Using one’s head to help people use their hearts and their feet to shift their minds and their world

Six years ago I was riding my bicycle to work along a shared path and as I past the old lady, who looked so grumpy but would greet me so sweetly, I realised that this moment needed to be captured. For it was that moment that gave me hope, both as an advertisement for getting out of a walled vehicle with a petrol motor, and as a way to see beauty in connection.

For years I had been trying to get people out of their cars after I had realised that indeed cars were responsible for so much destruction, waste and greed. I had thought that if I was smart enough I could find a way of engineering, planning, pricing or coaxing people out of the cars and then the world would become a better place. However, it wasn’t a new vehicle design, or city plan or travel demand management strategy that gave me hope that people could or would want to get out of cars. It was that moment – two ordinary looking people, with their own insecurities and struggles, smiling with each other on a daily basis.

I had been sifting through psychology and sociology literature related to transport use in an attempt to build up a framework of how to understand and shift people’s transport habits. The work examined values, norms, attitudes, emotion and perceptions of efficacy, as well as a better understanding of habitual behaviour. These could be classified as determinants of behaviour and had been shown in various experiments and case studies to affect one’s mode of transport choice or other lifestyle choices. I put this together with the particularities of transport behaviour (e.g. it’s routine, complex, uncertain, takes place in public, takes time and can be emotional) to build a more comprehensive picture of the mechanisms which could be determining our transport behaviour.

I then took a step further to better understand some of the transport-related messages we were receiving that could be influencing these determinants of behaviour. And I looked across a broad spectrum of the messages from planning information to sustainability campaigns, from what we directly observe on the street to what we see in films. It was while searching through mass media that I saw that almost nothing in the mass media was encouraging people to use non-car modes of transport. Meanwhile, carefully crafted car advertisements were everywhere and they were perpetuating various myths which made car use seem normal, exciting, innovative, responsible and affordable and more.

At the end of my thesis I came up with a few policy recommendations. However, it was a recommendation I was giving myself that I was most excited about. I had decided to try and make a film that was going to help shift people’s consciousness, blow their minds, save the whole damn world!!! Well, it’s not as motivating to say I’m going to make a video that a couple of friends will watch it and say sweet things about.

I had watched many documentaries and a film called the age of stupid, which felt like they had been designed to give us lots of facts and make us feel disgusted and hopeless. However, if all the psychology and sociology literature I was reading was worth anything, this filmmaking approach wasn’t helping us help ourselves. It’s probably the type of film I would have made at the start of my thesis – a film showing how bad cars are, how prolific car use was and how we are all fucked because of all the money and political power is wrapped up in the continuation of car use. However, I did learn a couple of things from those dubious social sciences that I tried to keep in mind while making my documentary.

Firstly, we don’t need to (and we shouldn’t) tell people about how many cars there are on the road. Yes, people see it every day – the one thing about transport is that (even privately owned) transport is very public. We only have to walk out on the street to know there are a lot of cars. It can be harder to know how many people are on buses and trains unless you are in them. The advertisements on buses that hide the people inside haven’t helped in this respect. The understandings we get about the prevalence of different behaviours, known as descriptive social norms, has been shown to influence behaviour. We somehow form an idea that a type of behaviour is acceptable because it’s so normal, we might forget some of our other values and focus on the value of being normal. So, if I wanted to encourage people to get out of their cars, the last thing I would want to illuminate is how prolific car use is. I would want to demonstrate that using other modes of transport is also normal. To do this, I would visit various cities where I can film the use of different modes of transport, and hone in on bicycles, pedestrians, motor bikes and public transport users.

Secondly, we need to put the audience in the shoes of people using different modes of transport. For the population out there that hasn’t had the privilege of using various modes of transport, their lack of familiarity may be stopping them. By seeing and feeling what it’s like to use different modes of transport, one can start to believe that they can successful have a go themselves (i.e. they have a higher perceived self-efficacy). This has also been shown to influence behaviour. Before I started catching trains I didn’t really know what it would be like inside a carriage and I had a strange fear of not being able to open the doors and missing my stop. By showing how all sorts of people manage to navigate their transport systems and exposing the audience to the environment of these people, perhaps this would elevate one’s self-efficacy and increase their potential to give a new mode of transport a go. It can’t hurt to empower someone with all these extra perspectives.

Thirdly, we need to show the emotional and aesthetic beauty of the world of sustainable transport. I have no desire to dictate how you live your life, any more than a car advertiser does…  Just like the advertiser, I don’t want you to think that I’m making decisions for you. But unlike the car advertiser I’m not going to create beauty using fabricated footage filmed by an amazing cinematographer. Not only can I not afford this but I don’t think it’s that ethical or necessary. There is so much beauty that is a natural part of the experiences of walking, cycling and taking public transport that can be captured even with my unsteady hand. It is through embracing this beauty, both the emotional and physical, that will help us transition our way of life away from car use – more than any feeling of sacrifice for the greater good. If we truly want a cultural shift, we need to love where we are going with it. Emotions are naturally shared, so we need to make sure we are spreading the good stuff when it comes to our future transport.

Finally, we need to demonstrate just how much you and the world will benefit from trying a more sustainable mode of transport. While self-efficacy is the ability for you to successfully carry out a type of behaviour, outcome-efficacy is the potential for this behaviour to lead to a desired outcome. By interviewing people about the positive parts of their transport, not only did I find out some personal benefits (like the joys of reading on the bus or feeling free on the bike), I also came to realise there were some cascading positive outcomes. For it was the use of more public and open modes of transport that helped people feel a part of a wider community and closer to their environment. These are vital precursors to creating a more caring, sustainable, liveable and just world.  And it turns out that an elevated perception of outcome efficacy also influences our behaviour.

Of course, my film has its flaws but perhaps other documentary filmmakers with a little more talent than me can use some of these ideas and make the mind altering film I had dreamt about. I don’t ride my bicycle to work along that shared path anymore but I hope that grumpy old lady is still inspiring idealistic cyclists with crazy ideas.

Thank you for watching my film

I am grateful for everyone who has taken the time out of their busy lives to watch a film by a completely unknown director, shot and edited in a very unorthodox way, that proved to be a bit too different for any festival to take on. My one month of free film watching has been extended to three and maybe forever (if I can’t bring myself to create a financial barrier for anyone to watch it).

I have enjoyed the conversations that the film has triggered and really happy with the different messages and inspiration that people have found within the film. I have put together some of the feedback below (I left out the names). Hopefully a few more people will watch my film and provide other ideas…. please keeps sharing the film around, especially while it’s still free.

I love this film. It glows with authenticity as the citizens of varied cultures reveal their common understanding of who they are and how they are shaped by the ways they navigate their cities. Transport systems connect us in many ways beyond the physical. Stunning images and engaging dialogue held together by crisp editing. Congratulations. This film is an excellent achievement.

It really gives a good feeling, obviously about transports but not only and not any one type of transport especially. and one feels like having been on transport for an hour!
after so much positive interview, one feels optimistic 🙂 your sound designer is really good.

There are a tons of beautiful stories in there. I love how we are all different and have very different lives and experiences but somehow connect on how we view our transport.

Just a quick note from Norway to let you know that I found your film very evocative and enjoyable when I saw it at your Sydney screening and that I think fondly of it from time to time, especially when cycling

Preciosa e inteligente mirada sobre los medios de transporte colectivos. Esperamos otras entregas..

It’s so awesome Jacqui! I didn’t want it to end. I had to giggle at the start when someone said that when they forget to take a book on the train, they try to read their neighbours’ book – I have totally done that!

This is wonderful!

The idea of watching a film about transport is slightly painful for me as my daily commute is about 3 hours! But, I loved that this film reminded about all the great things that a commute can bring. Embrace the positives.

Wow what a great doco Your sister has captured what i always feel when i travel.People are the same no matter where we be in this great big world,we are no different in our thinking,even when we don’t speak the same language .Well doneJacqui you now have a fan keep up the great work you are doing

Thought provoking, truthful, compelling.

This film is dedicated to what might seem an unlikely subject: what we do and think during the time we spend getting around. It is a tender and respectful film that pays tribute to the experience of a remarkable variety of people from around the world. Hicks draws out many whimsical anecdotes and passionate accounts from these individuals that convey both the private and social pleasures of urban travel.

What a lovely film that captures and celebrates the universal themes of people getting places. Thank you.

An exploration of connecting meanings and interrelationships via transports and shared unfolding interludes. Bringing the personal back to the public and back to humanity. An exciting interlude of screen journey’s to savour.

Media Release: A way we go Sydney screening

Transport is a city’s living, beating soul. Even Sydney’s transport is not without its hidden charms, as lovingly depicted in ‘A way we go’, a documentary feature by Jacqui Hicks.  With an unconventional format emphasising the wisdom and emotions of everyday people, it captures the audience’s attention with a bubbling flow of ideas and images and a vivid dash of humour.

In 2013 Jacqui travelled to ten cities, including Sydney, to film what goes on as people travel from A to B and delve deep into the footpaths, highways, tramways and bikeways of these ten very different hubs. Four years later, ‘A way we go’ will be screening at the Ritz Cinema in Randwick on Sunday 10th December. Meet the characters who love the way they move (or don’t move) around the city, and connect the cities with their people and their very essence.

Jacqui became interested in transport when she noticed the extent to which her daily train commute to uni—twice as long as a car trip – enhanced her wellbeing. She was meeting new friends, having a delightful walk to and from the station, and getting to relax or knit or read for a considerable chunk of the day. Lovely! Since then, she has studied and worked in the world of transport and become an advocate for cycling after learning to ride a bike on the cobblestoned streets of Paris – no mean feat.

‘A way to go’ shows urban transport is much more than time and money. Transport can play a role in helping create more fun, creative, healthy and caring cities and individuals! On her travels Jacqui was struck by how insightful and inspirational people were in discussing their travel time. But the most surprising part was how much people enjoyed talking about transport and their daily commute.

The kindness of strangers provided her with most of her accommodation, translations and local knowledge in all the cities she visited. In Hanoi, she was lucky enough to stay with three sisters living on the outskirts of Hanoi, who took her on their motor bikes, and even let her drive one. She was made to feel like another sister. She left slightly broken hearted but with a farewell that included karaoke, Vietnamese cuisine and a ‘ride through’ ice cream shop that made her departure bittersweet. In Pune she was lucky enough to stay in the leafy campus of the Film and Television Institute of India where she learnt about the composition of shots and how competitive film students are at ping pong. Bicycles were borrowed or bought in every city so she could experience the freedom of two wheels. Cycling in Ankara was so bad she thought about staying to write a cycling strategy for the city.

Jacqui travelled light, and incorporated some ridiculously long train journeys including 40 hours to go from Guilin to Qingdao, in China, which tested her resilience. She also managed to include some cycle touring while travelling between Berlin and Madrid. She picked a very wet September for this leg of the journey but she could enjoy dramatic skies over striking landscapes, and with her rusty French she was helped along the way.

During her trip she had some wild adventures including riding a Boda Boda (a motor bike taxi) through the unfinished back roads of Nairobi. ‘To be honest’, Jacqui said, ‘I had to check the footage twice after I thought we had ridden past a corpse’. The final stretch into the centre of the city was a zig zag through a colourful maze of Matatus (buses). In Casablanca she was intrigued by the system of shared taxis, ‘Les grand taxis’: old white Mercedes you hail with hand signals to indicate where you want to go. The hand signals worked to Jacqui’s advantage because they were easier than trying to pronounce the names of her destination.

Jacqui made many friends along the way but it was in Madrid where her host made the biggest impact on her life. After showing her the city and taking her hiking in the Picos de Europa she decided to share his morning commute one day. Waking up before sunrise with him and seeing his world may have helped spark a special connection. A couple of weeks later he was quitting his job and booking a one way flight to Australia. They are now married with one child and another on the way, and Jacqui finished editing her film with a baby on her lap. That baby just got his first bike.

The film will be showing at 6pm on 10th December at the Ritz Cinema Randwick. For more information please visit the website www.a-way-we-go.net or email Jacqui jacquelinehicks@gmail.com.

Two months ago I showed my film in a cinema!

The feeling of ‘I’ve actually made a film that people are going to watch’ is a strange one.  It’s a mix of achievement, nervousness, more nervousness and fear that the sound will cut out five minutes before the end.  Well, luckily they did a test screening, found the error, and we rustled together another copy ready a whole ten hours before the real screening.

I had tried to get the word out as best as I could.  Posters and leaflets (which are not cheap to print) could be seen in all the right places in Newcastle.  A friend had written an article, I was using social media, and telling everyone I met to come and see this film, including two cycle tourist who happened to couch surf at our place that night.  On a rainy winters night (where I was told parking spots were hard to find, but we walked of course), about 200 people turned up to the theatre.  We had made St Petersburg tram style tickets, we had cooked and brought some nibbles and so if all else was a failure at least they had a gimmicky ticket and some food.

After a very nervous introduction, the film started and I ran after my son Dante.  We got to watch small sections and I could hear the audience react which gave me some hope that people were awake and engaged.  It finished without a hitch and when the lights came on for the Q&A it was beautiful to see the feel of the audience in front of me.  There were young and old all looking somehow like they had got something out of my film.  And then the questions reassured me, that this whole film making thing hadn’t just been a self-indulgent quest, I had made something real.

I got great feedback about the film and I decided to believe everyone was being honest when they told me of how they had felt inspired to try using different modes of transport, saw hope in humanity, remembered a special time when they had used public transport, or just made them think about transport in a new light. So maybe people will want to see this film after all…

I also received positive feedback from the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival ‘A Way We Go is a very enjoyable and moving portrayal about  transportation. The documentary was very accessible and emotionally rich. The director command of pacing, editing, colouring is masterful . Recommended’. I got almost as excited as I would have if I got into a film festival.

And after all the excitement of the screening wears off (accelerated by the less glamorous task of having to look after a toddler), you are left wondering what’s next… I felt like I wanted to get my film out there to everyone with community screenings, but I had to (and still have to) play the waiting game with film festivals first. If I can get it into some festivals I feel like it will help it spread to different corners of the world and give it some credibility when I do try and distribute it through screenings, schools, universities and maybe even TV and the internet.

If you are interested in seeing the film, I will try and set up a mailing list system to keep you updated.  Also, if you are really keen and would like to put on a screening, please get in contact with me and we might be able to make it happen.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped make this film happen. I’m so glad it did and I can’t wait to show it to you :).

Looking forward to post post-production

It’s been a long journey, and my life has changed quite a bit along the way, but the film is nearly ready for showing!!!  It is just under an hour and I feel heartbroken with the number of amazing interviews that aren’t there but I was told to keep it short and not have too many different faces.

I almost feel like writing a post about post production, but I don’t think I can give you many interesting insights.  I’m definitely not a natural editor but it has been satisfying to actually learn a little bit about it. Eager to learn about the art of editing I found that most books focused on managing editing software and expecting you to just naturally know when to cut.  At the end of the day I guess it does take practise but I think there are also a few tricks to it (that I still don’t know).

Really looking forward to hearing the sounds and music that are currently being worked on.  Sounds and rhythms in moving around are so omnipresent I think it will add a lot to the film.

So if you are wanting to see the film, put on a community screening, or just feel a sense of relief for me that all this dabbling with a half broken computer and a million hard drives is about to be over – please contact me.

A delay in the line…

So it’s been a while since you heard from me, and I guess you thought I would be popping my head up soon to say my film is almost finished.  Well, it’s taking me longer than I thought – and I’ve taken a few detours along the way – including getting a full-time job and getting married!  Both the job and the husband are offering support, the former financially and the latter emotionally – so this should help the film with all things financial and emotional.  I fell in love with Manolo while traveling for the film, and he has moved to my side of the world to be by my side.  So just as other people have told me they have a lot to be grateful for with respect to their everyday travels (including some romances), I can also say the same about my travels.

I wanted to write this post to let anyone who I interviewed (or who helped me in other ways) and who managed to hold on to the scrap of paper with this website address – that you are in my thoughts and you make me smile and have hope in humanity every time I sit down to do some editing.  To have met such lovely people in my film is actually making my confused navigation through post-production a pleasure.

So, the film won’t be ready in the middle of this year as I predicted but I will try and work on it as much as I can and keep you updated.  Thanks for your patience!

The race and the pace-maker

From the start I knew there would be an end to this trip and there would be tasks I’d need to complete along the way – but these were quite vague when I left Australia at the start of May.  I was abandoning promises to reduce my emissions as much as possible – as I hopped on the plane I hoped that what I could achieve would make it worthy of my extra large footprint.  So with my ill-defined timeframe and tasks – a race had begun … and then it ends (whether you were ready for it or not).  In this race I was going to have to find different rhythms, companions, inspirations, moments of courage and times of joy before I could say I completed it.  I would also have to bite the bullet at some stage to buy a ticket home – suddenly cutting this trip of infinite possibilities into a an ever tightening scheduled operation.  This is the story of my trip to film the experience of urban transport around the world.

IMG_2207

Perhaps I start by asking (and maybe even answering) your more obvious questions – what was your favourite place? and what did you learn?

Favourite place???  To start with I want to cop out and say every city was interesting in its own way – in some ways it’s true and the diversity of my experiences in various places was my favourite space.  It was seeing how people all over the world could appreciate place that was more beautiful than any streetscape could be.

IMG_3295

But I will mention one city which was very important in this scattered trip of a splattering of cities.  Hanoi – like a first love was my first city for this film.  I was a bundle of nervousness and excitement, still working out which way to point the camera and believing anything was possible, I trundled off a plane at Hanoi airport.  I was greeted by so much hospitality from the people I met, and beauty from the people that surrounded me, I felt tranquil in a foreign place.  And then there was this most photogenic transport culture, which made me feel like my film might just be on to something.  So while I have had special moments throughout my travels, I’d say that Hanoi was the most important city for me.

Every city has greeted me in different ways – stumbling on a library in Pune while still carrying my pack, and stopping to interview all the librarians, finding myself on the back of a scooter riding through the backstreets of Ankara minutes after arriving, and then there is always the philosophical taxi driver with too many kids who doesn’t have any change for 2000 shillings on the way from Nairobi Airport.

IMG_3846

And I have always been sad to leave.  My heart has been weeping through my final memories of places, which include dinner, karaoke, ice cream, chocolates, frisbee, ping pong and of course rushing to catch various pre-booked intercity or international transport.  Well my heart definitely received a pounding as I would contemplate whether my travel insurance would pay if I miss my international flight/train/bus.  After almost meditating on transport for weeks, my last moments catching transport would involve a lot of stress – but I never missed a flight, so I somehow have faith in the urban transport I used (and possibly abused) to get to the airports and railway stations I needed.  As we bounced up and down the curbs, clutching bags in front of me, my backpack hoisted on my back, on the back of my friend’s scooter heading to the bus station in Casablanca the phrase ‘if god wills’ took on a life of it’s own.

IMG_3964

And what have I learnt?  I guess you will have to wait for the film to really understand this.  But I have definitely seen a much more positive view of transport than I ever expected – I have also received pieces of wisdom, kindness and inspiration from all corners of the world.  My heart has definitely become a little bit more open during this trip and I hope my film will be able to convey some of this better than I have managed in my blog.