Last year, Ron Howard and Canon USA invited the public to submit photographs that would influence the theme, script, and look of a Ron Howard production. From almost 100,000 photos, eight were selected. Ron’s daughter, actress Bryce Dallas Howard, directed the short “when you find me.” It was called “Project Imagin8ion” (8 categories, 8 winners).
The adventure continues. “Project Imaginat10n,” is now underway at imagination.usa.canon.com – with 10 categories this year, 10 winners, and 10 short films to be produced.
The first five shorts will be directed by Eva Longoria, actress (Desperate Housewives); Jamie Foxx, actor, comedian, singer, songwriter; Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter; Georgina Chapman, fashion designer, actress, founder of Marchesa; and James Murphy, singer, songwriter, and founder of LCD Soundsystem.
“Project Imaginat10n” Rules
The contest runs from Tuesday, August 14 – Monday, September 24, 2012. To enter, visit imagination.usa.canon.com. The 10 categories/themes/story elements are: Setting, Time, Character, Mood, Backstory, Relationship, Goal, Obstacle, The Unknown, and a surprise 10th theme, which will be revealed at a later date. There will be a public vote to select finalists from September 4 – October 1. With input from the online community, Canon and Ron Howard, the entries will be narrowed down to 91 semi-finalists, and the five celebrity directors will then select ten photos, one per theme, to inspire their films. The films will be shown at a special Canon “Project Imaginat10n” Film Festival in 2013. Winners get Canon equipment (see details online) and tickets to the premiere, which was a superb and lavish affair at the NY Museum of Natural History last year.
Ron Howard on Imaginat10n
I spoke with Ron Howard about the Project Imaginations (8 and 10), his projects, Canon cameras, and, of course, our favorite topic, technique and technology.
JON FAUER: The development of Canon cinema cameras is an interesting journey and it’s exciting that you’re involved in “take two” of the Imagination Projects.
RON HOWARD: I had a really good experience last time. I think Canon was proud of what their idea yielded and not just in terms of the film that Bryce directed, but also the response of having over 97,000 people submitting photographs. The commercial and the program captivated people’s imaginations in the way that you’d hope something called “Project Imagination” would.
I was attracted to it because I thought it was smart, creative, and really an irresistible creative experiment to get involved with. I was pleased to see how personal a movie Bryce was able to make – given the parameters of the contest. She did great. I think it really proved the validity of the premise, which is one of the things that led to this next level. I just kept saying how great it was, that it would be good to scale it up and maybe film schools would want to try this exercise (of creating scripts from photographs).
Canon went further and wanted to see what other proven individuals from other creative but slightly different disciplines would do with this experiment. It is a very intriguing idea.
JON FAUER: Will you be supervising these people?
RON HOWARD: Not in terms of dictating anything, but I’ve already met with them and I will read their scripts and see cuts of the movies. I’ll comment, but Canon is very much allowing them to make the movie they want to make, just as they allowed Bryce and me to do what we wanted to do last year creatively.
But I’m here as a sort of a support system, not to guide or dictate anything.
JON FAUER: Will they be required to do a screenplay from the pictures?
RON HOWARD: I’m sure they’ll probably wind up working with a writer or writers, but I’m also sure that they’ll work on their own scripts, either in collaboration with that writer or somebody may choose to write on their own. There are no rules there. There are no mandates.
JON FAUER: In terms of the equipment, are they going to use the Canon EOS C300 that you and Bryce used, or the C500?
RON HOWARD: Last time, Canon wanted to test/debut the C300 and it turned out to be a fantastic camera to use. Totally unrelated to Project Imagination, on my next feature film that I directed, called Rush, which is coming out next year, Anthony Dodd Mantle, the cinematographer, used C300 cameras. Anthony has used Canon equipment a lot over the years. He’s the guy who shot Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. He’s a very cool, progressive cinematographer.
Anthony wanted to use the Canon C300s for our movie because of the efficiency, the size, and the flexibility of the equipment. We wound up using the C300 a lot. We also had ARRI Alexas and other cameras – but we had four C300s on the movie and used them every day and they were great.
On Project Imationat10n, I think they’re definitely going to be using a variety of Canon cameras – but it’ll be up to the production team with each of the directors. I assume everyone’s going to want to experiment again, but maybe the C500 now that’s out, that’s great.
JON FAUER: And in the meantime, Canon has come out with a whole bunch of digital cinema cameras and lenses, so the line just seems to be expanding.
RON HOWARD: Well, I know that they’re also very open to feedback. I think part of why they wanted us to use those cameras on last season’s Project Imagination was that they frankly just wanted to get the feedback.
JON FAUER: It’s interesting, because here’s a company that’s been really famous for stills and suddenly they’re climbing into the high-end motion picture business. What do you think about the influence of this kind of new, breakthrough technology on technique, and how movies are actually perceived, imagined, and made?
RON HOWARD: I think it’s democratizing the process and I think they discovered with the 5D just how great an appetite there was for independent filmmakers, students, semi-pros and professionals to be efficient and/or lean and mean. To actually apply this technology, as often happens, is that people who are really dedicated to their medium take a new technological idea and immediately push it, stretch it, to its limits.
In this case, they discovered a lot of hidden strengths in what Canon was doing. And Canon just kept asking questions, kept talking to filmmakers, and stayed involved. I think that is what happened with the 5D: it alerted them to the possibility that there was a big appetite for what they already had a leg up on.
JON FAUER: Getting to your personal experience on Rush, your recent picture with Anthony, were there certain scenes or shots that you just dreamed up because you said, ‘We have this C300 or 500 and, now we can do this kind of a shot?’
RON HOWARD: Yes. On the one hand, it became our go-to handheld camera, but it also suggested a kind of a freedom so we would set shots and then we were even more aggressive and ambitious and experimental about tucking the camera away or going handheld with a longer lens from an off-position and using it as a way to capture something unexpected.
In two very significant ways, it was very, very different. The hand-held shots were sometimes close-ups, creating an intimacy. The other shots were grabbing the unexpected visual possibilities of a scene. It became a great tool on both fronts.