Author: Joe Smith
  • Video
  • 5 minutes

OU/BBC Creative Climate short film competition 2011: Ever hear a postman whistle?

Updated Wednesday, 2nd November 2011
Dr Joe Smith introduces this short, engaging animation by Bexie Bush, a young film-maker from University for the Creative Arts at Farnham. Two older people reflect on changes in everyday life over the past 50 years.

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Everyday wisdom from a pair of comfy chairs

After watching the video, and reading Dr Joe Smith's introduction, let us know what you think about the issues raised by this short animation. Add your comments at the end of the article.

 

Creative Climate short film competition 2011

Finalist: Ever Hear a Postman Whistle?

Female speaker

It is, it’s amazing how times have changed, Eric.

Male speaker

Yeah, just the shops.

Female speaker

Yeah, there wasn’t the big supermarkets that there are now.

Male speaker

No, no, no.

Male speaker

It was local, wasn’t it?

Female speaker

Well yes, I mean I remember at the corner of our street, there was a Scotch couple there, they sold practically everything the supermarket’s selling today, but you could go into the shops, you know, and you could pass the time of day because you knew them all.

Male speaker

Oh yes, yeah.

Female speaker

You didn’t have to get cheques and money out the ruddy bank, you had your cash to use.

Female speaker

No.  Yeah, and you didn’t have to remember a PIN number.

Male speaker

No, no.

Female speaker

All these things you’ve got to remember now.

Male speaker

Oh God, aye.

Female speaker

And the food isn’t as fresh now as what it was in the little shops.

Male speaker
No.

Female speaker

And there’s all that waste, and I mean all the trees being chopped down to make this, the packaging, and the packaging has gone from just a piece of brown paper, or a piece of white paper in the butchers wasn’t it?  I mean we got so much out of our newspapers because once we'd got the chips in them and the fish, we could read them, and then after reading them they went in the toilet cut up in squares to save toilet roll. 

Male speaker

You could look at somebody’s bottom and get the news.  [Laughter]

Female speaker

I mean this is no new thing, recycling, is it, Eric?

Male speaker

No.  No.

Female speaker

Well what about the wind farms, I mean?

Male speaker

Well I can't understand are people against having them.

Female speaker

No.

Male speaker

I think they're a wonderful thing.  I don’t think they're ugly myself.

Female speaker

No, I don’t.

Male speaker

They never thought windmills were ugly.

Female speaker

But there’s one thing that’s worrying; we housewives are having a struggle to make our ends meet, and yet we are still buying, buying, buying.  It’s such a shame that we are wasting so much when there’s so much want in the world, so much starvation.

Male speaker

Do you think people are as happy now as they used to be?

Female speaker

Oh good lord, no.

Male speaker

Don’t you?

Female speaker

Oh no, no, no, no.  I mean do you ever hear a postman whistling now?

Male speaker

That’s a good point, isn’t it, yeah.

Female speaker

Yeah, never. 

Male speaker

No.

Female speaker

You never hear a postman whistling like you used to do.  I mean our postman used to always wake me up every morning.  Me mum used to play hell with him, he’d whistle coming up the path, you know, and he was only young.  And I know why he was whistling.

Male speaker

The strange thing, we never had anything but we never expected to have anything, and we were happy, weren’t we?

Female speaker

No.  We were happy.

Male speaker

Yeah, we’re happy with that.  Content with your lot.

Female speaker

Yes.

2’59”

 

Ever hear a postman whistle?

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.

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.

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 emphasise 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' on his bike as the armchairs are sipping tea and talking over one another whilst putting the world to rights.

older person animated as a comfy chair

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 generally has only modest impact. 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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