'Journey' is an overworked word these days, but I can think of none other to describe the making of a documentary film.
Ten years ago, a film of mine could be made in six months, even less. The main work was the research, the journalism. Whenever I felt confident I had the basis of 'story', I would go to the ITV Network in the UK and seek a broadcast commission. If that was forthcoming, ITV would fund the production. The difference now is that I, the film-maker, must raise most of the production money. Also, my documentaries have changed considerably in recent years. They are now made for both TV and the cinema, and of course the internet.
I've made three films this way, The War on Democracy (2007), The War You Don't See (2010) and Utopia (2013). Utopia took more than two years to make. In raising the money for these films, I've been fortunate to find sympathetic philanthropists and organisations such as foundations, and persuade them to contribute without attaching any editorial strings. But these benefactors are rare, and tracking them down is probably the hardest part of film-making now and, frankly, not the kind of work I ever saw myself doing - I've always preferred simply to do the job I knew, to be paid a wage and to leave the 'business' to others.
I've lately embarked on another film journey -- this will be my 60th documentary, by the way. ITV has commissioned the film, and provided seed money. The working title is The Coming War Between America and China, and the film will tell the largely unreported story of a new US strategic policy known as 'the pivot to Asia'.
In a nutshell, what this means is that the US is preparing for a new provocative cold war that has every chance of becoming a hot war. Washington has begun to move its main missile and naval forces into the Asia-Pacific in order to surround and 'confront' China, whose extraordinary economic rise in recent years is regarded in Washington as a threat to American dominance. For obvious reasons, I can't lay out here the 'where, what and why'. Suffice to say the film will be shot in some surprising places where I'll meet and interview extraordinary people. It will also be a treasure trove of archive footage. Above all, it will be revealing: that is assured.
Having read this far, you're sure to guess that this message is heading towards another modern cliché -- an 'ask'. My colleagues at Dartmouth Films and I need to raise at least £60,000 or $100,000 in order to start making the film. This money won't meet unforeseen costs or pay for distribution and promotion, but it will allow for the philanthropy, on which the bulk of the film's funding depends, to kick in, and for a start to be made. And that's where you come in. This is known as 'crowd funding' and, as you can guess, it's my first day in this strange new job. If you can give £5 or $10 - no more - I'll be grateful. For your part, you'll have made a vital contribution to a film whose disclosure and warning are, I believe, urgently needed. I'm hopeful you'll be proud of the result.