Step Inside the Computer Screen of 'Noah'

If you have been near the internet in the last few months, you have probably heard about <i>Noah</i>, a 17-minute short film that takes place entirely on a teenager's laptop screen. Last week, I skyped with the three directors to chat about the...

Jan 18 2014, 1:00pm

A still from Noah

If you have been near the internet in the last few months, you have probably heard about Noah, a 17-minute short film that takes place entirely on a teenager's laptop screen. In more conservative hands, a concept like this would consist of annoying moments that would make you want to rip your laptop screen off its hinges. Thankfully Patrick Cederberg, Matt Hornick, and Walter Woodman—the movie’s three Toronto-based student filmmakers—got into the nitty-gritty of our contemporary digital landscape, creating scenes that feature Facebook profile hacks and a barrage of cocks on Chatroulette.

Although the filmmakers removed the short from the internet because they’re entering it into 2014 film festivals, Noah remains cinema’s most accurate portrayal of communication in the internet age. Last week, I skyped with the three directors to chat about the creation of the movie, growing up online, and the internet's endless suppy of penises. 

From left: Patrick Cederberg, Matt Hornick, and Walter Woodman. 

VICE: Where did the idea for the movie come from?
Patrick Cederberg: Walter had written a draft that started out on a computer screen—basically the whole Chatroulette sequence—and in the second half left the computer as our hero went and found a girl he fell in love with on Chatroulette. But after a lot of discussion, we figured the real life part wasn't working, and we thought it'd be a cool challenge to do an entire short film in that box and see if it was possible to convey emotion and language using only what you see on the computer screen.

How long did it take to film the movie?
Walter Woodman: The longest part was making the profiles, which took a couple of months. We made these fake Facebooks, and we sent messages to one another and also tried to add kids from that school—the characters go to real schools that exist in Toronto, so we started adding kids from those schools. They'd be like, “Do I know you?” and we'd be like, “Yeah, from that party,” and they'd be like, “Oh, cool.” But the actual filming and screen capture only took a week. We sat in the room with our actors and ran over our Skype and Chatroulette scenes with a ton of takes, and then comped those in. We did the actual screen capture live. It was the three of us sitting around a bunch of computers, and each of us was assigned a different character.
Matt Hornick: We got the first half of the film in one night, and the second half in another night. It was just two nights for the screen capture.

Was the Chatroulette scene real or did you create that? 
Walter: You could never get that if you just go on Chatroulette randomly, so what we did was take our computer to our friend's house and just tell our friends to entertain us. Then we made a montage of our friends and showed it to the actor on Chatroulette. He didn't know what was coming next, so he just had to react to our friends. I can't really say legally whose cocks those were, but we do have a lot of friends who [showed their] dicks.

Throughout the movie, you zoom into different areas of the screen, which is how I always read on the computer. Right now, for instance, I’m looking at three different things as I talk to you. Did you zoom into different areas to recreate that reading style?
Patrick: In the initial cut, we wanted to see what it would be like to have a full screen capture that you could watch, but after about five minutes, it was incredibly boring. We found that unless we are in control you don't really know where to put your focus, so we decided that if we added in the focus moving around, it not only would give us a character we wanted but also would be a nice narrative tool to tell jokes.

You guys are in your early 20s, so you were brought up with this technology. Has the internet been there throughout all your formative years?
Patrick: It was around in elementary school when kids started to communicate this way, so we saw [the world] with and without the internet in a sense.
Matt: I think our age group is the last one to remember what it was like before the whole change to the internet.
Walter: We were less concerned about the exact technology. I didn't even have a Facebook when we started the whole thing. We wanted to make it so that it wasn't about those particulars. It wasn't about Facebook or ChatRoulette because those come and go—it was more about the style of communication and the body language. We were discussing, “Is there body language when you're watching someone else type?” There was a comment on YouTube saying, “Who the hell highlights their text when they're writing?” The reason that's in there is because I do that. 

You also deal with having porn on in the background of the computer screen while using the computer for other reasons. Why did you choose to have porn in the background of scenes?
Patrick: Being teenage boys in the era of the internet, that's so fresh in our habits. And we never wanted to approach something like this without being honest. This would've sucked really hard without it being brutally honest, which is why we wanted to put in the porn and the dicks.
Walter: There's also the cheeky nature of us doing a school project and wanting to put “Scene 1: He Goes To YouPorn.” We thought that was funny, but then it became less and less of “Look how clever we are.”  It was more like, “Fuck, this is what we do. This is the sad truth of who we are.” 


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