I was never a filmmaker trying to work out what to make a film about. I was a researcher who was tired of working endlessly on a thesis that maybe five people would read. I wanted to make the use of my research to produce something tangible that people could appreciate and which could potentially help start the process of cultural change around urban transport.
My thesis examined messages in society, including mass media, and how they affect the way we travel around our cities. I noticed an imbalance between how different modes of transport are portrayed in movies, advertisements and in the news. It was while riding one day I decided that I had to make a film that corrected this imbalance – to put bikes and buses on a level playing feel with cars, and every other way people get around their city. It was a long bike ride, so my ideas evolved somewhat and I decided I wanted it to be across different cities, because it wasn’t about the city, it was going to be about the people. At the end of the day, that was what was missing in our conversation around transport – what do the people do, how do they feel and how does getting around the city affect them and their relationship with themselves, their community and the world?
You can access my thesis here by searching ‘Social Context of urban travel behaviour’ or searching by Author ‘Jacqueline Hicks’.
My reluctance to travel long distances and my desire to make this film were clawing away at each other, so I distracted myself with finishing my thesis for a few more months. And then I started planning, what cities, what questions to ask, how to organise myself, how to make a film and should I do this on my own? And then I started buying things – a computer, cameras, hard drives, microphones, headphones. And learning things – how to use a camera, how to do an interview, how to ride a motorbike (ok, I never got past my L’s but I gave it a go). And deciding things – to start in Hanoi (where a friend would also be at that time) and make my way overland to Qingdao (where my cousin was living) and then see where I end up, with ideas about visiting and India city, a subsaharan African city, a European city and a North African city…. with a small possibility of making it over to the Americas.
More about the cities I ended up visiting can be found here.
So while my film may have some signs of an amateur production, there is a lot of thought that went into this film. I am so grateful that I could produce something from the ideas that came from my thesis, and that the reasoning behind it goes right to the heart of the question of how do we address messages in our society to start shifting behaviour and culture around transport. It’s exciting to see if any of the theory I put together plays out in the real world!