Collecting for 2013 – Geoff Marshall on making the ‘What Song are you Listening to?’ film

Film maker Geoff Marshall is behind the camera on our ‘What Song are you Listening to?’ film. Geoff has shared his thoughts on making the film, and how it’s made him think differently about his behavior as a commuter.

You are on the Tube. You must sit there looking miserable … something to be endured. That’s what you’re used to right? Or is it …

You see it every day – people sitting in a carriage most likely on their daily commute and ignoring the rest of the world. Plugged in headphones maybe with heads buried in newspapers or books too – as people shut out the rest of the world and create their own small space. A space sometimes where you’re squashed in so tightly and so close to people you don’t know it would be awkward in any other situation – that’s what everyone expects and gets on with.

Yet a few hours spent one afternoon at Tooting Broadway made me see that there is life, laughter, smiles and energy behind everyone, it’s just that we are somehow trained to contain it all to ourselves.

Our mission? To find out what people were listening to on the Tube. Our targets? Everyone we saw over a four hour period with headphones as they came in and out of Tooting Broadway station. Armed with some vibrant young volunteers, holding up a large posters emblazoned with “WHAT SONG ARE YOU LISTENING TO?”, we managed to cajole many people out of their personal musical shells, and share with us their tastes.

I’m quite passionate about my own music, what I listen to and how I enjoy it, and afterwards as I put the video together it occurred to me how insular I had become. Had I not done this, and had to piece together this production with snippets of the songs that others were listening to, I may have never discovered some of these songs in my entire life.

My own stereotypical views were challenged to. It’s so hard not to judge a person quite quickly after first seeing them, and I realised that based on their age, gender, race, way that they dressed, or the way that they walked I had a pre-conception about what genre of music they might be listening to before we asked them – sometimes I was right, the majority of the time though I was wrong, and I realised it was pleasing to be wrong, and have my own attitude adjusted.

But most of all I liked the moments when we broke people out of their personal worlds and (sometimes after a little cajoling) got them to share with us an insight into their music. Almost everyone had a little embarrassment, soon followed by a wave of enjoyment, happiness and a huge smile. I loved the moment when they all smiled.

A while ago sat on a train, I saw several people sat around me plugged in listening to things. I thought then how great it would be at that moment to have a gadget that allowed you to ‘tune in’ and eavesdrops on what people were listening to! You could discover a great new piece of music yourself that you were just sat a few feet away from and might have otherwise never have known about it.  When I see people on the Tube now enjoying it, I now really want to ask them what they’re listening to.

So maybe challenge yourself next time you see someone plugged away listening to something. If they look like they’re enjoying it, be bold and ask them what you’re listening to! People may be a little embarrassed, but as we found, ultimately thrilled to be able to share the enjoyment of their music with others.

Until then, you’ve got this video to go on to assess the broad range of what song people are listening to…

By Geoff Marshall – film maker

One thought on “Collecting for 2013 – Geoff Marshall on making the ‘What Song are you Listening to?’ film”

  1. I’ve had further thoughts on what i like about this! It’s not just a snapshot on what music people are listening to, but everything else in our society at the moment in the video…

    i.e. if you came back to this video in ten years time, what would be the popular brand/model of music players then? it’s very clear from people showing us, what is obviously the most popular brand at the moment.

    but you also get to see the layout of the tube station and the ticket machines in the background – will they have changed in ten years time? the coffee cup brand that one guy is clutching, will that be different in the future? and in the closing shot there’s even a glimpse of the blue painted Cycle Superhighway outside the station .. that’s a new addition, so what else will be new in the future? Love this kind of stuff.


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