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Baxter tees up another round of Trump

WHEN Anthony Baxter was trying to raise money to make You've Been Trumped, his 2012 documentary about the battle between the property magnate Donald Trump and local residents over the building of a golf course at Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, he became used to landing in the same bunkers over and over.

ON COURSE FOR CONTROVERSY: Anthony Baxter has again put the spotlight on the residents v developers rows over the building of new golf courses.
ON COURSE FOR CONTROVERSY: Anthony Baxter has again put the spotlight on the residents v developers rows over the building of new golf courses.

One, he was told it was a story that would not travel. Two, he better have a good lawyer if he was taking on the might of "The Donald".

But Baxter was not to be deterred, and he ended up with a hole-in-one documentary that went on to win a clutch of awards. That same determination has led to a follow-up, A Dangerous Game, which has its Scottish premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival next week. Given the new film features a much anticipated sit-down between the multi-millionaire businessman and the filmmaker from Montrose, it is set to be one of the must-sees of the festival.

A Dangerous Game catches up with what happened next in Aberdeenshire and widens the focus to include campaigns against golf courses around the world. Baxter had not initially planned to revisit the subject, but as he toured cities with You've Been Trumped similar stories kept popping up.

"It felt like there was something to explore there, a theme running through. It didn't matter if it was in Birmingham, Alabama, or in Dubrovnik or The Hamptons, there seemed to be these stories emerging."

Far from being only of interest in Scotland, the David and Goliath meets Local Hero story was proving to be a global hit. A large part of the film's appeal lay in the strong characters featured, among them local farmer Michael Forbes, who went on to win the Top Scot prize at the Glenfiddich Spirit Of Scotland Awards.

"When it was screened on the BBC across Britain it was seen very much as a story that resonated with all parts of the British Isles," says Baxter. "The dignity of the residents and the way they remained so calm under such unbelievable strain, and the way they stood up for their local environment, was compelling and inspiring to people in other parts of the world as well."

Some of those who came forward with a story to tell were more high-profile than others. Alec Baldwin, the star of It's Complicated, 30 Rock, and The Departed, saw Baxter's film at a film festival in The Hamptons. After inviting Baxter on to his radio show, Baldwin told him about a fight he had won and lost over the building of a course.

Baldwin, who appears in the new documentary, was not the only big name Stateside who was enthralled. Baxter, 44, found the story being taken up by the likes of Rosie O'Donnell and Bill Moyers, both of whom invited him on to their talk shows. The experience of doing the American chat show circuit was, Baxter reflects now, somewhat surreal.

"Whenever I was in those situations I just kept thinking about the residents in Scotland. This was an opportunity to let their voices be heard through this film."

Several of those residents, including Mr Forbes, will be attending the Scottish premiere next Tuesday, together with campaigners from Croatia, whose fight is covered in A Dangerous Game, and Baxter's Uncle Denis. The 83-year-old, who has played on the Montrose links since he was eight, turns out to be one of the stars of the new film, which also features an interview with Robert F Kennedy Jnr, the lawyer and environmentalist. "Everywhere we've done screenings so far people have come up to me and said, 'We just love your uncle'," says Baxter.

Born in Nottingham, Baxter's mother was from Montrose, and the family spent their summer holidays there every year. He moved there 10 years ago. "I always see myself as being half Scottish."

The biggest draw of the new film will likely be the encounter between Baxter and Trump. The property magnate was scornful of the first film, saying: "From what I understand it was boring." On Twitter he added: "Expect someone to sue you soon."

When the BBC announced it was to show the documentary, a lawyer's letter alleging bias arrived at the corporation. The BBC went ahead with the screening, saying it was satisfied Mr Trump had been given sufficient right of reply, but had chosen not to take part in the film.

This time, there is a proper sit-down. It is all very different from the first film, when we saw Baxter, who trained in broadcast journalism in Darlington and has worked for organisations including Capital Radio and the BBC, trying to question Trump at every opportunity only to be largely rebuffed.

Between being escorted out of the way by security staff, on one occasion being arrested by the police, plus murmurings from m'learned friends, I suggest to Baxter that making You've Been Trumped must have been fairly nerve-wracking at times. It was, he agrees, but he was not going to let that stop him from asking questions. "The fact he has a reputation for taking legal action against people should not be a deterrent from, like anybody else, asking questions and holding them to account."

This time, Baxter not only got a sit-down, but was invited to tour another Trump course with the tycoon's son, Donald. The film was finished only recently and neither, as far as Baxter knows, has seen it. Nor have any of the other interviewees.

"To be fair to him he did do an interview. I don't think he'll have seen the film yet but I hope he will (feel) he had his say because we certainly worked hard to give him that."

Given the success of the first film, it might be imagined that Baxter had money thrown at him from all sides to make A Dangerous Game. Not so. Welcome to the high-wire world of British documentary making. He had some development money from the BBC and Creative Scotland, but there was no production support to help with the cost of filming in America, in Croatia, or with getting the film into shape.

"We tried to get production funding, but again that was a real struggle. We were just imaginative in terms of using what money we had from the first film to help us make the second one."

He is now trying to raise $45,000 (£27,000) through crowd funding to help pay the bills for final post-production work on A Dangerous Game and get it out to as many cinemas as possible. Perks for contributors include a signed CD from the singer Karine Polwart, who is featured in the new film, a stay in Dubrovnik, and an opportunity to be listed in the credits.

There is even the chance to win a fish and chip dinner with Baxter in Gourdon. Curiously, though, there is no game of golf listed, so it remains to be seen whether a certain Mr D Trump of New York will be among those getting in touch.

A Dangerous Game, premiere, Tuesday, June 24; and Saturday, June 28. Both Cineworld, Edinburgh.

Crowd funding campaign details here

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