Making a short film about Puffles


Challenges of striking out in this new world of social and digital media

Despite fighting off a persistent cold, with the help of Andy Bower and Ceri Jones (who are at polar opposites of the political spectrum if there ever was one) I’ve managed to make some progress on something vaguely resembling a ‘professional’ website. Getting other people to give me the kick up the backside was what I needed in what is a huge experiment (or rather, lots of little experiments that are greater than the sum of their parts) on my part.

The most important part at this stage has been getting the structure working. The content is fairly straight forward in comparison – mainly because of my next-to-zero knowledge of coding. Much of the next three to six months involves filling a number of gaps through these mini-projects, as well as producing a portfolio of ‘digital stuff’ that is greater than the sum of its parts – a regular theme.

Puffles with Dr Julian Huppert MP (LD - Cambridge) - my local MP

During my civil service days I toyed with the idea of producing a short film about me. I have no idea why. I just wanted to make a short film with some pumping music with something at the end saying in a very stylish way “This is me!”. Back in those days, one of my biggest flaws was that I took myself (and life) far too seriously. Now? My best friend is a dragon and I wander the streets of Cambridge and London carrying it. (On occasion). Who else can wander into an Institute for Government seminar carrying a big cuddly purple dragon fairy? Exactly! It’s not just the Institute for Government – it’s Parliament too. It led to an ‘interesting’ exchange with one security guard asking as to why Puffles had come along. (He thought I was crazy)

Coming back to this short film idea, I found the sound track that would be perfect for it. Even more so, I’m also toying with the idea of completely spoofing it with a version containing Puffles. It means going a little ‘over-the-top’ with the original version to make some of the ideas work, but then that’s part of the fun.

One big problem I have is how to go about getting the licence for the soundtrack that I want it to use. It’s from a US TV show that I’ve never heard of. Is it possible to licence those sorts of soundtracks and use them in a manner for what in the grand scheme of things is a little light-hearted fun?

My other big problem is a broader lack of routine and lack of a regular group of people to bounce things off, collaborate with, support and work together with. At present I’m taking feedback and opportunities as they come. Up until Christmas my mindset was to apply for standard ‘line-managed’ jobs because that was what I was used to. Since then, I’ve been dwelling on whether I need time away from ‘line-managed-world’ to unleash some of the creative energy that is clearly there. Line-managed-world can be a very restrictive space – if a safer one. (When stuff goes wrong you can escalate it upwards for someone else to deal with). There are a couple of projects that I know a number of public servants would love to unleash but their superiors are not prepared to take the risk. My take is that such projects will eventually get the go-ahead as senior managers begin to realise that trying to pretend that social media a) isn’t there or b) is only a threat, simply won’t wash anymore – especially as more adventurous parts of the public sector start reaping the results of a more proactive approach.

One of the most interesting aspects of all of this has been the learning process – the journey. I’m only part of the way through it at the moment. In a field like digital and social media, people are finding out new things all of the time. Hence why I’m not even going to pretend to be the finished article. There’s no such thing.

Putting together some training materials for a prospective client this week has made me realise even more so that knowing where to seek guidance from (and where to point people to) is just as – if not even more important than knowing the content of all of that inside out. The best example of this I have is about safeguarding young people as they use social media. There are far more authoritative voices on this issue than I could ever claim to be – despite a civil service background that covered amongst other things data protection. Far better for me to point people in the direction of the Information Commissioner’s guidance for young people (and possibly take delegates through some of it) during a training session than try to replicate what his office has produced. If I have any suggested improvements I can feed those back, knowing that changes that are incorporated would have a far greater impact than me trying to produce my own ‘improved’ version.

One of the other things that I’m trying to give myself permission to make is mistakes. I’ve made more than a few in the past, but that time around I would beat myself up over them. I still do so now. The joys of being a perfectionist. There are few teachers that I’ve met who’ve been able to deal with the perfectionist streak in me giving me the ‘it’s okay to make mistakes’ reassurance. One of them was my former orchestra teacher at the Mary Ward Centre who said that in the early stages of playing a piece of music, the most important thing to focus on first was the rhythm, not the individual notes – they can come later. It was the same with the ‘making digital videos on a shoestring’ course I did with the Media Trust – who basically showed that you needed to take a significant amount of film footage for a relatively short film piece. Modern technology makes this process much more straight-forward than even a couple of decades ago where it really was proper cutting and pasting for the editing processes.

While I want to produce something that looks and sounds good, for me the process of creation is just as, if not more important than the end product itself. That’s what makes the journey all the more interesting…for me at least.


One thought on “Making a short film about Puffles

  1. Yeah! Can’t wait to see it. I loved making little films, though I was generally bossy while other people had skills and equipment! I worked with Mental Health Media who worked with the Media Trust, which was years ago. One of the main things I’ve found in organizing art projects & the artists I’ve worked with agree is that having a community and structure is a big part of doing stuff. Bundling off to studios in work gear in a friendly gang makes a lot of difference, so don’t berate yourself, without a physical place, work times etc. it really makes it harder.

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