Review of The Plan… over at Flickering Myth and below…
The Plan That Came from the Bottom Up is an engrossing visual essay, documenting the never before seen inventiveness and energy of a group of factory workers who saw a different way to invent and engage. Rather than being a straight up historical documentary, filmmaker Steve Sprung conducts the whole project with a stimulating artfulness.
The film deploys edits of news footage, advertising and various media alongside personal interviews with those involved to offer a film that goes beyond a specific time and location.
That time that we’re going beyond is the 1970s and the location is Lucas Aerospace in the UK. It was here that a group of skilled engineers, when faced with redundancy, joined forces to suggest new ways to do business and new projects to concentrate on. These new designs included products made to be ‘socially useful’ and to offer ‘environmentally sustainable alternatives’.
Wind turbines, hybrid cars and an energy efficient home were all blueprinted and put forward as a responsible and effective alternative to the military projects the factory had previously been manufacturing. The Plan asks in two parts why the world is not more aware of the engineers’s story and why it was not taken further by the authorities of the time.
But the film doesn’t just stay in the 1970’s UK. It also contrasts that time with the present. Contemporary media of our own war-ravaged and environmentally fragile times highlight the need for different forms of thinking on this subject. And it asks, how might life have looked the group’s ideas been put into action?
It’s a compelling question, and The Plan also puts forward many others, asking the audience plenty of uncomfortable questions about the current climate (political and environmental). One such question never far from the core of the film relates to economics and capital. It could be summed up as ‘is the constant need for profit above all else an ultimately reasonable way to go forward?’
Almost all of the political establishment at the time – and a fair amount today – would say yes, growing profit is always desirable and essential. The Plan examines this notion closely with clear sighted view, and effectively and eloquently dismantles it. There was – and still is – a better way forward.
“Ok, Mr. M we’ve had a good look at your CV and examples and think you’d be perfect for the job…”
The fizzing transatlantic voice crackled in my ear like an ancient radio broadcast.
“We just want to know one more thing – when can you start?”
I stared at myself in the mirror, grasping tightly onto my outdated mobile. Was this really happening?
Well, yes it was, and it did.
The job itself seemed relatively simple to begin with. My task was to profile shoppers as they came and went through the halls of the vast local shopping mall, the so-called Destiny Center. The people ambled through the arcade, carefully examining each item they found intriguing before they made a purchase.
But this wasn’t what we wanted! We wanted clawing, snarling forced bargain sales produced though contempt and exclusive offers. This level of civilisation was not in the job description!
So I was forced to up the ante.
“Oi you,” I shouted at a middle aged male shopper delicately holding a reusable heavyweight holdall. “There’s a demon in your bag!”
He gave me a passing glance and then continued browsing through a selection of Bosch prints.
I tried again. “There really is! And he’s here to eat all of you up on a 2000 for 1 deal! He would like a ready meal of dissatisfaction, a convenience trip of liquid sea bass, a worrisome steak sandwich, a…”
I was forced to stop by a police dog’s paw on my shoulder.
“What are you shouting about, Mister?” barked the canine, robotically, “If you don’t calm down I’ll be forced to cancel your Destiny card.”
“But I’m working,” I replied. “I’ve been hired by the stopgap Anyjob firm to create a disturbance at this center to prove beyond all doubt that shopping makes people insouciant!”
“And what the hell’s wrong with that? A bit of casualness and disconnection hardly ever hurt anyone!”
And that’s when the buzzing started. A searing pulsating vibration going off in my head accompanied by the familiar metallic 50’s radio voice.
“Do it. Do it now!”
I took the contraption out of my own shopper and pressed the button. “This is your profile!” I screamed, the blood rushing past my eyeballs and covering the polished floor in puddles of red.
“This is the destiny you asked for!”
White electricity jumps through my skull and I know no more.
Until I wake up in the office.
“Good job, Mr. M,” the freakishly minute image of what must be the Line Manager said on screen.
“You managed to create quite a stir over there in the Destiny Center. But, next time, be sure to do it for real. You’re with us for life you know!”
Freelance writing is not always an easy way to make a living. The availability of work, for one, is pretty unpredictable to say the least! It takes a long time to build up a good list of trustworthy clients and contacts. Getting them to pay can be another matter altogether. Sometimes you can work for twice as long for the same money as you would in a 9-5 office job. Oh well. The advantages still outweigh the disadvantages.
I’m self-employed. I don’t have to worry about colleagues, management or uncomfortable ‘water cooler chat’. When you add the fact that I am in a new city (Berlin) and have a less than great command of the local language, there is the danger of being somewhat isolated in my endeavours. The answer? It is all manageable! (and better than the office or the warehouse!)