This Friday as part of our New York Non-Fiction event we’ll be showing Todd Bieber’s three part short film Found: Lost Pictures of the New York Blizzard. The film, which has received well over a million views on YouTube, begins with Bieber’s decision that he needed more adventure in his life. Then, while out skiing after the big blizzard of 2010, he inadvertently embarked on an adventure he couldn’t have envisaged. The film evolves into a subtle yet poignant look at how small the world really can be and how kindness can be perpetuated.
We spoke to Todd Bieber, whose voice over imbues the film with a charming irreverence, and asked him to tell us more about the highs, lows and German wine drinking which constituted his amazing and surreal adventure.
Rooftop Films: Describe the films for someone who hasn’t seen them.
Todd Bieber: Picture Goonies. Except instead of treasure it’s photographers. And instead of Oregon it takes place in New York City and Europe. And instead of a bunch of charming children, it’s an awkward man-child.
But seriously, it’s probably the most amazing thing that ever happened to me — and possibly the most surreal thing that ever will happen to me. Last winter I was skiing in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and found a roll of film buried in the snow. I developed it in an effort to find the owner and this seemingly small act led me on a world-wide journey, involving millions of people – which Time Magazine called “Youtube’s Greatest Adventure.”
RF: What made you decide to look for the photographers?
TB: Photos are really important to me — whether it’s a family photo orphoto from vacation — it’s a way to help remember a part of my life. I think I’d be pretty heart broken if I lost any, and I thought “I bet the owner of this film feels the same way.” So I decided to look for them. Plus it seemed like a fun mystery.
RF: This journey sounds incredible, but in retrospect was it ever frustrating or discouraging?
TB: Sure. There was a point when I thought I’d never find the owners. There was a point when someone online said “I hate this guys voice. I want to throw him off a Ferris Wheel.” That’s not a fun thing to read about yourself. Learning stick shift in a foreign country was awful. Getting lost while driving in Switzerland was miserable. Having my car broke in to in Paris was scary. I try not to dwell on those things, but thanks for asking. Haha.
RF: What was the hardest part of this process? What was the most enjoyable part?
TB: (I’m skipping the first part of this question, cause I think I covered the awful stuff above) The most enjoyable part was getting to meet so many new people from all around the world. One day I was sitting at work, and then all of a sudden I’m in an ancient wine cellar in Germany drinking wine straight from the vats while a German man describes how he makes his award winning wine. Like I mentioned, it was surreal.
RF: Were you surprised that this project became so big? When you made the first video, did you really expect to find the photographer?
TB: I was amazed that the video became so big. I had hoped that the video would reach the owners, but I never expected it would reach millions of people in the process.
RF: What was your favorite country to visit?
TB: I can’t answer that with out hurting someone’s feelings
RF: How has this experience changed you, either personally or creatively?
TB: I work for UCBComedy.com and my day job is to make fun of people, current events, and pop-culture through online comedic videos. The experience humanised strangers and it’s now a bit harder to pick on people, but I manage.
RF: What’s your next project?
TB: My girlfriend, Juliana, and I are working on a feature length documentary called Turtle Derby. It’s about our hometown in Pennsylvania. Every July 4th for the past 50 years we’ve held an annual turtle race – a fun event that sounds like something from a Mark Twain story. But this year the state outlawed collecting turtles from the wild because they’re becoming endangered. It’s a fun and funny opportunity to see what happens when tradition and environmental issues collide.