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Ron Howard looks to digital generation for inspiration

May 23, 2011 |  7:57 pm

Ron Howard Today’s youth are the most photographed and filmed generation in history and that holds a special fascination for Ron Howard, a man who knows exactly what it’s like to grow up with the cameras rolling.

“Whether people know it or not, they are developing a visual style, an aesthetic, a point of view about the pictures they take, they are,” the Oscar-winning filmmaker said. “They are seeing the world in a different way.”

The 57-year-old Howard sees a poise and perspective in today’s digital youth that eluded him even as a child actor on “The Andy Griffith Show” and as young star of “Happy Days” and “American Graffiti.” That acting career gave way to a celebrated filmmaking career (“A Beautiful Mind,” “Apollo 13,” “The DaVinci Code,” “Frost/Nixon”) but now, seeing the impact of the digital devices on modern culture, Howard is increasingly fascinated with muse of the masses.

In short, a man who grew up as the definition of Hollywood professionalism thinks he has plenty to learn from the collective amateur imagination of an audience that makes movies of their own every day.

That’s one of the reasons the Oscar-winning filmmaker announced an unexpected new enterprise this week -– it’s a partnership with Canon for an international photo contest, but the final goal is to use the eight winning entries as creative coordinates of a short film that connects the seemingly random images within a unified story. Howard will work with the contest and the film every step of the way and be there with winners at the red-carpet event in New York later this year.

For the corporate sponsor, no surprise, the hope is to get people using Canon gear as well as a new online community called Long Live Imagination. But Howard seems to be coming into the venture with the unexpected hope of finding a new method of adding creative crackle to his own filmmaking.

“It’s more and more difficult to find fresh stories,” Howard said. “I honestly think that some version of this creative exercise is something I will do on my films forever. Not with a contest, necessarily, but this idea of using sets of images that would appear to be only loosely linked to your story –- I think that is going to push me and all of us involved in this project outside of the box in a way that is fresh and exciting.”

Ron Howard Oscars 

Howard has plenty on his plate already with an adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” that is planned as a multimedia epic that will spill across a film trilogy and television series. He said it’s too soon to talk about specifics on that venture but it sounded as if the surreal King fantasy tale might find some of its contours with these exercises that might tilt Howard's familiar storytelling approaches.   

Howard has no interest in making abstract films or collages (“I’m still a fairly traditional narrative storyteller,” he said) but it’s clear that the overture by Canon to get involved in the contest in a big way has dovetailed with the filmmaker’s own interest in the 2011 culture of camera. Howard knows his audience is changing in the way they see things; he also knows that a society of photographers leads to an interesting conversation on viewers and viewpoint.

“People are seeing the world in a more detailed and specific way and tastes are shifting as well,” Howard said. “Whether it's snaps off a phone or the people that get hold of something superior that they can get more creative with –- gear that allows them to carefully compose and shoot images as art-- what’s happening is everyone is quietly developing a sensibility. It’s part of our contemporary life. I think people are far more creative than they allow themselves to believe or trust. I want to see where they go.”


As for the contest itself, submissions can be made through June 14. Photos will be selected to represent eight movie “themes”: Setting, time, character, mood, relationship, goal, obstacle and the unknown. The entries will be narrowed by the online community, by Canon’s panel and by Howard.  Eight winning photos will become “the basis and inspiration” for a short film. For details and rules visit: www.youtube.com/imagination

“It’s a little bit like the game you sometimes play where you start with a few lines on a blank page and see what you can build out of that by passing the page around from kid to kid and parent to parent and watching this picture that is built out of the lines,” Howard said. “I love the idea of engaging in that way with all of the photographers out there. And I want to engage with the ideas, too.”

-- Geoff Boucher


Ron Howard's plan and passion for "The Dark Tower"


Top, Ron Howard. Credit: Imagine Entertainment.

Bottom: Howard holds his Oscar for best director for "A Beautiful Mind" at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on March 24, 2002. Credit: Associated Press


Comments () | Archives (8)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Very exciting project!

What a great piece this is, Geoff. Really a pleasure to read.

This project is an incredible opportunity for photographers... serious shooters and snap-happy schmucks alike. I'm in between the two and have already entered all four categories.

I was trolling for a good photo contest earlier this evening, searched 'submit photo' and came up with Howard's 'Project Imagin8ion.' Coolest contest I've come across in the two years I've been shooting and entering them.

I have a 'Google Alert' setup to send me an email when anything with the words 'photography contest' hits the web. Your article was just sent to me. How cool is that!

Put in a good word for me. ; )
Does this mean I'm disqualified? ha! That would suck.

M.C. O'Connor

why doesn't ron make a real movie
the baby boomers
he is one afterall
and i dont mean flashbacks to woodstock
i mean vietnam
how "the greatest generation" screwed over america
the rise of the 2 income family during reagan
"the greatest generation" 20 year pension plans--retiring at 40
"the greatest generation" getting free college

good post

How cool is this!

There have been very significant technical difficulties with the administration of the Canon Contest-they are actively working the problem-meanwhile the many once enthusiastic contestants have turned into a very out-spoken group-meanwhile the very cool-COUNT DOWN TO UPLOAD CLOCK IS THE ONLY TRULY FUNCTIONAL ASPECT OF THE SITE! Contestants continue to be optimistic-to a near viral pace at trying to facilitate a solution to this PR debacle!

I tried to ask a question in regards to this project he has going on and for some odd reason I couldn't log into my YouTube account.
I had a picture I took as we entered the airspace of Florida, we were moving from Massachusetts to Florida and it was clear and sunny all the way until according to the pilot we crossed from Georgia into Florida, he said "Maybe It Was a Sign"?!
For us it was and I think what we had believed all this time was true and I think it would make an interesting short film.
I'd like to see if it interests Mr. Howard, but since I can't log onto YouTube I have no idea where else to post the question so he or one of his people see it and maybe show an interest.
It was like a sign of things to come and we've been paying for it ever since.
The picture was taken some time ago and it was how the sun reflected off the clouds and looked more like snow to us since we had lived all our lives in Massachusetts and we all thought we were being told to go back home and Florida wasn’t home.

Mr. Howard, please read The Cathedral by Nelson DeMille. This book needs to be made into a movie and only youi could do it justice. I have read the book 4 times and each time it gets time it gets better.

Thank You


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