Find ten wonderful new short films just released on the Open University’s youtube channel. They’ve all been made by the winners of our environmental short film competition.
Having worked in environmental research and communications for more than two decades I can claim more right to be bored by the topic than most. It was therefore a huge relief to be presented with some great work by a new generation of intensely imaginative people in response to our invitation. Everyone will have their own favourites in a body of ten commissioned pieces, but there is a wholesome mix of techniques, tones and approaches: comedy, tragedy, infotainment, drama, doc, animation and combinations. It is also clear that they approached the brief with different demographics and purposes in mind. There is also a mix of environmental themes including consumption and population; risk; design; economics and ethics. The students were invited to respond to one of five broad questions that are little covered or often misrepresented in public debates:
1. RISK – Wait for proof on climate change or stump up the insurance premium?
2. ECOLOGY- Wheat Versus Man! Do we need ecology more than ‘it’ needs us?
3. POPULATION – Stop thinking raw human numbers – start thinking food, health, schools?
4. ECONOMICS – Is it honey that makes the world go round?
5. DESIGN – Does a green thing have to be an ugly thing?
The students could come to ask for expert advice on the environmental issues they were working with, although mostly they just got stuck in. Both editorially and in filmmaking terms these are very much their own work.
The idea of the Creative Climate project as a whole is to introduce some new approaches to environmental communications and learning. We are doing this through a diary-based website where twice a year people will be invited to update an account of the evolution of their attitudes and actions on environmental issues. The project was also set up to explore new ways of working for the Open University at the intersection of broadcast, online and learning. The short films competition has been developed by myself and Jon Plowman, Executive Producer, Comedy, at the BBC.
Other media outputs from the project include nine half hour BBC World Service radio shows, The Climate Connection, and six half hour BBC World TV shows (five in a series Earth Reporters). The TV shows are seen by around 70 million viewers worldwide at their first transmission and then go out through developing world broadcasters to many millions more. As an added bonus the shows make excellent environmental teaching material and are being used in Open University courses. The OU are making them available online for years to come for worldwide audiences for free.
We hope to be in a position to commission more new material in future, and to make more environmental learning materials available as the project develops.
All of this work takes a distinctive angle on the issues that is informed by the Creative Climate project’s driving purpose: to reveal the human creativity and determination that is going into understanding and addressing environmental change issues. The project doesn’t push its own ‘line’ on biodiversity or climate change, but it does believe that humanity’s responses to these challenges are inspiring and imaginative, and worth sharing.
There are sparkling gems of environmental communication amongst these ten films, yet they were made to a tight deadline on tiny budgets. They show what can be done when new talent is invited in to look at a problem. The films touch on themes that are being addressed for-real by people who have contributed diaries to the Creative Climate project. We are now going to be rolling out the invite to anyone that wants to start a diary on the website. That collection of diaries offers a different kind of inspiration to the short films, but taken together it supports the idea that human beings almost certainly have the wit to get out of some of the fixes that they find themselves in.