As part of the Open University Creative Climate project the OU and BBC have worked to make space for some fresh approaches to environmental issues. Most environment communications are as dull as the issues are important. Leading creative talent from the UK’s top film schools has responded with a mix of drama, animation and factual films.
Twenty were shortlisted from over eighty submissions and pitched to an expert panel chaired by Lord Puttnam.
Creative Climate is a long-term online diary project that takes a unique approach to environmental issues. The website holds people’s ideas and actions in response to some of the greatest challenges of our time. Over time it will show how these develop. Linked to the diaries we have commissioned BBC World TV and BBC World Service radio series as well as these short films.
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 imaginative people in the wake of the Creative Climate short film competition. Everyone will have their own favourites in a body of ten, but there is a wholesome mix of techniques, tones and approaches: comedy, tragedy, infotainment, drama, doc., animation and combinations. 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 questions. The themes cover issues 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?
We offered some advice on craft and the students had access to expert advice on the environmental issues they were working with, although both editorially and in film making terms these are very much their own work. The films include plenty of sparky new ideas and tones.
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 development 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 borders of broadcast, online and learning.
We’re proud of what we’ve achieved with our partners, including the commissioning of nine half hour BBC World Service radio shows, The Climate Connection, and six half hour BBC World TV Earth Reporters shows. The TV shows are seen by 70 million viewers worldwide at their first transmission and then go out through developing world broadcasters in TVE’s partner networks 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 is making them available online for years to come for worldwide audiences, for free.
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 as inspiring and imaginative as they are important.
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. All of the films touch on themes being addressed for-real by people who have contributed diaries to the Creative Climate project. That collection of diaries offers a different kind of inspiration, but the whole package taken together serves to underline the fact that human beings almost certainly have the wit to get out of some of the fixes that they find themselves in.