You've Been Trumped – Anthony Baxter Interview
You’ve Been Trumped, winner at the 2011 Sheffield Doc/Fest, recently returned to The Showroom.
Director Anthony Baxter took time out from his schedule promoting the movie in L.A. to talk to Exposed about human rights, crowd sourcing and altering the course of American politics.
Exposed: You've Been Trumped is a film about a multimillionaire businessman destroying a scientific treasure to develop a golf course, making the lives of local residents a misery in the process and the local authorities detaining a journalist for asking questions. Now, if I say this people will think it was filmed in China or somewhere in South America, but just to confirm, this was filmed in Scotland, right?
Anthony Baxter: Yes – it was filmed in Scotland although there were moments during the filming when I had to pinch myself as to whether or not this was an event happening on my doorstep. I've filmed in Afghanistan a few times and before heading out there, I completed a hostile environments course – designed to prepare you for things like being arrested and thrown into jail, stripped of your possessions and so on by police officers refusing to answer questions. And yet that's exactly what happened in rural Aberdeenshire…
The National Union of Journalists said it was the first time in living memory that journalists had been arrested for simply attempting to hold people in power to account. And in this case, we were investigating the shutting off of the water supply by the Trump workforce to an 86-year old woman and her family.
Exposed: What was the real cost of this golf course? Was it the loss of an Area of Special Scientific Interest? The utter disregard for the local residents? The complete apathy of their local MSP and media outlets? Or the unprecedented decision of the police?
AB: I think it was a combination of all these things. But the real cost is the loss of a priceless landscape and the human rights violations of the local people who have been so shabbily treated by their government, the police and the Trump Organisation. Earlier this month, the Trump Organisation issued a statement to the New York Daily News branding the local residents as 'a national embarrassment for Scotland'. I think they're an inspiration.
The development is in the constituency of Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, who has refused to visit the residents in their homes. Mr Salmond, whose Government was responsible for giving Mr Trump the go ahead, has also refused over 50 invitations to watch You've Been Trumped in public, and has also declined invites to view the film at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Yet his entourage reportedly spent around £50,000 to attend the Los Angeles premiere of Brave. Many people in Scotland are now asking themselves the question – 'Does Mr Salmond prefer fantasy to reality?'
Exposed: Donald Trump has been rather disparaging about both you and the film, saying you weren't a 'real' journalist and that the film was a failure. But you're attending openings in Los Angeles, and the week before the film was showing in New York including being projected onto the side of Trump Towers, as well as winning enough awards to fill a golf course. What's it like to 'fail' in such a way?
AB: Well I judge the success of the fact that many people have now been to see it in packed cinemas across the UK and the US and that it is being adopted by organisations across the world (such as Oxfam) to highlighting issues surrounding social justice and our environment. The Occupy movement's decision to beam the film onto Trump Tower was an important moment for the film. It's clear our planet cannot afford developments such as the Trump golf course in Scotland, which has destroyed, what is according to Scotland's scientists, 'the crown jewels' of our country's natural habitat – our equivalent of the Amazon rain forest.
Exposed: To fund the film you had to mortgage your own house and use crowd sourcing. What was that like considering you've previously filmed with traditional funding methods?
AB: I'd be lying if I said it had been easy. And I wouldn't want to follow this same route when making my next film. Crowd funding frees you from the shackles of traditional funding methods, and doors that have been bolted shut by commissioning editors who seemed unable to grasp the importance of the story, but it is also a full time job. We did four crowd funding campaigns, and we're immensely grateful to the hundreds of people around the world, who, unlike the television bosses holding the purse strings, understood the urgency of this story. But crowd funding is only part of the solution. That's why I was so bitterly disappointed when the British Film Institute, which is supposed to help filmmakers get finished films out to cinema audiences, refused to support us even though the film had by that stage won ten international film festival awards. In fact, we had to pay £150 + VAT to play the film to three of the BFI's executives (that's £50 per person) only to be led down a blind alley. The BFI makes big statements about distribution being broken in this country but then does nothing to help fix it – apart from handing out lottery cash for the distribution of films made with multi-million dollar budgets by studios that don't need the distribution support anyway.
Exposed: There was a possibility that Trump would run for President of The United States, you think the film factored into his decision not to run due to the fact you show how he really does business?
AB: Commentators have told us it has. It was curious that with the film's release in the US this summer, Mitt Romney appeared to then distance himself from Donald Trump. The American television host Rosie O'Donnell said that everyone in America should see the film. Certainly if every American who is considering voting for Romney/Trump watched the film, they would then see the truth about what happens when Mr Trump is given the green light to do what he wants with the blessing of politicians and the police.
Exposed: The film's been screening for over a year now, with you updating the ending with the recent events that have happened. Given that the SSSI has now been lost and the golf course opened, can justice still be had for the local residents? Or is it a case of highlighting what happened so we make sure it doesn't happen again
AB: Well unfortunately the real damage has been done. The Site of Special Scientific Interest has been destroyed and the local people have seen their environment wrecked. And for what? A few dozen low paid jobs (caddies, bar tenders, people mowing the grass etc). Scotland needs another golf course about as much as Seattle needs another branch of Starbucks. The country's stuffed full of golf courses – and is the birthplace of the game. We didn't need another one – and certainly not a golf course like this, which has bulldozed its way through one of the rarest sand dune systems in Europe. Mr Trump originally claimed his development would cost $1.5 billion. Yet according to figures obtained from companies house by Scotland's leading land rights expert Andy Wightman, the real figure seems closer to $20 million. That's a far cry form the 6,000 jobs promised. As the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said when Mr Trump's development was given the green light, 'Scotland's green policy has been sold down the river'.
Head to www.youvebeentrumped.com for more.
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