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EXCLUSIVE: Gravitas Ventures is saying “Yup” to a documentary about an artist referenced in Nope.
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The company has acquired North American rights to Exposing Muybridge, an award-winning film exploring the life and career of Eadweard Muybridge, an English-born, American-based photographer known for his pioneering motion studies. Gravitas will release the documentary, directed by Marc Shaffer, tomorrow on Digital HD, cable and satellite VOD, Blu-ray and DVD.
Muybridge’s work has been thrust front and center this summer courtesy of Jordan Peele’s horror-sci fi feature Nope. The photographer’s “Plate Number 626,” a motion study of a race horse ridden by a Black jockey, figures prominently in the box office hit.
Exposing Muybridge, meanwhile, boasts Hollywood connections of its own. Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman, an avid Muybridge fan and collector, is featured in the documentary, along with historians of film and photography, a museum curator, a wet-plate photographer and others.
Muybridge was born in England in 1830 and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 20. He was one of the first to photograph Yosemite; not only that, “He made the first photographs of winemaking in Northern California, produced the first photographs of native Tlingit people and of Southeast Alaska… and his photographs of Central America are widely considered the most important early images of the region,” as noted in a release from Gravitas.
But his motion studies and early work in cinematic projection are what he is best known for today.
“Eadweard Muybridge changed the world with his camera,” Shaffer said in a statement. “That would be reason enough to make a documentary, but his story is so much more than that. He led a fascinating, dramatic life, and one full of delicious surprises.”
Among those surprises—Muybridge’s acquittal in a murder trial in which he was accused of killing his wife’s lover.
“Mischievous, resilient, deceitful, proud—Muybridge was a complicated man,” the release from Gravitas said. “His personal story is as melodramatic as his professional one is distinguished, imbued with ambition and success, loss and betrayal, even the cold-blooded killing of a romantic rival.”
Earlier this year, Shaffer won the Writers Guild of America Award for his screenplay for Exposing Muybridge. The film is produced by Shaffer, Serginho Roosblad, and Elisabeth Haviland James; James also edited the film. Executive producers are Nion McEvoy and Leslie Berriman; Dana O’Keefe serves as co-executive producer.
Gravitas Ventures’ Bill Guentzler, senior director of acquisitions, negotiated the deal on behalf of the company, with Cinetic negotiating on behalf of Shaffer.
Shaffer is a two-time nominee for the News and Documentary Emmy Awards. His credits include 2014’s Broken Dreams: The Boeing 787, episodes of the documentary series Frontline and National Geographic Explorer, and the 2013 feature doc American Jerusalem: Jews and the Making of San Francisco.
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