Everyday wisdom from a pair of comfy chairs


This post is about one of the ten short films in the Open University/BBC Creative Climate short film competition, made by students from UK film schools. You can see them all here on the OU’s Youtube channel.

Ever Heard a Postman Whistle? by Bexie Bush, University for the Creative Arts at Farnham

Two older people, animated as a pair of comfy chairs, look back on the last half a century. Their conversation ranges across shopping, waste, windmills, postmen and what really matters in life. Bexie’s film is sparked by her own curiosity about how people talk about everyday life:

I am greatly interested by people. Their everyday conversations amuse me and I believe they can entertain and inform. Throw away lines and observations in daily scenarios from ordinary people are a real portrayal of our time and place.

Everyone has had the experience of listening to an older person express concerns about how the world is changing. We tend to humour their remarks with a nod and a smile but if we actually listen to what they have to say we find they have a depth of humour, wisdom and experience. I felt this could be an ideal way to explore consumerism…

‘Ever Heard a Postman Whistle’ gently introduces the idea that we were less wasteful in the past. All audio for this film is a recorded natural conversation between Lin Schofield, a warm and bubbly lady and Eric Brown, a chatty and somewhat opinionated man. My microphone was not hidden from them but it was unobtrusive. Their dialogue makes charming, funny, easy-listening and informative media. Mundane objects come to life via stop motion animation to emphasis the habitual patterns and familiarity of everyday life. The voices became those of a couple of old armchairs.

For location, I chose a Merseyside house: its old charm made for an iconic backdrop for a portrait of domesticity. The film begins with a visit from the ‘Postie’ bike as the armchairs are sipping tea and talking over one another whilst putting the world to rights.

This warm-hearted animation acknowledges the wisdom and experience of people whose early lives were simpler but happy. This is more than a trip down memory lane though. My colleagues researching questions around waste, transport or energy would confirm that everyday decision-making in households needs to be attended to alongside business and government actions. By giving a platform to these two older people, but presenting their views in this very watchable and visually witty piece Bexie makes us take notice of the relevance of their experiences to some of the biggest challenges of the day. Most communications about reducing waste or energy use tend to have only modest impact now. By using familiar voices and objects, and wrapping them up in a stylistically cohesive whole, many viewers are going to be given pause for thought. They will be gently coaxed into examining their own assumptions about whether increased consumption has delivered increased quality of life.

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