In the 1870s and ‘80s English photographer Eadweard Muybridge was feverishly photographing animals, people in the nude, and people with physical deformities. He is famous for successfully producing a stop-motion sequence of still photographs demonstrating that all four legs of a horse are off the ground at a gallop.
Sallie Gardner at a Gallop, as it is known, was the product of Muybridge’s obsession with the movement of human and animal forms. With equal parts ingenuity and raving lunacy Muybridge created what was to be the beginnings of cinematography for silent film with his 1879 invention of the zoopraxiscope.
You would know this history of Muybridge and his eccentricities if you were a film or photography student, or if you attended the production of Kevin Kerr’s play Studies in Motion: The Hauntings of Eadweard Muybridge at the Yukon Arts Centre in 2009.
Six years later, the story of Eadweard Muybridge is returning to the Yukon through the medium of film. Fuelled with a grant from the Telefilm Canada Micro-Budget Production Program, writers Josh Epstein and Kyle Rideout have adapted the play to the screen.
The film captures the beauty, grace and complete emotional torment that both Muybridge and his work represent. Fascinated by the journey this project took from stage to screen I caught up Josh Epstein last week while he was in Toronto promoting the film.
Andrew Gilbutowicz: How did you and Kyle Rideout decide to make a film about Eadweard Muybridge?
Josh Epstein: We actually started writing together while touring the successful stage production Studies in Motion… We were always intrigued by Eadweard Muybridge’s life and wanted to dig deeper. People are often shocked that this story has never been made into a feature film, and while writing Eadweard, we sensed that Eadweard Muybrige is one of those historical figures who never quite got his due. He is the godfather of cinema, but his obsessions got the best of him.
AG: The characters are so well crafted in the film. After working with the story as a theatre experience do you think the elements of the characters and story were analyzed differently now that you were putting them to screen?
JE: We definitely spent the most time re-evaluating the character of Flora, Eadweard’s wife. We worked diligently to make her more present in his life and give her strong goals of working alongside him, instead of just being stuck at home. We also explored her take-charge attitude in seeking Eadweard out.
The major difference, though, is that we really tried to make a film; there is nothing staged about the film. It’s incredibly cinematic. We shot all over BC, climbed mountains and found gorgeous scenery to shoot.
AG: How important is it that this film is predominantly a Canadian production and from a theatrical background?
JE: For us it’s very important. It wasn’t completely overnight, but our background was definitely theatre and I think we’ve demonstrated that wall was not impossible to climb… Neither of us had made a feature before, but we surrounded ourselves with wonderfully competent people from the theatre and film worlds. They figured it out.
AG: What were some of the talents you brought from theatre production to the film set?
JE: The ability to work with actors. I understand actors and know how to talk to them. The theatre world also teaches you very well how to make something out of nothing.
AG: What are some things to look forward to for your workshop on developing fiction film ideas for micro-budget productions on Nov. 16?
JE: I’ve been spending a lot of time lately crafting pitches and would love to spend some time working on those. That’s step one! We will then move through step one to 1,000… Honestly, I’m excited to see what projects are brought forward and how I can better prepare them for what they will need to get the story out to the world.
Josh Epstein will join the Yukon Film Society during the screening of Eadweard on Sunday, Nov. 15 at the Yukon Arts Centre at 7:30 p.m. for a Q&A, as well as a workshop on Developing Fiction Film Ideas for Micro-Budget Production on Monday, Nov. 16th. Go to www.YukonFilmSociety.com for the film trailer and more information.