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"Pray tell about your delightful pickled people?"

So I made a film to wish all our language learner friends a Happy New Year, and I've been surprised by how many people have genuinely asked about the 'pickled people' in the film (mostly wondering what on Earth they are),

This blog gives some information about the making of the film. As usual, it's intended as a resource for English language learners to gain practical and professional language in a context - this time the subjects are marketing, social media, film-making and creativity.

Firstly here's our film...

We hope you like it!

It's a 51 second film. That's optimal for sharing on an Instagram post. Anything over a minute on that platform gets shared as IGTV film, and it's my experience that this gets less views and likes than a 'post'.

At Blue Noun we use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter too, but Instagram is the only social media platform that we've found new language learners through - in our hands at least, the other platforms seem to only reach people we know already. While that's still quite useful for promoting our blog and getting 'clicks' on our website, reaching new English learners is obviously our marketing priority.

Although I'm a language teacher, I'm also a visual artist, and Instagram is perfect for communicating about the ethos and fun of our language school through images and short films. I also genuinely enjoy seeing the images from around the world that the many people we follow post. It's odd to think of a virtual platform of mostly strangers as a community, but it is!

The trick to a good animation is meticulous planning & storyboarding - and I quite obviously did none of that.

It's not how I create and I've never been able to. I'm a painter at heart and I build on what I can see. I made the little stop motion animation first without considering too much what (if any) text I would write. I take my hat off to animators, film makers, architects and tapestry makers who have to have everything planned out in advance. I can't visualise in that way. It's a real skill and I wish I could.

Especially as when I uploaded the images onto my computer for editing, I discovered an annoying bit of fluff in most of the shots - and that I should have set the date/time on the second camera, as it had jumbled all the images up while uploading. Ho hum. I'm still going to argue impulsivity is a creative strength - and it makes me a very engaging teacher - but it's REALLY a weakness in animation!

But what about the pickled people?

What on Earth is that?

Had I spend the last month making little effigies of people to put in a jam jar to make a film with? No, but I kind of wish I had that kind of mind. I bought the jar of people at our fabulous local Remake Scrap Store - Remake is a charity that diverts useful materials from landfill and sells them at very low prices to the community to reuse. Simple and genius. Every town should have one!

Remake is full of lovely crafting materials and I rarely leave empty-handed. I discovered the jar of people a couple of months ago and bought it for Kenny's Christmas present ( I think it cost a pound - he's such a lucky guy!). The hardest thing about it was keeping it secret for two months!

Kenny opening his Christmas present

So who made the all pickled people?

I have no idea. But I absolutely adore them. There's even a wee face crammed into the bottom of the jar. I just wanted to make a film showing off their cute, grumpy faces and it sort of went from there.

By the way, 'Gurning' is a medieval but still celebrated rural English tradition, in which contestants compete to pull the ugliest face. There's even a World Gurning Championship. (Britain quite likes its odd and unusual sporting events - but that's a whole other blog!)

Search engine screenshot of gurning

Post production editing

I used Filmmaker Pro to edit the still images together. There's a couple of tricks to using this software. One, as you can't undo your edits, make frequent duplicates as you work. Secondly, because you can't import a still image for less than 0.5 seconds, you need to make your edit, export it as a single film timeline, and then reimport it and speed it up. It's a pest if you then want to change anything around (which I did), but I don't think there's another way.

I use Filmmaker Pro on my iPad, and having used professional and semi-professional film editing software in the past, I really appreciate how quick and user friendly it is - no overnight rendering!

So that's a brief behind the scenes look at our short film. It took about 6 hours in total (plus however much time someone took to make the faces in the jar). If you do by any chance know who is the fabulous creator of the pickled people, please let them know that they are wonderful and adored in their new home.

So the last dilemma (or perhaps the one at the back of my mind all the time), was how to wish everyone a happy new year while our communities are so badly hurting, our language school is closed and so many people suffering from the effects of the COVID pandemic. How to be optimistic about the forthcoming year without being trite about the past one? Last year I had a lot to admire, and my gratitude for family, friends and our wonderful local countryside has deepened.

Here's what I wrote about the film when I posted it.

A short film to wish everyone a Happy New Year, describing how we feel about celebrating a new year within our current climate. The last year brought such profound change, disappointment, sadness - but was also filled with heroes, community spirit and new forms of trust.

We wish the last year had been very different, but welcome the new year as new chance for change, and want to wish you all the very best.

Happy New Year everyone!

Live language learning!

Find out about Remake here.

Find out more about the ancient traditional sport of gurning here.

Find out about Filmmaker Pro here.

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