Muy Eadweard


The English-born E[a]dw[e]ard Muybridge (1830-1904) exchanged his familiar hometown life in Kingston-upon-Thames for a successful career as a seller of art books in San Francisco. After experiencing a stagecoach accident in California, he briefly returned to London before pursuing mobile landscape photography for a living. Bildschirmfoto 2015-08-02 um 5.58.55 AMAll this happened before Eadweard met one time Governor of California and millionaire, Leland Stanford. Induced by $25,000 to provide photographic evidence of a horse with all of its four feet off the ground, Eadweard devoted all of his energy to experimenting with the technology of photographing animals and human in motion. Eadweard’s technological innovations and his mass produced serial photomontages have shaped people’s view of what today is referred to as locomotion, i.e. movement, space and time, a word which derives from the ancient Greek-Latin translation locus, meaning place, and movere, standing for moving. Bildschirmfoto 2015-08-02 um 5.58.55 AMKyle Rideout‘s biopic  Eadweard (2014) premiered in Germany at the Munich Film Festival at the very end of June 2015. Since I am particularly interested in how artists and scientists have depicted bodily movements over time, I spoke with Kyle. After he graduated from the acting school Studio58 in Vancouver, he entered the acting business. During the past fifteen years, he has acted in many plays and has also done voiceovers for animation movies. He is currently touring the world with his animated script  Eadweard. The morning after his film premiere in Munich, we sat down together outside the Münchner Filmtheater Café. Kyle’s espresso was served without cream and my sparkling water without lemon. But at least we enjoyed the glorious sunshine.

L

So, you went to acting school after finishing high school in the States and acted in more than forty productions in the theater. This is a very interesting change, since for me, there is a big difference between watching the liveliness of acting on a stage, and watching people acting at various places on a screen. The smells, the atmosphere, the physical closeness to the stage and the actors, the natural sound, and of course, the bright lighting. Have you had the same experience? What brought you to filmmaking?

K

Oh, I disagree. I think it’s quite similar. I always had a passion for filmmaking, and I was auditioning for the acting school. And I though if I don’t get into this school, I am going down to LA to CalArts School, but I got into this school, so I pursued acting. But as an actor you are given your scripts, and you have to look at that little script. You know, you are a character. And you work on that character. There are about ten characters in a film and you are just the little libber. But I wanted to tell the whole story – that is why I wanted to start filmmaking. After acting for a while, I wanted to do more of the creative part. So I started to do the short film Hop of the Twig (2010). I make that for very little money, for about $1,000.

L

Did you decide then to stop acting?

K

No, no. I’ve been acting the whole time, because as an actor you have time to work on different projects. I made that short film and it took me a lot longer than it usually takes to make a short photo film. It took me about nine to eleven months. And then it did really well.

L

What did filmmaking teach you? K I wanted to learn how to make a movie. There were different sets, I wanted to learn about visual effects and it was a period film. I once asked a guy who worked in the film industry “I am thinking about going to school for filmmaking,” and he said, “just make a film yourself.” It was really the best advice I got. He said, when you go to school, they will make you do films. It might be harder to do without the support, but the money you are putting into school, you can put into your film. And you are making connections more than you are when you are in school, because you are meeting people and trying to put your film together, and make it. I really took his advice hard, and did that. He also said that I should not spend too much money on a camera, they change so quickly and I should get experience in editing. So I worked at final cut on my computer. Basic editing. So that I could learn the storytelling.

L

And your second short film?

K

We applied to different organisations, which support young filmmakers, and we received money and awards. And then we had a broadcast deal with BravoTV. That one was a bigger project. Then I received prize money for my short, and that provided me with some money for Eadweard, and this one really got the ball rolling.

L

How did you come across Eadweard?

K

I was acting in the play Studies in Motion: The Haunting of Eadweard Muybridge in Canada. I was one of his camera assistants. It was only shown in Canada. That’s a real shame because I think people would have really enjoyed it over here. It was spectacular. We had amazing visuals. Maybe with the movie coming out, the play will get into another light. So I started to make a film on that “lost genius”, or a little bit more on that obscure genius.

L

Speaking to people outside of the art world, I have experienced that they find it difficult to access Eadweard’s human and animal locomotion studies. Maybe this is the case because people lack the understanding of how to use and work with one’s body effectively on a daily basis, and, or, of how our perception and contact of the world has always been changing alongside the means of the latest technology. Even today. Of course, back in the nineteenth century, it was challenging for people to reproduce life in motion with the mechanical camera eye, while today, each one of us can easily reproduce a digitalised version of it. But nevertheless, the majority of us does not know how to work with one’s work, and what this feels like physically and mentally.

K

Maybe that’s like Shakespeare, sometimes people don’t understand it at first. But then, they get to know it a bit better and with the time… people are so used to see photographs, and these were one of the first photographs of the human body in motion. People had not seen so detailed bodily movements before. How do you document movement? That’s what’s fascinating to me.

L

I do agree. How do you think it is possible to capture the lively essence of humans? This is another question I have been thinking about for so long and I have not really arrive at a conclusion…why are some of us so fascinated by watching people on a screen or looking at photographs? We are just looking at a sequence or a single moment, and then we think: oh that’s what it was like decades or centuries ago. But in fact, it is just a second, or not even a second, which we see.

K

I don’t know, I don’t know the answer…

L

Well, Eadweard did really well in attempting to bring Eadweard’s pictures back to live. It is an amazing experience to see his character in the form of moving pictures; since so far, we can just encounter him and his work through reading and looking at all of the written and visual documentation of and on his life.

K

Oh ok, like the actual series, you mean?

L

Yes! I mean, to me, it is a self-reflexive film on photography and the development of new media. How did you access Eadweard’s work yourself?

K

I have his ability to capture and stop with the camera. Also, his pictures, before the motion studies, are stunning. They look like paintings. They are so beautiful. He brought a whole dark room with him for the shooting. Do you know his picture of the moon? He photoshopped the moon in. So, he was editing his photos too. He was very smart. And I think, he was doing that to make them a bit more commercial. Like “oh look there is a really good shot. A nice contrast.” But look, then there is also the moon. And people considered it well shot at that time. Did you also hear that people also tried to fake motion pictures? They would have someone juggling the midst of juggling. But then, they would also put balls up in the air. They attached them to sticks, which were attached to the back wall. They were trying to make it look like motion, and they were like “We captured a shot of motion!” REij reij

I think, he did something that none has done before. He was on the forefront of the technology at that time. Creating these shots of motion. He really did the first presentation of a movie when he was showing his slides, because when he realised that when he was moving them quicker, the audience would react. With the horse, looking like it was moving. That was the inception of cinema, I really think. But I am sure that he was obsessed. When you look at the amount of photos, you start to question: why did he keep going? That is something I have always been wondering. With 781 sequences, over a 100,000 single photographs in motion. When you start reading it, it almost gets a little bit ridiculous. A woman drops a hanky. A woman picks up a hanky. A woman adjusts a hanky. A woman, kneels. Sits. Sits with knees turned to the side. Sits with knees slightly turned to the side. Why do you keep going? Do you keep going because you want to use the money from the university?

L

But the university hired him.

K

Yes, but then he went over budget.        

                       

              silence

He wanted to keep going. He wanted to do insects, too. But they said no.

L

Maybe he wanted to do more than he could visually capture at that time? Maybe he wanted to keep going until a better idea comes up…

K

Maybe. That’s speculation. I don’t know.

L

But I mean, it’s the same as working with the human body. You know, that you need to do it everyday. To train it. To automatisise your bodily movements. With acting it’s the same.

K

Yeah, you have to train. You have to keep it up. Same with riding. I ride all the time.

L

You do?

K

Oh yeah, I try to ride all the time. We have two more scripts coming up. I ride with another…

L Oh, sorry. I understood r i d i n g.

K

You meant riding? I do also ride. Not horses, but my bike. I do it all the time – back home in Vancouver.

L

How long does it take to write a film script?

K

I guess every project is different. But, for Eadweard, it took us about 18 months, before production. So it was probably a year of working on the script. We had a big hook-up, because we were basing it on the play. So we had a lot of great material to use. To put into the film. And then the next project, it’s taken us a couple of years. Because then we have been working on this movie. And we have been trying to write at the same time. So the development was not solely writing. This next film… you know, its kind of with kids. The first kid gets a lot of attention, and the second one does not quiet get as much attention, but still, you are raising them the same. For the third script, we are currently doing the read through with the actors back in Vancouver. We hired a team of people. They pick six scripts in Canada, to do a read-through and to develop. They paired us with other storywriters. They paired us with a writer, who did American Psycho. Then with another writer who did Life above all, which was shortlisted for the Oscar. We have been working with these great, great mentors on the third one. But we’ve been working on these other two film at the same time, so it starts to slow down the progress of writing.

L

Would you say that you are more an actor, a writer, or a filmmaker?

K

I am them all. I am them all.

L

Well, you have to choose.

K

Do I? I don’t know. That’s what I think is great right now. Being in the moment. Being able to do different things. And change. Not pick one thing. I don’t think you should be allowed to say that you have a favourite colour. There are so many things you love. You love looking at grass and it’s bright green, but then you look at the sky later in the day, and it’s like a beautiful cake.

L

Sure, but you wake up in the morning and then you know that you are going to do this or that, because that is what you want you are passionate about. So what is the first thing you are doing in the morning, even when you are on holiday?

K

On holiday?

L

Yes, maybe writing something?

K

Well, I definitely look at the emails coming in, to know what we have going on.                      

           Both laughing

It’s not a holiday, is it?              

          Break

I guess, I am passionate. I am very passionate right now about writing and directing. I am giving to: acting, I have done a lot and have experience, which I have not in writing so far. That’s where the fascination is coming from.

L

Why did you not act in Eadweard?

K

I did! I was the leapfrogger. I was the guy who leapfrogged over him. The little guy. But I was not fully in the film, because I could not split my focus on that.

Bildschirmfoto 2015-08-02 um 5.57.49 AM I am a very new director. That is my first film. So I did not want to be spending my time in front of the camera, when I am learning so much behind it. Bildschirmfoto 2015-08-02 um 5.58.41 AM

L

So you did not wanted to join the actors desperately when you watched them?

K

Yeah, on this film. Another project I would like to act of course. But with Eadweard, I wanted to be behind the camera. My co-producer, Josh Epstein, who is also a writer, he played Edison. He wanted to do some acting, and also produce. It’s a juggle for sure. But I think that’s also what makes it enjoyable.

L

I am asking you this because I am struggling with taking my own motion pictures when I am on a horse. I cannot take the pictures during the training. I don’t even have a free hand. That’s why I find a bit challenging when you say that want to continue doing the acting, the writing and the directing yourself. The physical training goes hand in hand with the writing, but directing is something different…

K

I know. I am acting a lot right now in Vancouver.

L

But in different projects?

K

In our industry, we are self-employed and different contracts come up. So I could on a project for two days, two days on a film on the week when I get back. That is how can still do some acting whilst still doing the writing and the directing. It’s a struggle for sure, that’s also what makes it enjoyable. To take on different parts and different jobs.

L

When you write, what does your schedule look like?

K

When I am working with Josh, we map out the story, our ideas, and how we want it to be; and then start writing. We usually give ourselves a deadline, or we have to submit to a certain deadline. And then it starts to unravelled, to fall apart; and we know that that’s happening. Then we go back and start rewriting. Remapping it. At a certain point, we start writing on cube cards, every scene and we lay them on big tables and then work through the different story lines, which are happening. Rearranging them. To form a movie. Then we get actors to read it, and then it usually starts making more sense. It is interesting when you start getting feedback. Then it makes more sense.

L

How much of this feedback are you taking in?

K

Not too much. At the beginning, I don’t know all of the other characters. But I really liked this character, this young girl. A 16-year old girl. And many other people said that too. We like her too. We usually agree with the people. Then we crop the other characters and make it more to her story. Finally, the story starts making more sense when people start accepting it.

L

To what extent do you write down what the actors are supposed to do?

K

As an actor, I try not to write too much. The lines in between the text. Like, confused, bewildered. That is sometimes frustrating for the actor because in this one line the director wants you – the spectator – to be confused. But an actor, you have to build moments the whole time. We only put it in of the text isn’t saying it. She is really gloom. When she is really sad. Sometimes this is something the actors cannot get that from the text.

L

So, you want to give the actors more freedom?

K

Yes. You have to trust the actors.

L

To what extent is the historical background important to your work? Do you read lots of books, or do you try to make up your own mind? K I guess every part is different. I will do some research on the character, depending on the film and subject matter. Eadweard was very historical and on real people. So we did a lot of research. The second script was not. So we did not. We made up our own characters. We just researched home-schooling. And the third film is from a book. So a lot of information and research is in the book. We have just been researching teens’ suicide. Every project is different.

Eadweard, film poster, 2015.
Eadweard, film poster, 2015.

L

Can you image giving up on acting?

K

You are trying to make me pick one of these three! Noooo

L

No.                

          Both laughing

Just with more directing coming up…

K

We will see what happens. I love acting, I love writing, I love directing. I am gonna do it all.

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