EXCLUSIVE: Modern American culture – hell, world culture – is impossible to separate from technological innovation and the rush to invent, and perhaps get rich from, the next big invention. It makes sense then that we mythologize the millionaires and billionaires created by the tech sector, analyzing the complex character of the likes of Steve Jobs or Thomas Edison. But those guys weren’t just larger than life figures, they actively promoted their images, making it easy for them to become pop culture shibboleths for “American Entrepreneurship”.
Maybe that’s why Eadweard Muybridge remains a somewhat obscure figure. The English-born photographer, best known for “The Horse In Motion,” an early motion picture based a photo he took in order to settle a debate over whether or not all four hooves left the ground during a full gallop, was in his day one of the most famous photographers in the world. He was also a pioneering inventor who created technologies that would make movies possible. (He’s also responsible for the techniques behind”Bullet Time”.) However, a difficult person obsessively driven by his work, thanks to his rocky, tabloid-esque private life and instances of not receiving full credit for his accomplishments, his legacy in the creation of film has long been overshadowed by those who came after him.
That might change with Eadweard, a biopic that snuck into the small festival circuit this year from director Kyle Ridout, soon to be screened for buyers by Concourse Film Trade, which has global rights to the film. Following Muybridge’s career from his innovative landscape photography in the 1840s and 50s through his pioneering motion capture techniques that paved the groundwork for true moving picture cameras, the film also touches on his tumultuous personal life (which included some time spent in prison after he killed his wife’s lover). But the frame of the story is pure Silicon Valley, detailing Muybridge’s quest to secure $50,000 in funding for his photographic experiments.
“That’s what drew us in on this film,” said James Andrew Felts of Concourse Film Trade. “There are a lot of period movies that place achievements or visionary elements in this abstract way you can’t really connect to. When you’re watching this film it’s very relevant to today. You see him trying to raise money, trying to put this altogether, you see his personal struggle, the tabloid elements, dealing with relationships, having a marriage but trying to discover cinema, dealing with temptation.”
Related to that is Muybridge’s relationship with Leland Stanford – it was Stanford, former governor of California and wealthy tycoon who contracted Muybridge to take the photo that would later be expanded into “The Horse In Motion.” That photo was the beginning of a long patron/creator partnership that could also be considered the first ever instance of venture capitalism tied to innovation in California. (Fittingly, Stanford is that Stanford – the university is named for him.)
That was also part of what drew Concourse to the project. “As an entrepreneur, I saw this film and connected to it on a deep element,” Felts told us. “Our fascination with Apple and Steve Jobs, with Elon Musk trying to get to space, I think that [Eadweard] is really in the zeitgeist building something from the ground up that’s super visionary. It’s going to be extremely relevant to people trying to start their own company, or are part of that culture.”
It’s already connected with festival audiences, winning audience awards at the Nashville Film Festival and the Maui Film Festival. Concourse, which has had success discovering other interesting projects from obscurity, including The Phoenix Incident, will begin showing the film for potential buyers with a dual screening August 11 in both Los Angeles and New York City. It will show at the Landmark Regent in LA, and at New York’s Magno Theater, at 6:15 PM in both locales. This will be followed by market screenings at AFM and closed door meetings at TIFF.