Will the democracy of the web ensure that a film of The Spirit Level - with its argument that greater equality is good for everyone - be made and distributed despite the lethargy and spinal problems of the world's broadcasters?
I'm producing a documentary film on The Spirit Level. And this is a shameless plug for your help and why this can make a difference.
There have been several posts about the book, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, in Our Kingdom. The most recent is Stuart Weir’s earlier this month in which he refers to the documentary. The book is one of the publishing phenomena of recent years. Written by two academics from York University, awash with graphs and statistical discussion and with over 400 end notes, the book has nonetheless sold over 100,000 copies in the UK and been published in over 20 other countries. Since the book was published its authors have given over 400 lectures and talks about it – including one at TED, which has so far been seen by over 1.3 million people.
The Spirit Level argues that the evidence suggests that the more equal a society, the better life is – less violence, less crime, less mental illness and so on and people have higher levels of literacy, live longer and are generally happier. It also argues that even the better off have better lives in more equal societies than the members of the same social class have in less equal societies. The book caused a bit of a stir when it first came out but, as David Beetham observed in his OK review of the book in August 2010, “the message soon disappeared from public view” – which he attributed to the fact that “the rich and powerful continue to exercise a stranglehold over the popular media and public policy alike”. It's politics have been debated here too, by Gerry Hassan. What is needed, Beetham argues, is a “wide social and political movement for greater equality.” The documentary is an attempt to put this on the political agenda and help to build that social movement - it will also be a challenge to the gate keepers of the mainstream media.
The success of The End of the Line - a documentary which exposed the threat to the world’s oceans from over-fishing - shows it can be done. The End of the Line demonstrates how independent documentaries can have a measurable impact on public attitudes, political policy and corporate behaviour. Alliances with social movements and being produced at a tipping point in political and public opinion were key parts in making that film a success. We believe we can do the same with The Spirit Level film.
Despite the glaring need for more than one documentary about the destruction of life in the world's seas and oceans, the current state of British broadcasting means that films like The End of the Line will not be paid for by broadcasters. The same applies to The Spirit Level not withstanding the public interest, although we hope that major broadcasters around the world will feel obliged to buy it when it is completed.
One of the ways in which we are financing the film, therefore, is through crowd funding - getting those who want to see the film to pay for it now, rather than afterwards. It’s one of the ways in which we can use the digital world to democratic effect. Please help make The Spirit Level now by coming here http://www.indiegogo.com/spiritlevelfilm.
Christopher Hird is the founder and managing director of Dartmouth Films and one of the producers of The End of the Line, The Flaw and The Spirit Level.