Jenny Love, UCL Energy Institute
Featuring the work of Peter Warren, UCL Energy Institute
I’m very excited to feature my colleague Peter Warren’s recent work in this post. In a move to enable the general public to understand and engage with energy and sustainability issues, he has created the following two short films:
Since it’s quite unusual for an academic to use the medium of film to communicate his work, I asked Pete to explain more:
1) Why did you make these films?
I decided to make a series of short films about sustainability that could test the use of film as a medium to communicate energy and climate change research to the public, and to help stir individual thinking on the topic. With no experience in making films, limited equipment, little time, and a £0 budget I managed to create these films. I feel that researchers need to have a more engaging role with the public on such important issues, and to use more appealing methods of communicating their work, such as through TV, film and media.
2) What are the contrasting techniques you used in the two films?
The first film takes a more traditional approach to documentaries using factual information, though brings large and complex issues to the individual in their home by highlighting how they specifically contribute to some of the issues facing the UK over the next 5-10 years, and what they can do to not only ensure the lights stay on and their environmental impacts are reduced, but to benefit them financially. Music that I composed was used to bring out the images on the screen and the script.
The second film is half the length of the first film in order to leave a quick and lasting message on people to highlight that it is everyone’s responsibility to adapt the way we live. The film similarly focuses on the short term and is split into two parts – how we could live and how we do live. However, the difference is deliberately subtle to convey the point that it is not necessarily about ‘changing’ the way we live but ‘adapting’ the way we live. Hence, I focussed on everyday solutions that are to some degree already present in society that people may or may not have consciously thought about. In the long term the message would be quite different – we do need to ‘change’ the way we live, but this is not the focus of the films.
3) The second film is quite unusual; what are some of the things you are trying to evoke?
The first film uses the sciences to convey the message, whereas the second film attempts to use the arts. In making the first film I became very interested in how the sciences and arts can combine to better provoke thought on the subject. Thus, in using music, poetry and scenery footage in the second film, I tried to get across a similar message (though on a larger scale, not just energy consumption) but in a completely different way. In short, using the arts to convey science.
4) What is the plan for future films?
I would very much like to make a third and final film in the series that combines both approaches, though weights slightly more towards the approach of the second film. I plan to make the film longer (~30 minutes) and hopefully with a budget of more than £0! Whether or not it gets made also depends on the response to the first two films. I have some ideas for what would be included in the film and how I could make it different and more exciting than the first two films, but I won’t give away any secrets now!
Personally, I think there is a real need for creative media in the communication of energy issues to a wide audience. I love the second film because of the emotional reaction it creates, and the sense of ownership of the problem and responsibility to bring about a solution it gives the viewer.
I think Peter’s job here is more difficult than that of, say, Brian Cox, as it’s one thing to display the beauty of the Universe (some would say the programmes are more about the beauty of Brian Cox), but to stimulate actual action or behaviour change from the viewer is a further step.
You can find out more about Peter’s PhD project here: