The Persistence of Digital Memory and the Making of Noah
An interview with Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg
In 2013, Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg — then still film students — made a short film called Noah, which cost them basically nothing to create (they paid for beer and pizza) and was set entirely inside the main character’s computer.
A story of relationships in our hyper-connected age, the short played at TIFF that year — and exploded in popularity. It was covered by everyone from Mashable to The New Yorker to VICE, and racked up millions of views on TIFF’s YouTube channel in a number of days.
Around that time, we set the video to "private" so the filmmakers could figure out how they wanted to distribute their work. But we’ve never lost touch with them, and recently they suggested we make the video available again. Which presented an excellent opportunity to reach out and see how the guys are doing today, and what it was like to become a global media phenomenon while still student filmmakers.
If you haven't seen the film, check it out below (there's some adult content in there, so viewer discretion is advised, especially if you're at work...):
YOU GUYS REALLY HIT A NERVE WITH NOAH. I REMEMBER WATCHING IT AND THINKING "THESE GUYS CAPTURED SOMETHING HORRIBLY PROFOUND ABOUT HOW WE LIVE NOW." AND EVERYONE ELSE SEEMED TO AGREE. WITH A COUPLE OF YEARS' DISTANCE, WHAT DOES THE FILM MEAN TO YOU BOTH NOW?
W: It was such an interesting start to a career to be hurdled out of a cannon. We just wanted to make something for us and ironically those are always the things that are honest and true.
P: It was about trying to do a film using a language that everyone speaks but we hadn’t seen explored authentically yet on screen. Seeing what it could evoke and what devices we could play with. I still remember being nervous screening the first edit, worried we were stuck in our own heads, but people responded so well to it, it was relieving. The hubbub around it was a lot of fun and very exciting, but I look back, like everyone does, and want to change things about the film itself — using lessons I’ve learned since.
WHAT DID THE FILM'S VIRAL SUCCESS MEAN FOR THE TWO OF YOU CAREER-WISE?
W: We got to go to L.A. and meet many amazing faces. Great stories and great hors d'oeuvres. We will be channeling those awesome people and experiences into new little nuggets of art!
P: Yeah we still work very closely with each other and our other partner Matt Hornick, and we all kinda rode the wave together and have been using the momentum to explore all sorts of different avenues in the industry.
HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO SOCIAL MEDIA CHANGED SINCE YOU CONCEIVED OF AND MADE THE FILM?
W: I'm somewhere between "Amish" and "despise" when people have their phones and become hopeless addicts of the endless stream of trivial information.
P: I was off Facebook before we made Noah — I had bad habits being on it way too much. But when we finished the film, I got it back and have been using it in moderation. Sometimes I click on trending stories and see the stream of random people from all over the world shouting at no one in particular about nothing in particular. That frustrates me and keeps me away, off in the real world with my real relationships.
I KNOW YOU'RE NOT PLANNING TO MAKE A FILM EXACTLY LIKE NOAH AGAIN, BUT DO YOU THINK YOU'D EVER MAKE (TOGETHER OR SEPARATELY) ANOTHER FILM THAT TAKES PLACE ENTIRELY IN THE WORLD OF COMPUTER/DEVICE SCREENS? WHY OR WHY NOT?
W: It's a fun language to speak in. While other films will not contain the same rawness as Noah, ya never know what's next. What could be fun or what could be a challenge.
IN ADDITION TO BEING FILMMAKERS, YOU GUYS ARE IN THE BAND shy kids. HOW DO MUSIC AND FILM INTERSECT FOR YOU? DOES YOUR MUSIC INFORM YOUR FILM WORK, AND VICE VERSA?
W: It is very similar in so many ways. It feels like music is a little more primal and film is a little more esoteric. While both film/music require you to express a certain level of pathos to the audience they go about it using very different tools. You must use the same passion and restraint in both mediums to make something good.
P: We try to tell stories through both forms, but Walter hit it on the head. Film is so much about planning and process and forethought before execution, where as music has always felt so much more immediate and in the moment. You can do a million things either way, and for us, the movements and motions we go through with one always inform the other.
THE BUDGET FOR THE FILM WAS BASICALLY JUST WHAT YOU SPENT ON BEER AND PIZZA. HOW DID THE LIMITATIONS OF SHOOTING WITHOUT ANY MONEY AFFECT THE PRODUCTION?
W: The less you have the less you have to worry about. It was an asset not to be able to solve issues with money. It is also amazing to have money and have a different kind of freedom!
P: Because it’s all on a screen and we wanted it to feel authentic, we didn’t want a lot of hubbub in regards to equipment or polish or production design, etc. It really helped the film feel as honest as it did.
ARE YOU GUYS PLANNING TO CREATE ANY MORE FILMS TOGETHER?
Yep. www.shy-kids.com and we promise we have many treats for you.