#6: How to become a projectionist
Welcome to this week’s edition of The Makers and a very warm welcome to new subscribers joining us! You can read previous issues here.
The aim of The Makers is to share thoughts and ideas to help you engage more positively and purposefully with the future.
Today I’m going to share with you:
- How to become a ‘projectionist’
- My search for the oldest living thing in northern Europe – here’s what I found
- Pondering the earth’s distant futures
1. When it comes to picturing your future, become a projectionist 📽️
When you try and picture the future, it can look cloudy and murky. But remember, you are the one who chooses which film of tomorrow you watch. And you can change it.
If I sit and I ask myself to think about ‘the future’, what usually comes to mind?
Well, to be honest, the most common thing I’m confronted with is a vast expanse of grey fuzziness. I wouldn’t describe my vision as ‘clouded’, rather that my entire vision is simply ‘cloud’.
On these ocassions, after a moment or two, I become aware of my surroundings. I find that I’m sat in a vintage, red velvet seat in a plush cinema.
(Now, if this all sounds a little oblique, bear with me…)
The cloud that envelopes me is, in fact, just an image projected onto the giant screen that I’m sat facing.
I then become aware that I’m not a patron of the cinema, but its projectionist.
With this realisation, my shoulders loosen. If I all I can see is fog, that’s just fine. After all, if I choose the film, I can simply opt for another.
Become the projectionist of your future
Now, imagine yourself as the projectionist (or ‘operator’, as they’re known in the trade) of your films of the future. How could you go about getting a more pleasing, sharper and memorable picture?
Well, you could start by adding some more details.
First, you could choose your timeframe for when the action takes place. Why not, Tuesday week? Or two years’ time? Or a decade from now?
Then, you could furnish this point in time with some more information, such as where is this movie of the future taking place? At your kitchen table? In Paris? In North America?
So, let’s say that as the projectionist you’ve stumbled upon an interesting film you believe shows potential. It has the following details:
- It’s set in London, on the northerly corner of Charing Cross Road and Denmark Street, to be precise.
- The action unfolds at ten o’clock in the morning, Monday, 1 August 2050 (yes, this is an actual date – I checked).
So far, so good.
But, like all great projectionists, you know that something’s missing. All inspiring and memorable flicks need a relatable character with whom the audience can make an emotional connection. Someone they care about.
So, it’s time to invite to the stage your central character(s).
That person – or people – could be you, your future self (I’ve written before about the importance of connection with your future-self). Or it could be others – your children, nieces and nephews later in their lives. It could be your grandchildren. Or, if we’re talking about a time horizon beyond your lifetime, it could be about your grandchildren’s grandchildren.
You only need ask yourself: are these people that I care about?
You find yourself now, sitting in a cinema chair in your local movie theatre. As projectionist, you’re busy carefully selecting and preparing the next roll of film, ready for screening.
The film is shot in spectacular 4K resolution. True, its high-definition will bring out some sparkling details, making it look real enough to touch. But, without a relatable lead, you know it’s going to tank with your audience.
However, with a character that you truly care about centre stage, you can make a truly memorable – and moving – picture. (Pun intended.)
Of course, these aren’t the only ingredients you need for a compelling image of tomorrow. You’ll need the action to feel important and relevant. And preferably include some kind of underpinning logic that makes it vaguely plausible!
As the projectionist, you choose your feature film of the future. And your task is clear: to select the films of the future that are the most moving and memorable for your audience – i.e. you.
So, if you don’t like, or don’t feel much of a tug of connection to what you see: change it.
As it turns out, you’re not just any old projectionist: you also choose the setting, the plot, the time-horizon and the cast. (Which, I admit is a *slight* expansion of the tradition role!)
Selection criteria for inclusion in your films is straight-forward: only what’s important to you; relevant to you; and involves people you care about.
The rest you can pretty much forget about, because your audience probably will.
This idea of constructing a future image using, for example, a place, a person, etc., is inspired by a great technique that the Institute For The Future’s research director, Jane McGonigal, calls “Remembering the Future”, explained here. The technique invites you to imagine a specific future possibility doing a favourite thing you love to do, with a favourite person, in a favourite place. Try it out, it’s really quite fun.
2. This week’s introduction 🤝
Symbols of long-time are all around us. In the buildings, the customs and traditions, and in the landscape. And few are more resonant (and loved) than the great Oak.
Two weeks ago, I went off in search of northern Europe’s oldest living thing. Here’s what I found.
At time of writing, this video and alternative versions across platforms had been viewed almost 1,700 times. A sign of just how potent a symbol the Oak tree is for many, perhaps?
3. Future jam today 😋
This week’s recommendation on the subject of time and how we think about it, is an article on the importance of pondering the earth’s distant futures, by Vincent Ialenti, author of “Deep Time Reckoning”.Stretching the mind across time—even in the most speculative ways—can help us become more responsible planetary stewards: It can help endow us with the time literacy necessary for tackling long-term challenges such as biodiversity loss, microplastics accumulation, climate change, antibiotic resistance, asteroid impacts, sustainable urban planning, and more. (Vincent Ialenti)
You can read the article in Scientific American in full here.
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Until next time…