From the youtube provocateur expose to being blacklisted as a spammer, making a film about the secretive trilateral process, the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), has been an interesting journey.
I started working on this film by accident. I had heard about the SPP but it wasn’t the kind of issue I thought I was able, or interested in, tackling as a filmmaker. I was more interested in working on films about the positive things people were doing to improve society rather than poking around in the dark shadows to expose the nastiness of the Bush regime and the corporatocracy we live in. I had approached the local chapter of the Council of Canadians for help with a kids film camp that I wanted to do in the summer of 2007 and they in turn asked me to help them in their effort to educate municipal leaders about the Trade Investment Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) that Alberta and British Columbia had entered into.
By coincidence, I was traveling to Ontario to work on another film I was developing and decided to take a side trip to conduct interviews with Gordon Laxer (Parkland Institute), Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians), Erin Weir (Canadian Labour Congress) and Teresa Healy (Canadian Labour Congress) about TILMA and the SPP and how these agreements are related. I knew that the SPP was not a positive development for the citizens of North America, but what I learned in these interviews shocked me.
The fact that most people knew nothing about the SPP process and that the mainstream media was completely ignoring it was also shocking. This became one of the key motivating factors in my two-year effort to expose this anti-democratic corporate agenda.
The motivation for my life’s work has been to create a better world for my children and future generations and I realized that the other work I was doing as a filmmaker and activist on social justice and environmental issues was going to be overrun by the SPP. The SPP is an overarching agenda that encompasses so many issues I was working at on an individual basis. Now I had a huge target and a way to explain how all of these different issues we face as a society were connected. Knowledge is power, but it is also a responsibility; once I knew about the SPP I knew I had to do something about it.
I decided that I should attend the protests against the SPP at the leaders summit in Montebello Quebec in August 2007. I raised money by promising to include people’s names in the credits for contributions of $50 or more. (I later pitched this film to broadcasters and applied for funding from all the traditional sources — all of my applications were rejected.) I flew back to Ottawa and followed Maude Barlow and other opponents of the SPP to Montebello and documented the protest.
While I was in Montebello I captured footage of Dave Coles, the president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, confronting three masked men with rocks and bottles attempting to incite violence at the SPP protest. Dave called them out as police officers and this later proved to be correct. I posted the footage on the CanadiansNanimo channel on youtube and it became a national and international news story.
This blatant attack on citizens’ rights to peaceful protest only strengthened my resolve to spread information about the SPP. Harassing phone calls, cryptic emails and nasty youtube posts didn’t slow me down either. I produced a summary documentary in the fall of 2007 and released it on youtube, along with a video that analyzes this incident. I thought that there was the possibility of a federal election and I wanted to do what I could to educate the Canadian public about the SPP. I distributed 1300 free copies of this summary documentary on DVD and encouraged people to copy and distribute it themselves. I have updated this short film and included it on the DVD with the feature. It is perfect for showing at a meeting to help generate discussion.
I finally finished the feature length film in April 2009 and started to promote it widely. I have an email list of about 800 people who have either supported the production directly or been in contact with me to encourage my work. I posted the trailer for the film and emailed it to my list. Oddly enough I did not receive any responses to this video and nobody, except a few dozen channel subscribers, watched it. I thought that maybe nobody cared about the SPP anymore. A few weeks later, leading up to the B.C. election, I posted the chapters in the film that deal with TILMA and P3s (Public Private Partnerships) and sent another email to my list. Again I received no response and only a few dozen views. I tried to send the email to myself at my Shaw, gmail and hotmail accounts. None of these emails showed up!
I contacted my ISP, Shaw Cable, to find out what was going on. They couldn’t figure it out but after further research they discovered that I was on a series of blacklists as a spammer. I explained that I hadn’t sent emails to anyone who hadn’t been in contact with me about this film and that my emails stated that people could reply with ‘remove’ in the subject line and I wouldn’t bother them again.
I spent several days jumping through various hoops to have my name removed from these spam blacklists. After that, the only emails that were affected were ones that had information about the film, they were all being filtered as spam but they weren’t showing up in some trash boxes or spam filters, particularly hotmail and gmail accounts. I discovered that it was the domain name for the film www.youmespp.com that was the key word causing the block. Shaw couldn’t figure it out, so I started asking for help elsewhere. The BC Federation of Labour lent me the skills of their IT department head for a day and he discovered that my web domain had been blacklisted. I was told that I was guilty by association because other companies that had their domain names registered at the same registry were spamming.
This didn’t make any sense to me. My domain name was registered at godaddy.com, one of the largest domain registries in North America. Wouldn’t the five other domains I have registered there be affected? How about the thousands of other companies that used this registry?
I lost five weeks of time trying to promote this film. I was being censored and silenced. It was discouraging. People who tried to order copies of the film by emailing me had their emails disappear into a vortex. I never received them. The solution to my problem was to move my domain name out of the United States to a Canadian registry. This has cleared up most of my problems although many of the emails I send out to individuals are still flagged as spam.
The National Tour
I am now launching a 33 city national tour, screening ‘You, Me and the SPP’ from coast to coast. All of the dates have been posted to the film’s website screening page. Each screening date has pdf posters, handbills and press releases that can be downloaded for sharing and promoting within each community. Please give me a hand and help spread the word to your contacts. This will also help me break any further spam filter blockades that I might encounter.
I hope to see you on the tour.