Our project on Global Interventions at the End of Life contains a strong commitment to public engagement.
From the outset we are seeking to find ways to draw wider attention to the work we are doing. That means going beyond professional and academic audiences to disseminate ideas and emergent findings to other groups and communities of interest – to stimulate feedback and debate.
Last Spring, and shortly after I received notice of our funding award from the Wellcome Trust, I was invited by the Trust to a workshop in the beautiful setting of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. The event was an opportunity for researchers to explore ways in which they might work with those in the creative arts to maximise public engagement in research activity.
In our research we are examining the challenges the world is facing as the global population increases, gets older and as the number of deaths is predicted to rise steeply. What forms of intervention are being developed to respond to these challenges, in different cultural, demographic and resource contexts – and what is known about how well they are working?
In the ‘open space’ that the Edinburgh workshop provided I flagged up an interest in using film and video as a vehicle for public engagement around our study. I was especially interested in one specific suggestion made to me. This was the notion that an animation film (or series of films) might be a powerful way to get across the saliency and complexity of the issues being examined by the project.
Pitching the idea
I knew little about animation film but took the idea away and shared it with my colleagues in the University of Glasgow Knowledge Exchange group – people who specialise in helping researchers to reach wider audiences and generate impact. There was an immediate positive response. In what seemed like no time at all a budget was identified and our discussions quickly led to a ‘brief’ about the film we wished to make. Really – the process was that smooth and welcoming!
The objectives would be to:
- Convey information about the research project;
- Stimulate interest and increase engagement in the work;
- Resonate with and engage international audiences
These ambitions aligned in turn with the University’s mission to undertake world-leading research and to provide an intellectually stimulating learning environment that benefits culture, society and the economy. The film, Global Interventions at the End of Life, would therefore be aimed at an international audience and would provide an open invitation to engage with our work through a ‘call to action’. This would build on some concrete data, the portrayal of an issue of global relevance and an emphasis on shared experience (end-of-life) and a shared solution (end-of-life care). This in turn would relate to the demands these place on governments, healthcare systems, funders, communities and families.
The film makers and the creative process
We then sought expressions of interest from a limited range of relevant companies. The most impressive proposal came from Cardiff-based Brightest Films, collaborating with the Giggle Group animation company. Work began in November 2014, starting with the script. I took the lead on this and had to work hard to be clear and intelligible and also stay within a tight 300 word limit – as much as will fit into a film of about 90 seconds. The animators then set their creative powers to work and produced some some fascinating ideas for imagery and ‘transitions’ – the manner in which the film moves from scene to scene (I was learning the jargon!).
The creative process flowed and we were delighted with the results. Following just three iterations and structured feedback we had a result with which everyone was happy. As things neared conclusion we had the pleasant task of choosing a suitable ‘voice over’ – opting for female and Scottish. It was a trouble free experience and a great, collaborative, endeavour
Launching the film
In early March, to co-incide with the start of the research project, the film was uploaded to our new End of Life Studies You Tube channel.
Inspiration from the Wellcome Trust
We hope it will be the first in a series of animations and other kinds of films we will produce as the project advances. We have been busy drawing attention to it though social and other media. We hope it will work as a good ‘calling card’ for the project for at least the first year of our work.
Please view the animation, give us your comments and pass it on to others who may be interested.
Creative Director Clare Sturges of Brightest Films gave inspiring support and management to the whole project. Giggle Group did the terrific animation and conceptualising, working with Clare. Neil Bowering at University of Glasgow saw the potential of the film from the outset and secured financial support. His colleague Laura Tyler shepherded the initiative from commission to animation with a watchful eye and light touch. Catriona Forrest, Liz Buie and Cara McDowall at University of Glasgow all gave helpful feedback, encouragement and enthusiasm.