The Emperor of Time is a strikingly heartfelt story about a man whose famous name is normally given a paragraph of explanation. Born from an obsession with the father of filmmaking, Eadweard Muybridge, the film is written from the perspective of the adoptive son whom he abandoned and visualized in a 19th century mutoscope. It's a heartfelt look not only at the man behind the footnote, but at how film changed humanity's perception of the world.
"I had been planning to do a film on Muybridge for the last seven years," filmmaker Drew Christie tells The Creators Project. "I got a book of his photos years ago and in that book there was some biographical information, mentioning his son that he abandoned and the fact that he murdered a man. From that point on, I was hooked." He wrote the script for the film, explaining Muybridge's story with gorgeous prose like, "He was the first man who stared at time itself and said, 'Stop.'"
Christie often focuses on creative minds from the past in his work, including Temple Grandin and Charles Bukowski, but he normally works in animation. "I kept having this feeling that since all of Muybridge's work was black-and-white photographs, this story should be realized to look like black-and-white photographs, not drawings of black-and-white photographs," he says. "I actually had to find a living, breathing horse and a living, breathing man to star in the film. Usually, I can just draw a horse or a person, but I had to find real stuff!"
He struck gold with retired actor Richard Evans, who happened to live on the same Washington island he inhabits. "He was in every classic western of the 60's: Rawhide, Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Lassie, Star Trek, and many others," says Christie. "He loved my script and agreed to come out of retirement and star as Muybridge. And luckily, my friend's mom has horses and she let us film on her property with them."
The Emperor of Time made the official selection at Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, and the Berkshire International Film Festival, and was recently released on Vimeo. Watch the full short below.
See more of Drew Christie's work on his website.