Thursday, March 12, 2009

Peter Esmonde and "Trimpin"

Peter Esmonde started off as an assistant editor in New York in the early 80s and has since worked his way up to directing his first project, Trimpin: The Sound of Invention, premiering at South by Southwest this week. Between editing and his directorial debut, Esmonde worked for Discovery Channel as a producer and part of the creative team in the early 90s that launched Discovery Online. From there he went on to do new media for Encyclopedia Brittanica. He graduated from Yale and AFI and has taught at schools such as NYU. After working for Encyclopedia Brittanica, Esmonde went on to do consulting which allowed him enough of an income to produce his first film, Trimpin.

Trimpin: The Sound of Invention is about the inventor/musician, Trimpin, who sees ordinary objects and instruments and makes unorthodox music/sounds. While his inventions are completely original and fascinating, it is Trimpin himself who makes the film so intriguing. Esmonde spoke about the inventor as a very reluctant subject who did not want to be filmed and only wanted to focus on his work. Esmonde had to work to gain Trimpin's approval and trust to film him for what turned out to be an 18 month long project. Though he did not speak much on camera in the clips shown during last night's discussion, Trimpin is completely fascinating because he is so quiet and focused on his work. He is exactly how we imagine a musical genius should look/act like. The clips we watched were all very interesting, with little to no dialogue, but made intriguing by the music being produced in them.

After only five minutes of listening to him speak, you can tell Esmonde is a very thoughtful and serious person who tries to look at things as logically as possible. When it comes to film making and the film industry, Esmonde is a bit cynical. He argued that documentaries are not real at all; that they are simply images and we manipulate them but no matter what we do the image we see will never be reality. He is also firmly against the formulas he says he was taught at AFI, claiming that they are underestimating the audience by assuming the audience wants the generic movie/tv formula. He encourages breaking the formula and trusting the audience is smart and capable enough to understand and enjoy your work without a formula. He also believes the film/tv industry is an unfair one, claiming employers get as much work out of you for as little as possible and if you don't like it there are five more people who are waiting to take your job. While this is seemingly truthful, Esmonde's own success story gives me hope that I won't be so unfortunate.

From hearing Peter Esmonde speak and seeing the clips he showed us, I would highly recommend going to see this film over spring break if you have the chance. There are three screenings:

Saturday, March 14  7:15 pm - Austin Convention Center
Monday, March 16  2 pm - Alamo @ Lamar
Friday, March 20  9 pm - The Paramount

Check out: for a preview of the film!

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