Categories
WEGo in Practice Wellbeing Economies: Concept

A Breakthrough: The Scottish First Minister’s TED Talk – Let’s Move Beyond GDP

I can hardly contain my excitement: the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave a TED Talk, and only two hours ago it was published on the TED.com website. In her talk, she makes the case for governments focussing the efforts of their work no longer on GDP, but on increasing the well-being of their citizens:

In early 2018, we decided to tell the story behind the Scottish and other governments who were trying to join forces, to move beyond GDP, in the documentary film that this website is about, that we are currently editing, and that we are hoping to release early next year. Not knowing if this would happen, and not knowing how it would play out. The fact that the Wellbeing Economy Governments now exist, and that Nicola Sturgeon just delivered this courageous message brings us incredible joy. And reason for hope.

Categories
Gross Domestic Product Introduction

On Economic Growth As A Concept.

I just read the text “Economic growth: a short history of a controversial idea” by Gareth Dale — and thought that some of its points merit mentioning here, as they relate to the core issue of our film project: the unhealthy obsession of most governments with GDP Growth, and how to end it.

Dale’s text is all about where this idea came from, originally.

The first key point he is making is rejecting Elias Canetti’s “will to grow”, which posits that the desire to (economically) “grow” — in other words, to accumulate “more” — is a human quality that sits inside our DNA. From wanting your child to grow, to wanting your power to grow, to wanting your riches to grow, to wanting your farm to grow, this is just how we are made, we always want more.

But Dale disagrees and says that Canetti is throwing things together that don’t belong together:

Canetti’s ‘will to grow’ doesn’t withstand scrutiny. The diverse behaviours he describes can’t be reduced to a single logic. The ‘will’ behind creating babies is quite unlike the will to accumulate acreage or gold. And the latter is relatively recent. For much of the human story, societies were nomadic or semi-nomadic, and organised in immediate-return systems. Stashes of food were set aside to tide the group over for days or weeks, but long-term storage was impractical. The accumulation of possessions would hamper mobility. The measures that such societies used to reduce the risks of scarcity centred not on accumulating stores of goods but on knowledge of the environment, and interpersonal relationships (borrowing, sharing, and so on).

The next crucial point he is making is about data. It was only possible for humans to “want more” once they were able to properly count what they had. In other words, the development of statistical tools plays a key role for instilling this idea that we could “have more tomorrow” than we have today. This links directly to the discussion we experienced at the OECD Forum in South Korea, about new measurements and their political implications. Dale writes:

The same centuries experienced a revolution in statistics. In the England of 1600, the growth paradigm could scarcely have existed. No one knew the nation’s income, or even its territory or population. By 1700 all these had been calculated, at least in some rough measure, and as new data arrived England’s ‘material progress’ could be charted. Simultaneously, the usage of ‘growth’ had extended from the natural and concrete toward abstract phenomena: the growth of England’s colonies in Virginia and Barbados, the ‘growth of trade,’ and suchlike.

And as the advancement of science and the development of colonialism went hand in hand, the colonialists had a whole host of new quantitative questions to answer:

How profitable is this tract of land, and its denizens? How can they be made more profitable? Answering such questions was enabled by modern accounting techniques, with their sharper definition of such abstractions as profit and capital.

In other word, “growth of the economy” needed a lot of inventions before it could even be thought. And the idea was heavily based on thinking that originated from the development of colonialism. In the new colonies, it seemed even more important than anywhere else to count and “grow” the new properties that were being accumulated.

And what was the result of all that? A very simple story about how people evolved from barbarism to civilisation. Barbarism was the lifestyles of the people that colonialists found wherever their greed took them, civilisation was the way of living and counting and robbing and thinking in property terms that the colonialists brought. Since the invading nations were the “more advanced ones”, that gave them “the right” to control and harrass the others. And economic growth was always part of the story:

Through its marriage to progress and development, in the belief that social advance requires a steady upward ratchet in national income, growth gained its ideological heft.

And this takes us into the twentieth century. The idea of economic growth turned into a global competition and race, for power, influence and promises to the electorate. And in the fight between the political systems of the Cold War, it became the tool for everything:

Growth was firmly established everywhere: in the state-capitalist economies of the ‘Second World,’ the market economies of the West, and the postcolonial world too. It became part of the economic-cultural furniture, and played a decisive part in binding ‘civil society’ into capitalist hegemonic structures — with social democratic parties and trade unions crucial binding agents. It came to be seen as the key metric of national progress and as a magic wand to achieve all sorts of goals: to abolish the danger of returning to depression, to sweeten class antagonisms, to reduce the gap between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries, to carve a path to international recognition, and so on.

And then to me, the most interesting conclusion can be found in the penultimate paragraph:

Growth, although the result of social relations among people, assumes the veneer of objective necessity. The growth paradigm elides the exploitative process of accumulation, portraying it instead as a process in the general interest.

It’s actually an incredible sleight of hand: The accumulation of wealth is redefined as the primary public interest. We are lead to believe that as long as a massive accumulation of capital happens, somehow everyone will be better off. Even though it’s overwhelmingly a narrow group of people benefiting from this type of accumulation. Because ever since the TINA years, so much taxation has been dismantled, bit by bit.

Not too long ago, this whole idea was also referred to as the “Trickle-Down-Effect” — an effect that doesn’t actually work in the real world. Just because the rich get richer doesn’t mean the rest are better off. Quite the contrary. Unless we rethink the way we distribute access to capital and resources: Wellbeing Economies.

Categories
OECD South Korea WEGo in Practice Wellbeing Economies: Concept

The Wellbeing Economics Governments Are Moving Forward.

In the past weeks and months, we’ve been excited to notice how the Wellbeing Economics Governments have been making progress.

New York Times About New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget
The most visible example may have been the New York Times article about New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget. We were excited to see this in part also because in January we had the chance to interview the very same Grant Robertson who is mentioned in the article for our film — he is New Zealand’s Finance Minister. And some of what he told us then was pretty much verbatim repeated in the article. The text provides an inspiring view-from-the-outside picture of what the current New Zealand government is trying to do differently, and it’s encouraging to see that the NYT is taking note.

The First Wellbeing Economy Governments Policy Lab
Even closer to our film’s subject was the first meeting of the WEGo policy lab in Scotland on May 1st of this year — in a house that Adam Smith himself had lived in.

Back in November, we were in South Korea as the WEGo — the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative — was first publicly presented at the OECD Forum in Incheon. What may be the crucial part of this project is said Policy Lab. If governments want to move towards a holistic approach to Wellbeing of People and Planet, they need to do a lot of things very differently. And that is hard.

So in order to figure out how to make this happen, they are trying to learn from each other, by organising these policy labs. In the words of First Minister Sturgeon:

But we know that we don’t have all the answers. We know that we have got a lot to learn – and a lot to gain – from working with other like-minded countries.

That’s why the Scottish Government established the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative and it’s why we’re so pleased to be hosting the first of these Policy Labs. And it’s why we’re delighted to have such a wealth expertise represented here today.

Our film’s protagonist Katherine Trebeck attended the opening session, where both the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, and the Prime Minister of Iceland, Karin Jakobsdottir, gave speeches (New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was not at the lab, but NZ sent representatives). And Katherine published a blog post about what that was like, on the Wellbeing Economy Alliance website. Here is how she explains in her text what the WEGo are about:

WEGo is about governments rolling up their sleeves, linking arms, and walking together down a path that sees national success as being defined by the quality of life of citizens rather than the growth rate of a country’s GDP. As the Chief Economist of the Scottish Government said, WEGo is about driving the wellbeing agenda in economic, social, and environmental policy making.

First Minister Sturgeon’s speech from the event is available online, and some of her statements show where the WEGo are headed, particularly when it comes to their stance on the role of the GDP:

GDP has too often come to be seen not just as an indicator of a country’s wealth, but as the main measure of its success.

(…)

As governments, we see the promotion of sustainable and inclusive growth as a vital way of raising living standards for all. But we also understand that growth is only of any real value if it makes people’s lives better, it is not, and never should be seen, as an end in itself. We have to test whether we are creating a fairer, healthier, happier nation in the process.

And then I cannot help but notice: The heads of these three Wellbeing Economy Governments are all strong and inspiring women. I’m beginning to doubt that that’s a coincidence. And instead a sign of a future that needs a lot more female leaders.

Categories
Behind the Scenes

Three Months of Silence: Here Is Why.

We’ve taken too much time off this blog — but it’s not because we were idle. Quite the contrary.

At least a month and a half were filled with us doing two fairly tedious jobs for this film, much of which we couldn’t share — because it is simply way too boring: We had to review all the material that we’ve shot, and log every clip and its content in one endless long spreadsheet. The result: 3913 entries so far … This was necessary for two reasons: One, the person who has done this (that’s Nick) now actually knows our material, has remembered again scenes we had shot and forgotten, and can now spontaeously find things that can become useful for the edit. And two, before we only had countless film clips — now have a searchable database with all our material.

The second job: We had to transcribe the important interviews with our two main protagonists, Katherine and Lorenzo. For Katherine, that was 4 hours 37 minutes, and for Lorenzo a whole lot more because we also included a few of his speeches and TV appearances, and we also spent a bit more time with him than we did with Katherine: 12 hours and 16 minutes. And I had to turn all of that talk into written words … but now that that’s done, it gives us our second searchable database! And we can now really work with the material, it’s great! A lot more fun to edit when you can search and access every single clip you’ve filmed.

And then we’ve been busy with a few more things: We produced a short documentary film together with our friend Ben from “Wolf & Wonder Productions” — it was designed as a pitch to Netflix about a climate change initiative. And we worked very hard on the collaborative climate change show “vollehalle” (in German) that we began developing back in 2017. In early May, we performed it live at the big German Web & Society conference re:publica, and the result is now on YouTube.

And in the past few weeks, a couple of new opportunities opened up — after re:publica, we’re now getting a bunch of requests for our show; we are in the process of discussing the show with some investors who might donate to help us fund its development; we’re beginning talks with a few movers and shakers in the German entertainment industry, about further developing vollehalle; and finally we hope to establish a collaboration with a larger and more established film production company for this very documentary film project — they very much like the project, and want to help us with financing, post production and distribution.

So … a lot has happened these past few weeks and months, but we’ll return to working on the actual film now, and we’ll also try to figure out how to return to sharing more of that experience with you — now that the phase of shooting it is over, and the post production phase has begun. Which may seem less interesting, but it is actually the really fun part: Now we’ll assemble the film from all the material that we’ve collected — now we get to actually make the film!

Categories
Behind the Scenes On the Road

Video from Our Last Trip to Rome.

Our final trip to Rome, Jeffrey Sachs about Wellbeing vs. Trump, a prime minister bailing out, and a Tesla breaking down — all in under four minutes!

Categories
Behind the Scenes On the Road

Our Farewell Tour to Rome.

It’s been over a month that we’ve published our last post here on the blog and on Facebook, when we introduced our new “partner in crime” Rou Reynolds. We didn’t really mean to take that long a break, but there was just a lot going on in other areas of our lives, and the work we started doing for the film at the beginning of the year is maybe a little less interesting now: We now need to review and transcribe all the material that we have collected, i. e. carefully look at and write down everything that we’ve filmed. The biggest task in that may be the transcription of all the interviews that we’ve done — writing down word for word what our (key) protagonists have told us. Only then can you properly work with all that content.

If we only look at the key conversations with Katherine Trebeck, cutting it down to only the things she said to us (in other words, taking out our questions, etc.), we still end up with over four and half hours of footage. I’m almost done transcribing that. The next job will be to transcribe everything that we’ve got from Lorenzo Fioramonti, and with him we did a whole lot more interviews, so … I’ll be transcribing those for weeks.

But this week, we’re back on the road. It’s the last regular filming trip that we’re taking to Italy — Lorenzo and his team are putting on a “Wellbeing Economy Conference” here in Rome on Thursday, and we’ve come down one more time to follow Lorenzo, spend time with him, and film at the conference.

During the week, we’re staying at Nicoletta’s and Daniele’s place — Nicoletta is Lorenzo’s personal assistant, we’ve known her for quite some time now, and we’ve become friends with her and her boy-friend Daniele. And for this week, they invited us to stay with them, which is incredibly generous. The apartment outside Rome where they live has an amazing terrace with an incredible view, and that’s where we had breakfast this morning (see the photo above). In a few minutes, we’ll travel into the city, and then it’s back to work, filming and trying to figure out how to best capture what we see before us.

We’ll also try to post more frequently on our Facebook profile and/or our Instagram account this week, so maybe see you there.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Wellbeing Economies: Concept

Rou Reynolds.

The central themes of our film are often reflected in the lyrics of British rock band Enter Shikari. We talked to Rou Reynolds, the band’s singer and frontman, about his political views, and asked him to collaborate with us.

Categories
On the Road Sustainability

The Controversy Around Offsetting CO2 Emissions from Air Travel.

In some parts of Africa, poor families are cutting down wild trees so they can live their lives — for cooking and heating; they have nothing else to burn. As a result, the vegetation goes away, the desert expands, and slowly but surely it is making more and more land uninhabitable. Additionally, those trees that are cut can no longer take CO2 out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis, so the process also contributes to climate change.

The German non-profit Atmosfair have found a way to help: They provide families in these parts of the world with very energy-efficient ovens that only need a fraction of the wood to provide the same amount of heat and cooking power.

On this blog, we’ve mentioned a number of times that we are trying to limit the climate impact of making this film (and of our lives in general). In terms of our travels, we do our long journeys with all our equipment in an electric car which we charge with renewable energy. And only in rare instances, when there is no other way for us to do it — let’s say because we need to go to South Korea for our story, or because we have to go to Scotland and have only two days for it because of other commitments — we do take a plane.

And when we do, we compensate for (or: offset) the CO2 emissions from these flights — by paying for these ovens that Atmosfair is bringing to these families.

Many people who are concerned about the climate believe that offsetting CO2 emissions is actually a bad thing — they believe it makes people feel good about something bad that they just shouldn’t be doing. And that it does not solve any climate problem. It just makes everything worse because people who compensate keep up their bad lifestyle, rather than becoming part of the solution for a better world.

There is a lot of truth to that. Flying, in particular, is especially bad for our climate. And it’s important to seriously consider any flight anybody wants to go on, and whether there is not another way to achieve the same objective. A return flight from Rome to Reykjavík, for instance, emits roughly the entire yearly CO2 budget that a human being on earth can afford to produce in a year if we want to live sustainable lives. In other words, if you’ve done that flight, theoretically you cannot really consume … well, actually, live after that.

But we would like to explain why we still go on flights, and why we believe that compensating — at least the way we are doing it — is a good compromise.

When it comes to compensating CO2 emissions, there are a lot of climate-destroying habits that should absolutely not be compensated. A good example is a steak house telling its customers that their food is “climate neutral” because they pay for compensation for their meat production. That is truly a bad idea. Our current meat consumption habits cannot go on, and there is no way of solving that problem by compensating. Instead, it falsely suggests to customers that somehow this meat isn’t so bad. Instead, we simply must get used to eating other things than meat, in order to keep earth inhabitable for humans. And we can — we do not need meat to live. The same goes for CO2-emitting cars, or for any other activity that can be carried out with alternative means.

That is a little different with flying. We cannot really live without it anymore, if we assume that encounters with people in other parts of the world and experiences abroad are good for us: Arguably, our world becomes a better place when we meet each other, when we see other places and people in far away countries. The more we establish human connections across borders, continents, disparate parts of the world, the more we will (hopefully) be able to understand that we are all part of one big family, and that our lives are connected and intertwined. If we decided to ban all flying (if that was even possible), the effects would be very negative — and I don’t mean just in terms of economic impact. I mean in terms of the effect on us as open, connected, curious human beings.

So the first point is: A lot of flying is truly and substantially wrong — a business man who thinks he needs to be flying from Frankfurt to Hamburg and back for a business conversation which could also happen by video conference is simply an idiot, climatically speaking. And so is the hipster couple that decide they “need” a weekend in Mallorca just to relax. And don’t get me started on people who fly to Paris for a day just to go shopping. But Brasilians who live in England should be able to visit their families in Brasil. A person living abroad to make money for the family back home must have a chance to go and see them. And (arguably), if we are making a documentary about how we need to change our economic system, we should be able to fly to South Korea if the story demands it.

Yes, these are moral choices. I fully acknowledge that I am making a call on what is good and what is bad travel. We must get to a point where we can have this conversation, otherwise we’re not going to make progress. “I need my freedom and anything goes as long as I can pay for it” is not a position we can maintain in a world with limited resources. We need to start arguing about what’s needed and what isn’t.

Secondly, flying will become climate-neutral. What’s necessary to make that happen are synthetic fuels — they exist already today, and they are made by taking CO2 out of the atmosphere, and combining it with other molecules, to create fuels that, when they are burned, simply return that CO2 to the atmosphere, rather than adding more CO2 to it. The problem with these fuels is that they are still very expensive to make, and for that reason, they are not widely available yet. Mass production needs to be developed. But we really have no choice — we need to make that happen.

So a CO2-neutral solution is actually already available for flying — and in that respect, flying is different from a steak. Unless we truly find a way of making synthetic steaks (which people keep talking about, but they still seems a bit far from reality), our meat consumption needs to change. Our flying habits, on the other hand, can become sustainable.

This is why we think flying is an acceptable thing to do if three conditions are in place:

  1. Any flight is carefully considered, and only done if there is no other means of achieving the same outcome.
  2. A flight is understood as what it is: something profound and rare, and not a thing we do as easily as taking a subway or a bus.
  3. The CO2 emissions of the flight are compensated with a provider that understands that CO2 compensation is only the last resort.

 

The people at Atmosfair don’t think that compensating is a good solution — they consider it only the third-best option. They consult with companies and individuals, and they primarily focus on avoiding CO2. If that cannot be done, then they will try to reduce CO2 emissions. And only as a third response to CO2 emissions, they propose to compensate. (And they will not sell compensation to the steak house mentioned above.)

As it says on their website:

For climate protection reasons, CO₂ avoidance should have priority over other measures. If it is not possible to avoid CO₂ emissions, at least measures should be taken in order to reduce them as much as possible. atmosfair can offset unavoidable emissions for you through high-quality CDM Gold Standard climate protection projects.

So, we do acknowledge that flying is currently still a very dangerous thing for our world. We believe that flights should only be taken if absolutely no other option is available, and if their meaning is truly appreciated. And finally, when we do fly, we compensate with Atmosfair, because we have met with them, and they do take this issue very seriously.

And we cannot wait for synthetic fuels to become widely available.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Gross Domestic Product OECD South Korea On the Road Wellbeing Economies: Concept

Film: Thoughts from the OECD Forum in South Korea.

In November our documentary film took us to Incheon in South Korea for the OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy. Here’s a little video from the trip!

Categories
Behind the Scenes Introduction On the Road

Reviewing 2018: An Incredible Ride.

The year is drawing to a close — here’s a look back on what has happened in our project so far. 2018 has been an incredible ride for us, in many respects.

It all started back in February, when we found out that two things were going to happen. One, a group of government representatives from Scotland, Costa Rica and Slovenia were going to gather in Ljubiljana in March, to say openly to the world that they want to pursue a different type of politics in economics, an approach that respects the needs of people and planet. At the same time, we heard that one of the people working on making this government summit happen, Lorenzo Fioramonti (a fierce critic of the GDP and of the way most economic policies are currently being designed), was going to leave academia and join the world of Italian politics, and run for office with the 5 Star Movement. Since the 5 Stars were the strongest contender in the Italian election, this was very interesting news — there was the potential that a man who had written books about how bad a measure the GDP is could become a minister in a new Italian Government!

So we decided that we just had to start filming this story, no matter what — a story about people who want to move our world away from its endless “growth obsession”. So without funding (there was no time to wait for funding), and with only a vague concept of what kind of a story we wanted to tell, we went on our first trip: In the middle of February, we drove up to Scotland, to meet with Katherine Trebeck and other people at Oxfam, to find out what that government summit was going to be about. Katherine had worked on this thing from within the Scottish Oxfam offices, where she’d been a researcher.

(Also, Nick still had to move most of his stuff from a storage in Glasgow to Berlin, so we did it all in one go, with a hired truck. That’s a fossil fuel burning vehicle, of course, and since we want to be as climate-friendly as we can, we compensated the CO2 emissions on that trip. Unfortunately, there isn’t really any other way to move house these days than using a truck that burns Diesel.)

A few days after returning from this one, we were already off on our second trip — down to Italy. And this time we went fully electric. We met with Lorenzo in Brescia where he had to give a campaign talk, and then we drove him down to Rome. We had been invited to stay at his parents’ place outside Rome, to be able to follow Lorenzo around during this last week of campaigning before the election on March 4th. Lorenzo’s family and his home were still in South Africa where he had been living for many years. As he was launching his career in Italian politics, he turned his parents’ house — which has lots of space — into his new temp home as well.

The week we spent together in Rome was remarkable. We were traveling around the city non stop, went on lots of campaign appointments, saw plenty behind the scenes stuff in the “5 Star Campaign”, we went to their secret campaign headquarters in the center of Rome, and felt the vibe behind and on the stage at the big campaign rallies and events. It felt a little bit like being inside a real-world “House of Cards”.

In early May, it had turned out that the summit in Slovenia was not going to take place — so we had to go back to Glasgow and speak with the team there again — about what was going to happen next. Timing was tight, and we had to somehow fit the trip in. We couldn’t drive — it takes four days driving time alone to go up there and back — so we flew this time around. But we compensated for our CO2 emissions with Atmosfair — like we do with every flight which we cannot avoid.

It wasn’t until later in April that we went traveling again — but that doesn’t mean we sat idly in the meantime. We produced a small comedy show in Berlin, I moved house, and more importantly, we had to work hard on defining our story.

In theory, a documentary filmmaker only starts rolling his camera after s/he has thoroughly investigated and written down what the story is meant to be, exactly, that s/he wants to tell in the film. Based on this description, you go out into the world, and try to collect your story — or the version of it that reality will present you with. It’s obvious that life will never turn out the way you intend it in your head. But it’s still incredibly helpful to have that idea — otherwise you don’t know what you are shooting for.

It didn’t quite happen that way in our case. Instead, we had already started rolling the cameras, but we only knew that we wanted to follow these two people — Katherine and Lorenzo — to document what they were trying to do, to help us move to a post-GDP world. But what does that mean in terms of the story that we’re telling? How do we structure it, how do we intend to keep viewers engaged in a topic that may seem very technical to many people. We had lots and lots of conversations with lots and lots of people, and particularly with my friend Kim Münster, an experienced film director and producer, who agreed to produce our film and help me — a novice to the whole process — structure the whole thing.

To structure it meant primarily to write a treatment. Which is essentially the screenplay to the documentary — a description of the intention I have as a filmmaker for the story I want to tell. It was a hard process to do this, and the treatment got rewritten a number of times, and it changed around a lot. But I learned an awful lot about what it means to be a documentary filmmaker, and how I need to think, in order to make a film that anybody will want to see.

In April, we returned to Rome for our second trip there. On the way down, we stopped over in Venice, to meet with and interview Petra Reski. She’s a German writer, but she has been living in Italy (closely following the “5 Star Movement”) for decades now, and she gave us a very helpful perspective on what this movement means for Italy. Then we journeyed on to Rome. Lorenzo had won his seat in the Italian election, and we spent another 5-day work week with him around town — while the party was trying to form the new Italian government. The negotiations with the “League” had failed, and now the 5 Stars were trying to figure out how they could potentially form a government with the “Partito Democratico”. And Lorenzo was trying to prepare for his new role, potentially as the Minister for Industrial Development in the new government.

On May 7th, we had the chance to meet up with Tim Jackson in Berlin. He’s a very well-known professor, researcher, author and speaker, working on the post-growth agenda. I’d met him once before, in 2017, as we were preparing our climate change show “vollehalle”. It was fun to meet him again in Berlin. He gave a speech in the very impressive hall of the Evangelische Akademie Berlin — check out the floor lights in the pictures below — and we were allowed to film that speech.

And then at the end of May, we returned to Scotland. This time with the Tesla, again getting on the Le Shuttle train under the Channel. I really love that train! The trip first took us to Tim Jackson’s university in Surrey, where we had the chance to do a sit-down with him, and interview him for about an hour.

Then we journeyed on to Glasgow and then Edinburgh, for a very particular reason: on May 23rd, the Task Force meeting for the Wellbeing Economy Governments — the group that was originally supposed to meet officially in Slovenia in March — was happening at a hotel in Edinburgh. The idea was to plan the next potential official public meeting, which could now be in South Korea at an OECD conference, at the end of November. So there were representatives from the Scottish, Costa Rican and Slovenian governments, plus people from Oxfam and a couple of universities, getting together to hash out how they could develop their group until that conference. And we were in the room, with the cameras rolling! It was very exciting!

In Edinburgh, Katherine also told us that she was going to go to Costa Rica herself, to speak at a conference, and to (potentially) meet the Costa Rican president, and tell him about this project, and get him excited about it. It was clear — we had to go, too! So we booked two seats on the same flight that she was going to be on (again, we compensated for our CO2 emissions with Atmosfair), to travel with her to Costa Rica, only two weeks later!

But just before that, I had the hunch that I had to go back down to Italy. The forming of the government there had become this never-ending thriller — negotiations with the PD had been cancelled only days after our last trip there, because of a very controversial TV appearance of the former leader of the PD, and so the 5 Stars turned back around to negotiate once again with the right-wing “Lega”. When they finally tried to propose a government together, the Italian President Mattarella refused to sign them into office, for fear of a European backlash against the new minister of economics, a Euro critic. It was apparently all coming to a blow, with the 5 Stars organising a rally to demonstrate against the President, when at the last minute a compromise was found, and the goverment was sworn in. And so the demonstration against the President turned into one to celebrate the first time the 5 Stars were in an Italian Government. Since I only had two days, there was no way to drive down again, so I went on yet another flight, and spent two days in Rome, and got a few great shots and impressions of the vibe both within the 5 Stars, and also from Lorenzo’s point of view, who — at that stage — seemed nowhere near becoming part of the new government, despite the fact that he had been quite close to Luigi di Maio and the party leadership during the election campaign.

18-12-18_rome-5stars-governo

And then, only three days later, we went to Costa Rica. It was a great experience — we met incredibly interesting people, the conference called Omina (about sustainable fashion) was inspiring, and even though Katherine did not manage to meet the President (he had to cancel his appearance at the conference), she did meet the First Lady. And we were in the room with them! We returned to Berlin on June 11th, after being away only six days — it had felt much longer because it had been so intense.

In the meantime, working on the proposals and trying to get funding kept right on going — unsuccessfully, however. The most irritating thing in this whole funding process is that with some German film funding institutions, you cannot get money if you apply after you have started filming. There is apparently a bit of wiggle room, but not enough for us, so a couple of sources of money for our film were already dry before we even started applying … There seem to be laws about public financing of films that make it so, but I don’t really understand it. And it is quite irritating that we are blocked from funding simply because we realised early that we simply had to start capturing this story. Otherwise, there would be no story.

The next trip took us back to Rome, we left Berlin on July 1st. This time, we wanted to be there when Lorenzo brought his whole family — his wife and the two kids — back from South Africa. We documented their arrival at Fiumicino Airport. But even more importantly, we had the chance to witness Lorenzo arriving at his new office — he eventually did end up in the government, he had been named Vice Minister in the Ministry of Education and Research (“MIUR”), and we were there to see his first days on the new job.

 

In mid August, we returned to Scotland once again — this time because Katherine was coming back from her summer holidays, and we wanted to be present (and film) as she was getting an update about the state of things with the Wellbeing Economy Governments from the Scottish government team.

The many remarkable and incredibly comfortable stays in Edinburgh for our film are only possible, by the way, thanks to Nick’s extremely generous and hospitable parents Pat and Howard Scholey — a massive thank-you to them!

Which takes us straight to our last Italian journey so far for the film, in early September — and this one was by far the most tiring because we went to so many different places. Our first stop was Geneva where we interviewed Alvaro Cedeno (he’s in the pictures from the Costa Rica trip — but he lives and works in Geneva). From there, we traveled to Milan, where we met up briefly with Katherine (!) who happened to be there that night, and then we shot an interview and other material with a start-up company that we may include in our film.

From there, we traveled on to Genua where the motorway bridge had crumbled a few weeks earlier, and we needed to get shots of that. And from there, we traveled on to Rome, where we spent some more time with Lorenzo — we drove him to a couple of TV studios, for example, where he was giving interviews. And finally, we went with him back up north, to Tuscany, where he had meetings in Pisa and Lucca. It was a super intense trip, but again well worth it.

In late September and early October, we started a little sub-project within our film project — this blog right here, and the social media accounts that we’re using, to publish behind-the-scenes stuff around making this film. We kicked it off by shooting, editing and posting our “Welcome Video”.

18-12-19_01_welcome-video

In the meantime, we had also learned that further hopes for external financing from film funds had fallen through. But I managed to open up another source of finances, so even though we don’t have any film fund supporting us right now, we can still continue to make the film. And we keep applying to other funds — more specifically now to a couple of US funds that also support international films.

Finally, in the middle of November, our most intense traveling and shooting period began. Within a very short time frame, we first went on our latest road trip back up to Scotland, met with Lorenzo in Berlin and then traveled to South Korea.

On the trip to Scotland, we were passsing through London once more where we did our interview with Rowan. Then we journeyed on, to interview my friend Basile in Northampton, and then on to Scotland again, where we met with the Scottish Government team again, and with Katherine.

Katherine’s husband Mark also agreed to be interviewed by us — which was really nice. And we joined one of his Dramble Tours: he himself does these guided tours of Glasgow that include stops in six carefully selected pubs where you get to sample six different carefully selected Scotch whiskys. We had fun. (I was just a bit cold, to tell the honest truth, my jacket wasn’t warm enough …)

Only two days after our return, Lorenzo came to Berlin! Together with his assistant Nicoletta they came for a few meetings. That made life easy for us — no need to travel to Italy to film our Italian protagonist!

And finally, our last trip this year: to South Korea. The Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative (“WEGo”, here is the website) was going to be launched at a big OECD conference on measurement and statistics there, so the Scottish Government team, teams from other governments, and Katherine were going to be there. And Lorenzo was coming as well. So we had to go, too, and see what it was going to be like, to see that initiative see the light of day. Just like in South Korea, we spent a good deal of time with Katherine, and even managed to fit in a last day of “light tourism” in the old part of Incheon — the city where the whole thing was taking place.

(I already posted a fairly extensive blog post about what we learned at the conference.)

So … that was the summary of what we’ve been up to this year, trying to make this film. (Not to mention other projects that we have worked on.) This does not include, of course, a whole bunch of little things that we were working on here at the office: editing work for funding applications, the countless revisions and reworkings of our various (German and English) treatments and other documents.

2019 will probably begin for the film in the second half of January, with yet another trip to Scotland. We hope to get done with the main bulk of shooting by March — in other words, more or less exactly a year after we started. And after that, we need to sit down and start to work out how to actually make this film — sift through all the material, edit it, and do all the prost production. There is a lot of work ahead of us, and it will be, without a doubt, another very interesting year.

We’ll hope to post another video, about the trip to South Korea, towards the end of this week — so stay tuned! And other than that, have a Merry Christmas Season, and all the best for 2019!