By Heather Murphy
If a Valentine's Day fight or a demanding boss has left you flooded with absurd requests, consider writing them down on a Post-it. Maybe one day, a filmmaker will gather these absurdities up and animate them into a beautiful collage. (You could also try leaving them in the comments. You never know ...)
That's just what short film director Laurie Hill did with a selection of utterly impossible requests received by Getty-Hulton archivist Matthew Butson. At the top of the list; a photograph of Jesus, an "action shot" of dodos (which died out in the mid-1700s), a portrait of Jack the Ripper and a group shot of Neil Armstrong with the 11 (!?) other astronauts who a requester thought had joined him on the first moon landing.
How did Hill get such a random idea for a film? After watching Photograph of Jesus, I called him and asked him. As it turns out, a producer offered him and several other filmmakers full-access to the Getty Hulton Archive if they'd make a film using archival material.
Wandering through the two-story warehouse, with its hundreds of boxes of images, Hill says he realized that there was a story to be told about the archive itself. He let his mind loose, creating fantastical stories from the juxtaposition of photographs: Britney Spears and Hillary Clinton both make out with dapper gentlemen from the early 1900s.
Hill says he created the short documentary in about three months using the labor intensive technique of stop-motion animation. He made cutouts of the images, attached wires to them and then physically moved them throughout the archives. The gallery below should give you a better sense of what this entailed.
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Working alone got tricky at times. "I was continually trying to work out practical solutions," he says. Practical sometimes meant borrowing a friend's foot or asking the night watchman to press the shutter.
At Sundance, his film showed before the documentary Smash His Camera about controversial celebrity photographer Ron Galella. In the film, we see Galella's archive, full of movie stars, artists and musicians, often in compromising situations. (Catching people drunk and disheveled after a night at Studio 54 was one of the paparazzo's early specialties.)
"It got me thinking," Hill says, laughing a little, "what would a film about Ron's archives look like?"
Have you ever received a request, so impossible, it merits a film? Share it below.