For his Animation MA at the Royal College of Art, Leo Murray created an ambitious 11-minute short film on climate change, “Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip.” As its title suggests, the film is a warning shot to its viewers, but in terms of explaining the science behind climate change, it goes much, much further than any short film I’ve seen so far.
The project’s About page contains some great insight into Leo’s creative process. I especially like what he says about the film’s “old fashioned” approach:
This film is a seriously old school direct transmission of information to the viewer, which constructs individual audience members in the Enlightenment model—as rational beings.
Sadly post-modern understanding of human behaviour shows that we are far less rational than we thought. Somewhat embarrassingly, it turns out that our behaviours and beliefs are actually determined by complex, invisible currents that flow beneath the surface of consciousness. These strongly influence us in ways that can result in behaviours which lead us in the exact opposite direction than would arise from a rational pursuit of our own best interests.
This is the premise of the multi-billion dollar advertising industry—to pull the subconscious levers that work our controls in order to persuade us to buy things that we do not need. Why not try to be rational for once, rather than the puppet of your unconscious fears and desires?
I’ve written frequently about visual essays like “Wake Up” here on Motionographer, and I’ve always felt that they are one of the best, most noble uses of motion graphics. But Leo’s right: this kind of work rests on the assumption that its viewers are rational beings.
The reason that traditional public service announcements (PSAs) have become so popular is because they use the strategies of advertising to influence viewers. In 15 to 60 seconds, PSAs almost always go for the gut, gingerly sidestepping the mind. And this can be effective, in terms of modifying behavior.
But in terms of actually modifying someone’s understanding of an issue, PSAs do very little. They transmit almost no real information and necessarily compete with the slick, expensive ads surrounding them.
So while it’s a bit naive in some ways, I champion projects like “Wake Up, Freak Out.” I believe that in almost all cases, its better to alter the mind of one person than to simply change the behavior of one hundred people.
Thanks to Firoz for the tip on this one!