The Magnetic Detective is a parody of classic film noir stories. Mystery and humor are woven together in nine minutes of mostly black and white footage. The narrator is an unseen private eye, whose only means of expression is a collection of magnetic words sticking to metal objects in the scenes. The story line is ambiguous -- Does he finally get the girl? Does he solve the mystery? It's not all black-and-white. And neither is the movie. But one thing is obvious: the detective tells the story with a sense of irony so strong that magnets could stick to it.
Bryan Dahlberg has had a long love affair with film noir. He even respects it the next morning. This film came about through a serendipitous combination of that affection and two random events.
Standing in the checkout line of a bookstore, he noticed a small box labeled “Magnetic Poetry Kit, Detective Novel Edition” and bought it on impulse. A few minutes later, while walking back to his truck, he passed a metal post with a single word painted on it. The entire project suddenly took shape in his mind. The scene containing that post was the first one shot for the film, and it’s the last scene in the film.
Except for the shots containing people, most of the photography was done spontaneously. For more than a year, Dahlberg carried the words of his Magnetic Poetry Kit on a sheet of steel stashed behind the seat of his truck. With it he always carried at least one small video camera. He spent a lot of time detouring through grungy industrial areas and alleys in the dark, looking for places to stick his magnetic words.