Eadweard Muybridge has been an inspiration to us at PAIFF ever since we learned of the experiments that took place in Palo Alto back in 1878 that led to the evolution of motion pictures. When a horse is running, do all four hooves ever leave the ground at the same time? That was the wager that the former Governor of California Leland Stanford had with some of his friends. There was much controversy in horse racing circles at the time, and though most people believed that a horse always has one hoof in contact with the ground, Stanford thought otherwise. Because a horse’s legs are moving so fast, it’s impossible to tell just by looking, so he needed a way to slow down the movement so it could be studied.
In 1872 Stanford offered Eadweard Muybridge, a world-famous photographer of landscapes, $25,000 to find the answer. Muybridge wasn’t quite sure he could set up and perform an experiment to settle the dispute, but with that much money at stake, he agreed to take on the challenge. In 1878, after many experiments, he succeeded in achieving the results he needed to settle the bet and collect the $25,000. He had a sequence of 12 images, and one of them clearly showed that all four of the horse’s hooves were off the ground at the same time. It was the first successful photographic representation of a sequence of movement, and it made him an international star.
What if we were able to modernize the motion experiment that took place at the Stanford Stock Farm in 1878? Could we possibly have the Muybridge horse running through the streets of Palo Alto more than a century later? With great excitement, we invited two French filmmakers, who have perfected the art of street mapping, Romain Vollet and Julien Nonnon of Le3 Paris, to ask them for advice on how to actualize our own version of the historical event. With the assistance of the French American Cultural Society, the French Consulate, and Uber, we flew them out to Palo Alto to assist us in producing the trailer.
Filming took place over two nights, navigating the landmarks of Palo Alto from sundown until early morning. Some creative driving, an incredibly patient Uber driver, some luck with extra Caltrains (thanks Giants!), and plenty of encouragement from the patrons pouring out of Rudy’s and Antonio’s Nut House at closing time, led to plenty of great material in the can.
Romain, Julien, and our own Director of Programming, Alf Seccombe, edited about twelve hours of filming down to the one minute trailer. We then found the perfect soundtrack, produced by Adam Forkner, to match the mesmerizing gallop of Muybridge's horse through the city streets. The finished trailer was completed with no post-processing of the originally shot material - a mantra of the team at Le3 Paris. We’d like to think Muybridge would be proud to be the inspiration for our trailer, a modernized version of his horse galloping alongside each of the Palo Alto Int’l Film Festival venues.
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