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Noah Lambie’s interest in filmmaking was first sparked by a love for art. His mother taught art camps for kids, and he always loved drawing. He began experimenting with video projects in school, and as a preteen he played around with videotaping a television show called Monday Morning Madness. While he was in college, he started experimenting even more with photography and film, and explored how they could intersect and overlap. He also developed a keen interest in science and physics.
Following college he set out on the road from Maine with good friend and poet Dennis Arlo Voohees. They ran out of money in Oregon and loved it so much that they decided to stay here. Lambie now teaches high school art and physics classes in Lincoln City where he lives with his wife and two daughters.
Arts & Life recently talked with Lambie about his biggest influences and what inspired his film While You Were Out.
Q & A with Noah Lambie
A&L: What have been some of the biggest influences in your life?
Noah Lambie: Art teachers, my mom and dad who enabled my experimentation, and artists and scientists — William Kentridge is a South African artist who makes beautiful experimental charcoal animations. Also, scientists (and some artists) who commit their days to understanding and communicating some small facet of reality. I think I also let my daily experience have a direct influence on my work, by borrowing, taking and reworking objects I come in contact with.
A&L: What is the story behind While You Were Out? Where did your inspiration for the video come from?
NL: This movie started as an experiment about scale and became a reflection of my daily routines (though I’ve never held a gun, nor injected intravenously). For me it is about transitions, between life and memory, between moments in space and time, and also about scale. This film shows that another reality is revealed when observed at an absurd scale, which reflects our best scientific descriptions of our world — that sense and logic are not consistent across scales (think statistical analysis and uncertainty principle in quantum physics or time dilation in relativity).
It also emphasizes that we make our own interpretations of experience and fill in the gaps to make a series of still images feel fluid and logical. The sequences became arranged to tell the story of a man remembering things he’d rather forget, dealing with a past life of drugs, violence, addictions and insanity.
A&L: What went into the making of this video?
NL: Well, I spent some time at work drawing flipbooks when I was a cook. Between that and home, drawing on and off, the drawings were probably collected over a single year. I filmed most of it in a single shot and sped it up by several hundred times.
It was very difficult keeping track of all these flipbooks as my collection grew. I had to decide on an order and keep them organized so that I could remember and then film that order.
As part of the gambling Keno sequence, I included a heartbeat animation on one of my active checkbooks. At the time, I was not expecting many other people to see the film, but when it was going to appear in Ovation’s short film festival, I was trying to figure out whether I should do anything about my bank numbers being legible. My wife convinced me to cancel that bank account. It was an interesting conversation with the teller.
A&L: Do you have a day job?
NL: I am a high school and middle school teacher of physics and art. I use many multimedia programs in the classroom in science and art. My favorites are projectiles mapped out on graph paper and animated frame by frame on iPods with a program called iMotion HD. I am hoping to run a coastal film fest here in Lincoln City this spring to help connect the school with the community and bring film creativity to the forefront of this small tourist town.
A&L: Do you have any future projects coming up?
NL: A collaboration with Portland poet Dennis Arlo Voorhees called Smiling in Photographs. It is a visual and poetic medley that follows a farm boy’s transition into city slicker.
I am also working on a few solo projects, working on improving and integrating film in the classroom, as well as the film fest I hope to make happen this spring.
Another ongoing project is to make common household boxes (Cheez-Its, soap …) into pinhole cameras and capturing domestic scenes on the interfaces.
A&L: Do you have any advice you’d like to pass along?
NL: Don’t spend too much time making sense.
Watch Noah Lambie’s films While You Were Out on August 27 at 10 p.m. on OPB TV.