The Remote Controller – short film

The Remote Controller (2003) 
Using found footage sourced from educational films in the Prelinger Archives this work explores the subject of experimentation in human body and machine interfaces in the 20th century. The film edits together the different ways we have controlled our environment – through technology, magic and theatrical devices. As the world of communications brings people together, power still exists by pushing a button and pulling the puppet strings.

“The Remote Controller” won second prize in the Backup Festival in Weimar 2004

It has been screened at:
November 2006 – La Casa Encendida Madrid
April 2005 – Britspotting Berlin
April 2005 – Femme Totale, Dortmund
February 2005 – AHRB Centre for British Film and Television, London
January 2005 – Stuttgarter Filmwinter, Stuttgart
November 2004 – Rio de Janeiro International Short Film Festival
November 2004 – Tromsø Kunstforening
November 2004 – Festival International du Film Independant
November 2004 – INVIDEO, Milano
October 2004 – Leeds International Film Festival, Leeds
October 2004 – Backup Festival, Weimar
September 2004 – Seoul New and Film Festival – Seoul
August 2004 – Chicago Underground Film Festival
January 2004 – Hanger, Barcelona January 2004 – Rotterdam Film Festival
October 2003 – Oslo S-, Oslo
September 2003 – Kino Central, Berlin
July 2003 – The ICA, London – Radical Entertainment season
March 2011 – Ambulante Festival, Mexico

Download some People Like Us artwork, made from photooverlaying scenes from The Remote Controller. Good for fans of DO or DIY with People Like Us too! Click on the image below to download a larger image. There’s another on the right…

Here are the words to the film:
The Remote Controller
It’s in the hills and the bright blue sky
It’s in the quiet lakes with their soft horizons
It’s in the fields of ripened grain
It’s in the clear early morning
It’s in the late afternoon
It’s in unexpected places with sudden bright surprises
It’s found in new things
It is the harp string and beauty
The keyboard of mood
Through the dark ages
And now of course the problem is
How to create order out of confusion
How to achieve something harmonious, creatively and scientifically new
Mixing is so simple a child can do it
The result is breathtaking beauty and lasting good taste
In lovely homes and simple dwellings
Through the length and breadth of the land
The next step was to put it together
Take the proven quality
Strength and reliability of the prototype
And build them into each and every production line
Pretty little puppets
Dancing on their toes
What they’re really thinking of
Nobody knows
As a matter of a fact puppets don’t think at all
They don’t have to
They get everything they want by pulling strings
Or rather by having somebody else pull the strings for them
All of these motions are the work of the artist who manipulates the control stick
A twist of the wrist, tension on the string
A crook of the finger or gentle swerve of the arm
And our gay figures perform cleverly for the delight of beholders
The puppeteer can endow his character with surprisingly lifelike motions
Through the movement of his hands
He gives his wooden mannequins all the characteristics of living breathing persons
By remote control the puppeteer puts his characters through any desired action
There is of course the necessity for close study of action in real life
So that it can be truthfully interpreted
Then what seems to be a minimum of finger and arm movement
The control stick is twisted turned and bobbed
The strings actuate the puppets
And we see a remarkable natural portrayal of life
This is a form of remote control that brings much pleasure in the entertainment field
The hands of the puppeteer send signals of action to actors on the stage
And it’s strictly a one man show
Some of the most amazing theatrical effects brought about by remote control take place on stages in modern theatres
Audiences in these theatres witness instantaneous changes of elaborate spectacles
As huge stage settings rise or disappear at unpredictable moments
Actually the stage is a series of elevators that are controlled from the switchboard
Pushing one of these buttons is the only physical labour connected with moving the stage elevators
Then pressure goes to work, pushing up huge platforms which make up the stage
The control system is so elaborate yet functions so easily and swiftly that amazing scenic changes are possible during a very short blackout
Through the magic of remote control all things become possible to the men who plan and design spectacles for the modern theatre
Every form of showmanship is utilised on stages where the mere pushing of a button creates magical effects for an audience
Effects that add novelty and beauty to artistic settings
Even more dramatic in these days of increased production when our nation’s industrial centres must be tied even more closely together an unseen hand moves in a tower miles away
A switch clicks
A signal is displayed
No unnecessary stops
Operators sit in control rooms and watch illuminated diagrams
By pushing a button that sets switches a hundred miles away
Without leaving his position
Here is a world of communication
Tailored for your needs of today and tomorrow
Bringing together all people in a new era of understanding
Pick a city
Dial the area code
Presto, instant weather
Turning light into electricity to run this display
Solar batteries are used to convert sunlight into electrical power
And make our satellites talk back from outer space
Like the gentle twist of a puppet string or a push of a button that sets tons of stage into motion, with a slight slip of a finger on a lever
This work doesn’t even require separate motors
While the driver retains just enough of the control to be the real boss at all times
In no other application does the use of remote control benefit us so much
Ours is merely the light task of remote control
Remote control is a big factor in modern living
Yet, because it is a development intended to save us from unnecessary work
It is something we know very little about
In fact we do very little
Merely push a button
And let something else do the work for us
You have been watching The Remote Controller by People Like Us
Thanks to Prelinger Archives and The Internet Archive for footage