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June 5, 2013

Spirit Level screening

The number of people earning more than £1m doubled last year with similar uplifts across all groups of the country’s top 10% of earners.  But that’s where the country’s increased prosperity stops –  the top earners have effectively detached themselves from the rest of society and all the evidence suggests that when this happens, there are no winners (not even the super wealthy).  The producers of the film of the seminal book on this topic, The Spirit Level, have released a short trailer and an update on their crowd funded project.


To see a short clip of the film, click here

The story so far, and the next chapter…

The last few months have been a profound journey for The Spirit Level, as, fresh from the first round of interview filming, we began to tackle the heart of the film – finding the stories through which we can begin to understand how structural economic and social shifts can impact on all our lives.  It’s been an exhaustive process of speaking to thousands of individuals all over the world, and being privileged to hear about their lives, hopes and fears.

When the project began last year, my quest began to secure each of the key figures behind the research in the book – and I was astounded as the responses came back. “yes I would be pleased to take part”, “this is important”, and so on. I started voraciously reading everything each of my interviewees had ever written, keen to understand the nuances of the research, lest I missed something vitally important. There were works by Michael Marmot on health, James Gilligan on violence, economist Ha-Joon Chang, Noam Chomsky, Amartya Sen. The list is endless. And of course, I read Chris Snowdon (The Spirit Level Delusion) and Peter Saunders, who take a completely different view. My journey into what producer Christopher Hird had termed “the intellectual detective story” was truly under way. Armed with questions (and criticisms) I set out to the many wide and varied locations to film interviews with these thinkers, accompanied by the able director of photography Woody James.

Each of the extraordinary figures I met seemed to have one thing in common – a profound sense of humility, mixed with some of the most insightful things I’ve ever heard uttered about the world we live in. I could have interviewed Michael Marmot for hours. So I did. So long in fact that he had to help us navigate the corridors of UCL to find a way out after hours.  

When our van hit a puncture on the 3 hour drive into New York state to film the son of one of the world’s richest men, Peter Buffett, I expected him to be angry, or at least a bit annoyed. Not so. He met us at a local cafe several hours later, and rode back with us in our clapped out van, positioned somewhere between the sandwiches and the large steel boxes of equipment.

Back in London, I handed the material over to editor Claire Ferguson with trepidation. She’s cut some of the best documentary features of recent years, including the fantastic film on the threat of overfishing The End of the Line, which created substantial change in fishing policy as a result. After a couple of days her emails came through: “I love it!”. Phew.
So, I started on the next phase of the journey buoyed from the experience.  It’s been months of intense preparation, taking me the length and breadth of the UK, from conversations with young men on the outskirts of society in Manchester, to activists fighting for change in Glasgow, and community leaders in the North east and elsewhere who tell of how economic shift has ripped the heart out of communities, and the people left fighting for a decent standard of living
What a relief. The one thing I know is if Claire likes something, we’re onto a winner.
I’ve spoken to people demonised by the media: the “riot boys”, the low-waged, and the unemployed. I’ve found thoughtfulness and compassion where we have been told there is laziness and fecklessness. And it’s not just in the UK – my evenings have been spent speaking to those all over the world, from call centre workers to inmates in a California prison and young women preparing for motherhood.

Many of you supported the campaign last year and helped us launch with a bang, others I’ve met along the way and have offered support with research, on social media and through organisations. It’s thanks to our collective work together that we’ve got this far. When we launched we managed to make a huge noise online, and raised enough money to finance these first important shoots.

Having tracked down the most powerful stories on inequality from around the world, the time has come to bring our talented crew to them, so we can capture the next stage of the film. We need to come together again to make this happen.

Today I’m launching a short clip of just some of the interviews we’ve managed to secure so far. You can help us by simply taking time to share this clip with your friends, colleagues and online networks today. The finished film is available to pre-buy as a download, and if just 2,000 people buy it in advance, we can complete the UK leg of the film. The more people see it, the more likely we are to reach those who can help us. Our community is bigger now than ever before, which gives us a great opportunity to get the message out – so please share far and wide!

Our aim is to be able to get back on the road and filming as soon as we can, so we can make our planned release date of summer 2014. Thanks again for being part of the journey to bring The Spirit Level to the screen – we’re excited about what lies ahead and look forward to sharing more with you.

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