Julian Assange's 7 Lessons For Filmmakers - Raindance

Wikileaks Julian AssangeJulian Assange was born in Queensland, Australia in 1971 and experienced a difficult home life, having to move house many times, and even going into hiding with his Mother, following a custody struggle with her ex-husband over Assange’s half brother . He has a long history of hacking into websites and computers. At the age of 16 he was arrested for accessing an Australian University’s computer, and also computers at the Canadian company Nortel, which he was then convicted for. After attending the University of Melbourne, Assange worked as a computer programmer before founding the website WikiLeaks in 2006. He has been holed up in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London.

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Like any good filmmaker Julian Assange has launched his project, and his career, by following these 7 rules:

1. He’s put together a good team

Wikileaks is a networked enterprise, using social media, bit-torrenting and cutting edge internet technology to share information. It is not just Julian pushing everything out by himself – as much as those calling for his imprisonment or death would like to think so. Don’t aim to be an auteur, when something goes wrong (ie you end up in prison without bail), you won’t have anyone to pick up the slack. Like Assange, you should develop a network of people who will put in excellent, if perhaps behind-the-scenes, work.

2. He understands the politics of the industry and he is fearless

Julian Assange knows what he is doing and he knows the risks he is taking. He knows exactly who he is riling and the effects that his actions will have. Each cable is published with journalists’ redactions after it is published in one of 5 newspapers including the Guardian and NY Times.

Knowing the politics of the film industry isn’t the same as participating in them – don’t be afraid to work outside, or even against, the system, just know what you are doing (and be prepared to take the consequences).

3. He spotted a trend

Wikileaks would not have been such a success in a happier political environment. Wars in the Middle East and collapsed banks have undermined a lot of the trust people put in governments. Seemingly unaccountable, Julian Assange has forced their hand. For filmmakers, working on a shorter time-frame spotting trends and reading the zeitgeist is even harder. But do it right –tap into something that everyone didn’t know they were thinking, and you’re onto a winner.

4. He understands that content is king

There’s no point spotting a trend if you can’t provide what the trend calls for. Wikileaks have provided quality (and award-winning) content. From videos of missions in Iraq to studies of police killings in Kenya, Wikileaks has given the public content that it was excited about and wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Do the same with your film – make it original and make it of the highest quality you can. Start with the script and work your way up – but a quality product is the biggest guarantee of future success

5. He knows the value of a social network

Julian Assange used, not only the network of people involved in Wikileaks, but broader social networks as well as traditional media to spread the word. Sites like twitter and Facebook are invaluable because if you post something of quality and value on them, word will spread like wildfire to people previously unconnected with you. With this comes goodwill and an appreciation for your efforts. In Wikileaks’ case this ends up as donations and offers to pay thousands of pounds of bail money. How else did Ken Loach end up in court offering to post bail? It also means when companies start denying access to you, friendly 3rd parties take down their websites. In your case, it means that quality content will create online, and hopefully offline, support. How you choose to leverage this support is up to you, but bums-on-seats and DVD sales are always good.

6. Self-promotion is necessary

Self promotion is not an evil. In the modern world it is a necessity. Julian Assange has managed to promote his name, and that of his passionate life-work, Wikileaks by exploding the myths of self-promotion and cleverly using the publicity tools that would make him a film publicists dream.

7. No such thing as a free internet

Probably the most important lesson all can learn from Julian Assange’s ground-breaking work is how the very foundations of the internet are threatened. The internet has become one of the most important ways filmmakers promote and distribute their work.

He has managed to draw attention to the fact that the free internet that we have grown up with is under threat from both governments (like China and the United States) and from privately-owned networks like Amazon. One has to wonder when a Wikileaks tag on Twitter will result in your profile being cancelled as well.

With calls for a new file-sharing grid to be developed outside the traditional www protocol, filmmakers now have a new and potential potent way to market and distribute their film.

If you missed Justin McGoldrick‘s controversial newsletter intro, here it is:

The Internet is not free. And freedom of speech comes at a price.

For Wikileaks, the price is its Australian Editor-in-chief, Julian Assange. His recent arrest for “sex crimes” in Sweden reminds us that our voice is limited, no matter how free we’re raised to believe we are. Amazon closed Wikileaks’ servers. MasterCard and Visa blocked services. Even Paypal is prohibiting donations.

Raindance and the London independent film community support Wikileaks’ goal of international peace and government transparency. Some of us have tried to help: filmmaker Ken Loach and documentary maker John Pilger, along with others, offered bail money in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court after Assange’s arrest. These offers were denied.

As filmmakers, we have an inherent duty to protect our rights to write what we want, to film what we want, and to share what we want. It’s a different world, one in which we have the resources to do all three, and we cannot let the bureaucratic Man stifle it.

This is more than just a battle for Assange and Wikileaks. More than just a fight for the Internet. This is a war for our Voice. And we cannot lose.”
Your Comments Please

We first published this article during Julian’s so-called ‘trial’ in 2010 when he was fighting extradition to Sweden. Here are the comments from that posting. You can add your own at the bottom in the comments section. Don’t hold back. This is still a nation of free speech!
Dear Justin,

I fail to see how that email was more than tangentially related to film making. Yes, freedom of expression is an issue that affects all artists, but the controversy surrounding wiki-leaks relates to journalism and Raindance should not be used as an outlet for your political agenda.

Let me repeat: I do not subscribe to Raindance to be subjected to the political opinions of the people that run its newsletter. Its just not the forum for political opinion. I would object just as strongly if a college professor or an employer at my workplace chose to send such a one-sided email.

Freedom of expression means allowing the possibility of two points of view. You should not exploit a mailing list to assert your, one-sided opinion nor assume you have a captive audience on this mailing list.

I happen to have many friends and relatives whose lives will be in greater danger because of this issue.



Wikileaks has nothing to do with free speech. If Julian Assange had just released the information, and let others draw there own conclusion-that’s one thing. But Assange has always had an agenda, which is why he chooses to release some and not all the information. The fact that he/his supporters threaten to release a “poison pill” tells us all we need to know….its called extortion.

All filmmakers are not  alike, and the next time you send out an “editorial”, why not include the other side.



Right on Justin, Elliot and Raindance

Good to see you supporting the Wikileaks situation – we definitely stand with you and Julian against the Man as well.

Very best to you guys



What a load of crap! The guy has a history of not abiding by the laws and I should feel sorry for him? I suppose anarchy would be a good thing? Society establishes behavioral parameters to let most of the people lead a reasonably peaceful life. Child pornography is being somewhat monitored by Interpol etc on the Internet. Is that wong?

Come on. Some things need to be controlled and although it is possible for governments to overstep their boundaries at times, the alternative i.e. bailing out criminals is not the answer.

I am now unsubscribing to Raindance’s newsletter.



Brilliant article!  Well done!  Jack Binder,  http://FilmBudget.com


Wikileaks is a dangerously misguided organization practicing stupidity and Julian Assange is a puerile self serving drip.

These people are so deluded as to attempt to destroy the system that has given us real freedom. What a bunch of ass holes you are!

Rich Allen


A documentary about Wikileaks… (it’s in English although the host site isn’t).


And next up, if I may, a link to a Crowd Funding appeal to launch a 6 x 10 minute web series.  Less than 40 days to raise $18,000.

The series is entirely fictional but the theme (and message) is very much in the same spirit as Wikileaks.  The series is not direct disclosure, but is a fictional representation of what happens when you experience first hand ‘disclosure’, when the world you think you know, turns out to be not as it appears, when it stops making sense.


The series is a fast paced, stylised representation of the journey into a state of mind and circumstance similar to Robert Anton Wilson’s view of Chapel Perilous.  In episode 1 we’re thrown in through the front door, by the end of episode 6 we appear to be on our way out through the back door.

The ‘genre’ is conspiracy thriller, but the overall approach leads to a reveal that the ‘grand’ conspiracy as nothing more than a cumulatative mass of little conspiracies – collectively known as the nature of some humans (which is not the same as human nature).

Politicians, bankers, businessmen and priests, the usual suspects in the genre, are revealed as less the evil mastermind plotting to rule the world and simply the cumulative beneficiaries taking a cut from both all the little scams and ‘conspiracies’ we each use (because ‘we deserve it’) as well as all our other efforts to fix the scams and ‘conspiracies’ that work against us.

Some time ago, I spent several years ‘off the grid’, living a very ‘alternative’ life in part inspired (and then obliged) by eco/radical activism.  I returned (coming back on line or… in line) to find a more mainstream voice, first as a freelance editorial illustrator, which developed into a life long ‘dream’ of becoming an aspiring filmmaker.  My return was for the sole purpose of finding and learning the best way of telling stories from what became a very unusual and a very entertaining perspective.

A significant lesson I learned along the way was that the medium through which I speak is as important as what is said – for my stories this means the medium needs to be as determinedly independent as possible.  In this series (titled ‘Strangers’), entertainment is the primary purpose but I want it abundantly clear that a desire to entertain is not the same as a desire to live or pursue the mainstream ‘dream’ as sold through the ‘glamour’ of, for example, Hollywood.

My ambition is to make the message of the medium just as potent as the theme in the entertainment.  For another perspective on this, Go-ogle Tom Shadyac’s most recent release and his lifestyle choices.

As a filmmaker I’ve made several short films (as writer/director) as well as working as producer (shorts), director of photgraphy (shorts), production designer (shorts and feature) and as a gaffer (shorts and feature).  I’ve also helped devise a very successful 4 week (full time) introduction to filmmaking course at London Film Academy – for which I taught visual storytelling and directing for over 5 years.  The intent being to deliver practical storytelling skills in a concise, affordable way to people who would otherwise struggle to tell their stories.

As an incentive to contribute towards funding this series, we are offering Practical Filmmaking Seminars (if we raise the budget) throughout the production.


Many thanks, best wishes

John Le Brocq
Writer – Director


According to research (Jonathan Haidt 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs41JrnGaxc ) morality identifiable as conservative, universally aligns along 3 axis:

1) Obedience to Authority, right or wrong
2) Loyalty to “side”, right or wrong
3) Issues of purity – often to do with sex/race etc.

So predictably, when someone tells conservatives that their leaders… THEIR leaders… their LEADERS… have been lying to them, they attack the messenger. Angrily. Not really knowing why.


What we’re witnessing with Wikileaks/Julian Assange is history unfolding – it’s The Martin Luther moment – the thesis nailed to the cathedral doors moment. It’s history, and though it might not automatically good, as one Cobra Verde once said “At last. Something is happening”. This one has been brewing for a while.

Personally, I think it’s good – but then I would. I’m not a conservative.

Martin Luther was an arsehole, but that isn’t the point – he was also someone who articulated a groundswell of popular feeling, and forced the issue. Not sure if Julian is the former (though he is articulate), but he’s definitely the latter. This is just the beginning. The cartoonish bull-in-a-china-shop over-reaction of various American politicians is going to drive P2P DNS, and quite possibly P2P Currency – and that my friends, is the mother of all smart bombs. That’s possibly the end of the nation-state.

With regards connections to film-making… again it’s politics (sorry, keeping digital creativity out of politics in the 21st C makes about as much sense as keeping religion out of politics in the 16th)…

… it’s politics – and we’ve found ourselves in possession of a profoundly radicalising technology. We can just bypass the people we used to have to bow and scrape to… to ask permission to create anything.

But it’s tough to do it purely bottom-up… wikileaks is a new sort of beastie – it’s native to the memosphere, but it’s still releasing via established print hierarchies first. That’s what sets it apart – these weird symbioses it’s forged with some fairly old-school organisations.

Soooo… if you want to go off with a bang (in this age), it’s really useful to be able to use your newfound ability to bypass hierarchy to give competing factions within existing hierarchies an edge.

Create an ideology in other words, then keep an eye out for Anne Boleyn moments. They’ll come.

Nick Taylor


Brilliant article!  Well done!  Jack Binder,  http://FilmBudget.com


Dear James:

If Julian Assange’s goal is truly one of peace and government transparency why is he not exposing the secrets of China, Russia and North Korea? Those who bleat loudest about freedom of speech  only ever appear to do so in order to defend their right to attack others. If people were truly allowed to say and do whatever they wanted as you claim they should, the result would be chaos. But then that is the very goal of subversion isn’t it.
Alan Lock


Congratulations for raising the issue of free speech. At this time and age everybody must show their support.


Dear Justin and Raindance Team,

Great impassioned editorial on Wikileak’s Julian Assange, really resonated with me. It’s refreshing to read such outspoken politically engaged thinking.

Thank you for sharing it.



Dear Mr McGoldrick,

I am afraid your stated position on the release by Wikileaks of classified information, obtained by theft, which endangers the lives of both innocents and those who seek to protect the very rights you speak of is misguided. As independent film makers we do not have any greater right to do anything than anyone else. You belong to a society which has protected you and regardless of your opinion will continue to try to support you, I will not. The Raindance organisation has, with this statement, declared itself politically and therefore ceases to represent an unbiased forum. You have forced me to do likewise and you may no longer count on my support.

Chris Wheeldon

Hi Elliot,

I was a little saddened to hear that Raindance has taken some flak from members for the recent article referencing Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. My reaction was quite the opposite. On reading the article, my first response was one of professional jealousy along the lines of ‘bastard. I wish I’d written that’. Generally speaking, I find that most things that stir up a hornets nest of response are generally worth saying and in this case Raindance was supporting an issue relevant to all filmmakers – freedom to publish. That the issue does not provoke a common consensus is not an argument for steering clear of the issue. On the contrary, it reflects well on the organisation that you were prepared to engage with such a hot topic. For thoese members that complained my advice would be to tell them to get a spine.

Best wishes

Paul Bryan


Bravo to Raindance for posting James’ article … it is a perspective – one that
deals with the very serious challenge to a network founded to expose the
entrenched mischief of elites that run OUR states (thereby implicating, exposing
& incriminating us all) – and perspectives have zilch to do with non-sensical
notions of balance.  This is our business, everyone.

Filmmaking must be <+I>about<-I> something – content is king.  Better IMHO to
deal with compelling subjects alive in the public domain, but stories may also
be fantastic or imaginary (… another word for allegorical?).  It might not be
sthg as viewer you like/agree with – but the stealthy assault on hard-won
freedoms by our governing elites should be a core concern for all involved in
creative expression with something to say.  The ‘unbiased’ narrative free of
depiction does not conceptually exist.


About the author:

James performs a plethora of tasks for Raindance; writing articles, editing the newsletter, managing Twitter, helping on courses, organising volunteers and running the script services are but a few of the ones he is allowed to tell you about.

When he isn’t daydreaming about daylight he watches films (well, duh!) reads a bit, writes a bit and kicks arse at ultimate Frisbee.



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