Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Ever been in a situation that has made you wish you had a camera? And not just a camera but a video camera? A movement is growing to help people use the power of video by direct action.
The alternative media scene is flourishing in the face of an untrustworthy mainstream. More and more people are turning to subcultures to get a clearer understanding of the society they live in. There is unprecedented power in having someone look into your eyes while they describe hardships. These are people, after all, not simply figures.
Success stories include the psychiatric patients of Paraguay, whose government decided in 2005 to implement community-based mental health services after Witness (www.witness.org) helped engineer a video showing patients kept in tiny cages, their own faeces smeared over the walls, and allowed to drink out of puddles. Closer to home, the extreme violence of the authorities during the G8 summit has been well publicised and the protesters’ stories verified thanks to images shot on the ground.
Once upon a time…
First off, you must have a good story. Whether you are going to an anti-nuclear protest or making a short film documenting a human rights abuse, it helps to have a clear understanding of exactly what angle you will concentrate on, and exactly who the target audience will be.
Be aware both of others’ propaganda and your own. Try to remain objective: it will almost certainly have more effect on the viewers.
Frame the story. It’s all very well to have a camera and an idea, but what you often need is expert opinion. Try to frame the story with comments from someone who knows what he/she is talking about.
Two heads are better than one
The most powerful way to effect change is for the individual to join others. Most NGOs will have video campaign programmes already set up. Offer to lend a hand or create bonds with similar minded people at BeyondTV International Video Festival (www.undercurrents.org/beyondtv).
Curiosity killed the cat
Safety is crucial. Not just of the film crew, but also of those being filmed. Depending on the context, the camera can be seen as either a shield or a target. Whether you are in Mexico or Edinburgh, theft, violence or downright fear of exposure can lead people to do extreme things.
The US not-for-profit group, Witness, has published Video for Change (Pluto Press). It offers a comprehensive guide to video making, as well as highlighting the need for safety and a clear understanding of the dangers involved.
Know your rights
Worldwide, there are issues of censorship and corporate control over the media. However, legal rights do exist. In the UK, for instance, if the cameras are turned on you, you can demand to see the police footage. For advice on your project, talk to the video veterans at Undercurrents, described as ‘a media counter-culture’ by the BBC (www.undercurrents.org, 01792 455900).
Equipment and editing
Whether it’s the latest HD or VHS hardware, there is lots of specialist lingo. Don’t let that scare you. What it’s really about is capturing the footage and getting it seen. Undercurrents runs workshops in Swansea and Oxford, training beginners in the use of cameras and basic editing skills. More advanced levels may also be available (www.under currents.org/training).
Getting your story out there
Once you know what audience you are vying for, then comes the lobbying, the legal work, the publicity – all the gritty stuff. The audience can vary from decision makers in positions of power to the very communities you have filmed; it depends on your message. A great way for the general public to view your material is to organise screenings.
Screens, projectors and other equipment can be hired and the event organised by London-based video engineers Inside-us-all. Visit their website for some unique tips on showing your films or help producing the end product (www.inside-us-all.com).
Edge or mainstream?
Somewhere between mass broadcasting and home-made video, organisations like Witness (www.witness.org) thrive. They want to use video to slice through the chatter of the mainstream with a professional knife. Join the media resistance and volunteer with the Independent Media Center (www.indymedia.org).
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun