So here it is – the eagerly awaited “In Transition 1.0” Movie. Maybe it is a sign of just how modern and young the Transition Network is but it has made a documentary about itself only two years after it came into existence. It is also a sign of the times that the movement has moved so quickly into film media after trying many other web-based techniques alongside traditional paper-book publishing. As we stand today the mini-empire boasts three books and a movie. Now they are working on “In Transition 2.0 – The Sequel”!… But is it any good? Certainly, given the recent start of the Network there is no doubting the imagination, creativity, enthusiasm and drive behind this project. So ten-out-of-ten for hard work… But is it compelling to the general public or is it preaching to the choir?
We first saw this movie in its downloadable “Beta” form via a web-cast in June 2009. At first we were impressed with the professionalism of the project. The famous Transition Handbook artwork sprang to life in animated form and the documentary featured actors from the near-future looking back on their childhood in 2008. In this fashion it bears a small resemblance to “The Age of Stupid” (which Rob Hopkins does give a nod to in the publicity) but there the similarities stop. The talking heads only appear briefly in the 49 minute documentary as most of the story is picked up by actual footage of Transition Initiatives in action. We also get to enjoy a small section of animation concerning Peak Oil which is equally slick (pun unintended) but somewhat lacking impact. This could be the project’s shortcoming – lots of good ideas and material but not all of it is best used. What is starkly lacking is an over-all narrative. A narrator should be introduced for the next movie and some of the good ideas should be measured out through the film to break it up a little more because some sections do drag.
The movie is interesting if you work in a Transition Initiative. However, show it to your spouse/children/neighbours and you will quickly find your “focus group” getting distracted. It isn’t snappy enough to hold an audience unfamiliar with the issues. Practical examples of local food projects do feature heavily but they somehow get let down by spending a little too long interviewing the organisers. (Some of the participants to come over as wide-eyed naive idealists.) Projects on Education, Transport, Local Money and Local Government also feature. The original section on ‘Energy’ has been deleted in favour of a more “ethnic” section from Transition Tooting – which is great because the original “Energy” section was very poor (a quick chat with a lady with an energy monitor). However a future movie needs to crank up the Local Energy input and push it out into the field of microgeneration, alternative home heating and Solar-Power Clubs. Currently “1.0” has NO Local Energy projects and this a terrible vacuum.
Don’t get us wrong – we do like “In Transition” but it is not everything yet that it could be. Although it is intended to be shown to the “Community” it seems a little inward looking. It is made by the converted for the converted. The material is mostly fine but stylistically it is unappealing. The music is awful and makes you cringe. The editors need to get this shown to members of the public and see what the “real-people” think. In our view it needs tightening up presentationally to supply the compelling case for Transition as well as the story behind how the Transition Network came into being. It needs more of a ‘story’ and maybe a bit more of a “happy ending” to portray the vision of a post-carbon society. The production standards need to be high enough to make this look like a BBC2 documentary rather than material reserved for the Community TV Cable Channel. So…. Good work but there is more left to do.
Let us hope that “In Transition 2.0” gets the message out in a form that the general public will find interesting and compelling. We would also implore the creators to work a bit more on the presentation of the DVD itself. It arrives without packaging, there are no downloadable JPG’s from the film, no movie posters to copy, no model press release, no transcript, no backup documentation, no artworks, and no movie-synopsis. The Network needs to cover a few more of these basics if it wishes to break into the movie-marketting business. It’s a tough world out there and we need all the help we can get. Maybe this is all in the pipeline but the only advice we have so far (Nov 09) is to show the movie, have some kind of a group exercise followed by a Q&A…. Yeah, great, but how do you get a cynical public through the door in the first place Rob….? The Network has not yet figured out how to sell this movie and this may be its second greatest weakness. It is of no use to anyone if nobody sees it.