writs themselves, pulled out. "Fearless Fran," as some have dubbed her, carried on filming regardless. As a result, she got all the scoops as the legal arguments persuaded European courts that the British judical process had been unfair to the defending pair. The resulting McLibel film has been released theatrically in the US, while a shorter version has been viewed by millions of people world-wide on television.
Armstrong then turned to tackling an equally controversial subject, the displacement of villagers in India, forced off their land by a dam project, who did not get the promised government compensation. Drowned undoubtedly raised the international profile of what had been an unseen problem. Footage from Drowned was broadcast nationally on TV in India, increasing public awareness and Indian courts finally intervened on the side of the villagers. The dam project was stalled and so were the rising waters that threatened further village homes.
With these documentary successes behind her, Armstrong's Spanner Films had no problem raising initial capital to get the global warming project under way. The company raised £50,000 by selling a hundred £500 shares, with all shareholders receiving a percentage of all income from the film.
After twelve filming trips and 87 hours of footage, the project is moving on to the next phase with an eye to eventual theatrical release. The company is clearly pitching to ethical investors, who share the filmmakers concerns about the global environment, but don't want to exclude others who are concerned, but can't afford sizeable investments. Shares this time around will be larger, at £5,000 each. The company say though, there are investors who cannot afford a share on an individual basis, who are ready to invest in a share as members of a partnership, so smaller investors need not be put off.
This is a good example of the ingenuity that a lot of documentary filmmakers must show in order to finance their films. It would be easier to raise budget by getting commissions froma number of TV broadcasters, but that's not Fearless Fran's style. She always wants to remain in control of her project, not give it away to TV companies.
Armstrong says the film is undoubtedly an ethical investment, but an investment that potentially, could make a big difference.
"My advice is that if you're in a position to move some of your money into something that will make things better, do it," Armstrong urges. "We may be the last generation of this species who still have the opportunity to turn things around."