The Director's Chair Interviews
Lynn Hershman Leeson Conceives Digital 'Ada'
by Nina Davidson
PARK CITY, UT - Conceiving a film on a budget of $1 million inspired creative cost-cutting from director Lynn Hershman Leeson. With a background as a video artist, Leeson's cutting-edge multimedia designs assisted her in compositing backgrounds for her first feature film, "Conceiving Ada."
Leeson shot the principal actors, Tilda Swinton and Karen Black, in six days in an empty room. She added the backdrops of Victorian England in post-production by photographing bed and breakfasts of San Francisco and manipulating the images in Photoshop.
After all, her subject would have approved of her computer ingenuity. Ada Lovelace, the daughter of poet Lord Byron, invented the first computer language in the 19th century. "Conceiving Ada" follows the journey of a modern computer programmer who attempts to resurrect Ada through virtual reality.
"I just felt that her story should be told," she said. "I was doing something on the history of the telephone and I found out about her at that point. When I heard about her, I felt I should do something."
Leeson, in an oversized black trenchcoat and photoshades, kept her answers terse as she slogged through an early morning interview at the New Media Center at Prospector Square as snow blanketed Park City.
Although her first foray into the Sundance Film Festival, Leeson's familiarity with the art world extends to her tenure as an art professor at University of California at Davis. She said that her academic background did not help her in film.
"No, not at all," she said. "It's hurt it. You get categorized as a professor, an academic, which really has nothing to do with the story you are telling."
The story Leeson tells draws upon the tumultuous life of Ada Lovelace, whose privileged upbringing accorded her the title of Countess. Despite her wealth, her life remained circumscribed by an arranged marriage and society's conventions. Leeson said she thought Ada would still be a pioneer if she were alive today.
"It's all speculation, of course, but she'd probably be working on the internet if she was alive today," she said.
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