“Decisions” is an independent film shot in Dallas Texas. We were invited on the last shoot — which was a skeleton crew for a pickup scene which made it more intimate than ever.
“Decisions” is a Slo Rowe Entertainment production presently in post and scheduled for release this summer. Watch for it.
Penn & Teller put painter under the lens in Tim’s Vermeer February 20, 2014 Linda Barnard
Displayed with permission from Toronto Star Illusionists Penn & Teller, known as devoted debunkers, may have explained in the new documentary Tim’s Vermeer how Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer may have used lenses and related trickery to “paint with light” in the 17th century.
But, as they explained in an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival last September where the Teller-directed documentary premiered, that doesn’t diminish the accomplishments of the painter of Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Tim’s Vermeer follows Texas inventor Tim Jenison, a longtime friend of Penn Jillette and his magician partner, the single-named Teller. Jenison readily admits in the film he’s not an artist but he was inspired by contemporary books that explored the mechanics Vermeer might have used to complete his photorealistic paintings.
To prove the theories, Jenison follows a lengthy, almost tortuous process to replicate Vermeer’s method — right down to building a replica of the painter’s Delft studio. There, he will attempt to paint Vermeer’s The Music Lesson.
Jenison is “95 per cent sure” he is following Vermeer’s technique, but Jillette has no doubt the Dutch painter created his light-filled works by first staging the scene he wanted to paint, then projecting the image onto a canvass using mirrors.
“I didn’t have the urge to share Tim with the world and I didn’t have any sort of urge to do a movie about Vermeer’s technique,” explained Jillette, who co-produced and narrates the film. “But I thought it was too interesting and too important not to be documented.”
Rather than a camera obscura, which requires a dark room to project an image on a wall, Jenison believed Vermeer used something akin to a camera lucida — a light room — to display the scene before him on a canvass.
Jenison calls it “the comparative mirror,” Teller explained, because it allowed him to perfectly match colours, shadows, light and the tiniest detail with true photorealism, nuances the eye can’t perceive.
It took Jenison five years, from the studio build to the final drop of paint.
“On every brush stroke, we had at least two cameras and often four,” said Jillette.
Did they ever worry Jenison would abandon the painting? He’s even asked that at one point in the film when he’s despairing over the tedium of the exercise.
“I have to say frankly, I never entertained that (he would quit),” said Jillette.
Teller, the silent partner when Penn & Teller are onstage, spoke freely during the interview.
“I was very content that Tim was going to be able to do this,” Teller said. “When we first sat at the kitchen table and I also tried the (Vermeer) process, it works fine. It’s dreadfully slow. You become like a machine but it was clear this process was going to work.”
Are they discounting Vermeer’s genius with their film?
“Well yes,” said Jillette. “Discounting that supernatural genius that he could just walk in and out of his imagination and paint it, but bringing in a much stronger genius, a genius that’s real of someone who can play out what they picture should look like and make that beautiful.”
As for Jenison, “I don’t think he’ll do another Vermeer,” said Jillette. “He’s talking about (Italian painter) Caravaggio.”
More important than what lies ahead for Jenison is the artistic gift he’s given the world with his painterly research, Jillette pointed out.
“What’s not talked about and what I always think we should talk about more is the device now goes back into the world,” he said. “When Vermeer developed this device … it was meant to be kept secret. We’re doing everything we can to get this out. Within six months worldwide, thousands of people will be creating art with this device.”