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'Find Me A Dodo' And Other Absurd Requests

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.

  • A cutout of Hitler is nearly crushed by a shoe. "Although I'm quite bendy, I physically couldn't shoot it, be in the shoes and animate a cutout all at the same time," Hill explains. So he borrowed a friend's foot for this scene.
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    A cutout of Hitler is nearly crushed by a shoe. "Although I'm quite bendy, I physically couldn't shoot it, be in the shoes and animate a cutout all at the same time," Hill explains. So he borrowed a friend's foot for this scene.
    All images courtesy Laurie Hill
  • Hill attaches Blu-Tack and wire to images of Yetis.
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    Hill attaches Blu-Tack and wire to images of Yetis.
  • No after-effects here. Hill created this scene by continually adjusting his Yetis and the drawers. "I was determined to do it all physically — no compositing tricks," he says.
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    No after-effects here. Hill created this scene by continually adjusting his Yetis and the drawers. "I was determined to do it all physically — no compositing tricks," he says.
  • History collides with a little help from after-effects. "It would have taken such a long time to pull off if I was doing it all totally physically," he says.
    Hide caption
    History collides with a little help from after-effects. "It would have taken such a long time to pull off if I was doing it all totally physically," he says.
  • All of these images were found in the archives, copied and turned into cutouts.
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    All of these images were found in the archives, copied and turned into cutouts.
  • A Victorian lady takes a walk through the Edwardian period with the help of hidden supports connected to her rear.
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    A Victorian lady takes a walk through the Edwardian period with the help of hidden supports connected to her rear.
  • Although many an editor would like a photo of a dodo, a rendition will have to do because they became extinct in the mid-1700s.
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    Although many an editor would like a photo of a dodo, a rendition will have to do because they became extinct in the mid-1700s.
  • A photograph of Jesus tops the list of impossible requests — because photography emerged about 1,800 years after his life.
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    A photograph of Jesus tops the list of impossible requests — because photography emerged about 1,800 years after his life.

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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.

Have an idea? Pitch it!

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