The buzzy new feature Eadweard, opening Friday (October 16), does a mindblowing job of conjuring 19th century California and Pennsylvania out of its Lower Mainland locations. But any movie about photography pioneer Eadweard Muybridge requires another and no less majestic type of scenery, and the film dutifully (and rather eye-catchingly) recreates the nude motion studies that scandalized Muybridge’s puritanical sponsors. Chatting to the Straight over coffees, writer-director Kyle Rideout explains that he had some reassuring words for his actors when it came to dropping everything for the camera.
“I went across Canada naked, every single night, in front of five to six hundred people,” he says, referring to his time in the cast of the 2009 theatre production that inspired the film, Studies in Motion: The Hauntings of Eadweard Muybridge. “After a while it just feels like a costume. You don’t have too much time to think about it. Unless you find out your aunt is in the audience.”
Besides all the genitalia, there a number of reasons that Eadweard was an astoundingly inadvisable project for a first-time feature filmmaker working in the underfunded wilds of Aldergrove. Rideout enthusiastically agrees. “We did all the things you’re not supposed to put in a film,” he snorts. “Kids, animals, multiple locations, visual effects—and it’s a period movie.”
Not only that, but the director and his producing-writing partner Josh Epstein wanted to smuggle the “Quebecois-sensibility” into their debut. Hence the presence of editor Elisabeth Olga Tremblay on the project, a “tricky thing to do with BC and tax credits,” adds Rideout, who still managed to deliver the finished film for a ridiculous $150 thousand.
Rideout puts it all down to timing, goodwill, and the undeniable pull exerted by the material. “We kept thinking that this subject matter is so interesting, why isn’t this a movie?” he says, and indeed, he and Epstein would eventually discover that Gary Oldman and the reigning king of 21st century motion capture Andy Serkis were both trying to make their own versions of the story. I’d challenge either one of them to match yet another of Eadweard’s great pieces of scenery: star Michael Eklund.
“I know,” chuckles Rideout. “It’s a fierce beard.”