Making Science Human

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FB LiveableLives‘Flowers and Floorboards’ is the latest research-led film project by filmmaker and academic Dr Holger Mohaupt. Dr Mohaupt, convenor of the new MSc in Filmmaking and Media Arts at the University of Glasgow, College of Arts, was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to produce a research-led film as a means to mediate a study on acts of informal support in the community and acts of kindness. The initial research was undertaken by Scot Cen, a leading Scottish social research agency. Being part of a new breed of practice-led academics working closely with industry Dr Mohaupt sees his film ‘as a tool to visually contextualize some of the findings of the report and as a link between academic research and the community that took part in the study.

The study took place in three different areas of Glasgow: Bearsden, Hillhead and Maryhill. Anthropologists used a variety of techniques to record acts of kindness over a long period in these three places. Dr Mohaupt also set his film in these three locations and aimed to engage with communities who the report had not spoken to: the church in Bearsden, the library in Hillhead, and a housing association in Maryhill.

One of the challenges for Dr Mohaupt in responding to the report was how to define acts of kindness and how to capture them. He wanted the film to give a feel for these acts without simply reproducing elements of the report. As Dr Mohaupt explains, getting this right means that the film adds something that a written report cannot: “It can’t give you an idea of what things look like, what colour they have, the way people are dressed…it’s a different quality”. Ilona Haslewood, the Programme Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, agrees that Holger’s interpretation worked better than a “direct translation” and “has resulted in a better ‘companion piece’ to the report”.

The Rowntree Foundation acted as executive producers for the film, and Dr Mohaupt worked to meet their brief. For Dr Mohaupt, it was interesting to re-think the way that the creative process can form a part of academic research. But the Rowntree Foundation were “so hands off and trusting” that the relationship worked well. Dr Mohaupt was especially impressed with their appreciation of filmmaking as an output that can be just as engaging as a report.

The success of the film has already been proven at a conference in May, where academics found it a powerful reminder of the people and their situation. As Ilona puts it, “Holger’s work helps to sensitise the viewer to the richness of this hidden world”. In the future, the film will tour in the different parts of Glasgow and as part of the Rowntree Foundation’s discussions around these issues. Dr Mohaupt also sees a benefit for his students: “I will use it as a teaching tool to encourage them to work with departments which have nothing to do with filmmaking. You can have a much stronger impact because you can reach a very different audience, or the same audience and add something”.

If you would like to be involved with projects such as this, or to find out more about ‘Flowers and Floorboards’, contact the College of Arts.


Initially published Oct 2015 in Reach 07, the College of Arts Industry Engagement Newsletter.

If you wish to find out more about this article or about how you can progress your ideas (i) as an academic wishing to engage with a non-academic organisation or (ii) as a non-academic organisation interested in engaging with the academic knowledge base, please email the College of Arts KE Team. Follow us on twitter @GlasgowUniArts, or visit our College of Arts KE YouTube channel which features over 60 academics talking about their experiences of engaging with the non-academic community.

Post Author: Nicole Cassie

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