Free Research-Based Film Impacts 10,000 Viewers So Far

Rufus Stone
Cast and crew of RUFUS STONE shooting scene in rural Dorset
The award-winning short film, RUFUS STONE, based entirely on research on older people in terms of isolation and connectivity, rurality and sexuality, carried out at the UK’s Bournemouth University and funded by Research Councils UK, has been available for viewing on Vimeo online since early this year.

As of today, more than 10,000 people worldwide in 150 countries have viewed the film for free. Compared to the usual channels for applying academic work, the film’s impact in sheer numbers and geographic reach is breath-taking. Using arts-based tools to disseminate research insures that more than the few who read an article in an academic journal are exposed to the research. The medium itself opens doors to audiences that otherwise would never come across academic research.

RUFUS STONE dramatizes the old and continued prejudices of village life from three main perspectives. Chiefly it is the story of Rufus, an ‘out’ older gay man who was exiled from the village as a youth and reluctantly returns from London to sell his deceased parents’ farmhouse. In the village, he is forced to confront the faces of his estranged past. Of these, Abigail is the tattletale who ‘outed’ Rufus 50 years ago when he spurned her interest. She has become a lonely, deluded lush. Flip, the boy Rufus adored, has also stayed in the village: a life wasted in celibacy (occasionally interrupted by anonymous sexual encounters) and denial, who is looking after his elderly mother. But Rufus too isn’t whole, saddled with an inability to return or forgive. “Sometimes a lifetime isn’t enough distance.”

Rufus Stone actors
Key cast in RUFUS STONE: Harry Kershaw, Tom Kane, William Gaunt and Niall Buggy
Shot entirely on locations in south west England, RUFUS STONE stars William Gaunt and Harry Kershaw sharing the title role and Niall Buggy and Tom Kane, both portraying Rufus’ boyhood friend, Flip. The film was directed by Josh Appignanesi (The Infidel) and produced by Parkville Pictures, London.

Actor William Gaunt, famous for his roles in The Champions and No Place Like Home, said, “It’s a sad and touching story, but also one about age and what it’s like to fall in love when you’re very young, and how that remains with you.”

Bournemouth’s Dr. Kip Jones — project lead, executive producer and author of RUFUS STONE (and occasional Social Science Space writer) – remarked:

The bidding process took three years, the research a further three; writing and producing the film another year. The film has been seen widely in community and academic settings nationally and internationally since, and it is used by many practitioners and service providers in their trainings, including Alzheimer’s UK nationally. What I am saying is that substantial research and its dissemination takes time, but produces a ‘long tail.’

Nonetheless, the fact that a short film based on research can generate this kind of attention is, quite frankly, mind-boggling. This success demonstrates the impact possible through new methods of dissemination through social media that are available to social scientists. Nonetheless, patience and perseverance remain the watchwords for meaningful, in-depth impact.

Plans continue to spread the use of the film and collect stories of its use and effect. An event on November 7 at Bournemouth University, “Pathways to Impact: Part Deux!” presented under the auspices of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, will do just that. Participants who attended two previous events at Bournemouth around LGBT issues and ageing and the use of RUFUS STONE and a “Methods to Diversity”, an LGBT and ageing learning tool, will be invited back for a day of sharing at BU. They will be asked to elaborate on their experiences with the tools and give us feedback for an impact case study around concerns of older gay and lesbian citizens in the community.

Jones and Dr. Lee-Ann Fenge are organizing the event with the help of BU’s ESRC Festival of Social Science team led by Naomi Kay and assistance from the Faculty of Health & Social Sciences’ (FHSS) Impact Champion, Dr. Zoe Sheppard. Jones and Fenge are both members of the newly configured Social Work and Social Sciences Department in the FHSS. Jones is also aligned with Bournemouth University’s Faculty of Media & Communication.

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