Writer / Director / Editor: Joshua Frankel
Running time: 5 min
For more information visit: www.bicyclemessengersmovie.com
• Avignon Film Festival
• Santa Barbara International Film Festival
• Rhode Island International Film Festival
• The Bicycle Film Festival
BICYCLE MESSENGERS is a short film in which all of the messengers are animated and all of the backgrounds and environments are live-action footage shot in Midtown Manhattan. By juxtaposing the animated characters on top of the live action, the film highlights the peculiar relationship between bicycle messengers and the modern city in which they operate.
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What inspired you to make this piece?
I spent about three years working at an animation and visual effects production house in Midtown Manhattan, which was located in a building just barely too small to have a separate entrance for messengers. So I would see messengers in the lobby, in the elevators, and in our office, and I became fascinated. Eventually, I quit that job so that I could create this film.
Briefly tell us how you made your film or video: what camera and format did you use to shoot your piece, and what system did you use to edit it? What is your working process? Did you use any special techniques to make this work?
The live action footage was shot on DV. To get some of the more dynamic shots in traffic we used a small Panasonic 3 chip camera that we were able to clamp to bikes, backpacks, helmets, etc. For less dangerous shots we used the Panasonic DVX100. I edited on Avid Xpress Pro. The characters were created in Maya and composited in Fusion. The camera tracking was done with Boujou, which 2D3 graciously provided to the project pro bono.
Do you have any interesting behind-the-scenes stories about the making of this particular work?
A lot of New Yorkers participated in this film and don't know it, mostly because the main characters existed only in my imagination at the time of the filming. While we were filming certain shots near the end of the piece, some pedestrians saw us using a camera and looked over at us, wondering what we were doing … but in the film it looks like they are looking directly at the hero messenger, so it works perfectly.
Shooting in Midtown in the summer of 2004, we also had quite a lot of trouble with security guards worried about terrorism. Cameras can make some people very nervous. On one particular shooting day I woke up in the morning and went to the bodega to pick up a quart of milk. At the bodega I saw, on the cover of the NEW YORK POST, a photograph the location I had picked out for that day with the words "Terrorist Target" printed above it. There were checkpoints up and down the avenue, and cops and soldiers everywhere. We decided to try to get the shots anyway. In doing so we discovered that, interestingly, when there is an actual threat of terrorism, when there is actually serious work to do, security guards, cops, and soldiers couldn't care less about some guy with a video camera, and we got the shots with less hassle then we got on most other days.
What is the relationship between your work as a video/filmmaker and life in the New York metropolitan area?
I was born and raised in the Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan. The city is a major source of inspiration in all of my work. I created this film during a period of my life when I was living and working in Midtown. Every shot in the film was taken between Lexington and Eighth avenues and between 36th and 57th streets. So the film very much reflects the world that I was living in at that time.
What films/videos and makers have inspired you or influenced your work? And why?
Robert Zemeckis's WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? is obviously a huge influence for me. I'm also quite interested in how Ken Burns, Michael Moore, and Gillo Pontecorvo use documentary techniques to create mythologies. BICYCLE MESSENGERS is very much about creating mythology, which is part of why the messengers in the film aren't really there. We tend to associate documentary with fact and myth with fiction, but in reality the two are extremely similar, perhaps even synonymous.
If viewers are interested in obtaining copies of your work for rental or purchase, whom should they contact and at what address and phone number?
Anyone who wants to screen BICYCLE MESSENGERS should contact me at Joshua@bicyclemessengersmovie
.com. It is not currently available for purchase, but maybe it will be one day. The best way to keep up with announcements about screenings (and maybe one day announcements about the film being available for purchase), is to sign up for the e-mail list. I only send out about one e-mail a month, so it won't clog your in box. You can sign up at the film's Web site: http://www.bicyclemessengersmovie.com