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Creative Voices

Pushing Perception

By Maris Curran

Paul Trillo is drawn to the unknown: new technologies to try, new problems to solve, new stories to discover and tell. A filmmaker and video artist, Paul has spent the last few years making playful, visually stunning, and innovative shorts and commercials, always exploring the boundaries of perception. 

Paul thinks that fear should be an essential part of the creative process. “With directing it’s really important to continue to scare yourself because otherwise you’re not going to feel alive,” he says. “There’s something fascinating about fear. All your nerves are aware when you’re scared.” It’s that sense of alertness, combined with talent, heavy-duty technical chops, and a driving sense of curiosity, that defines his process.

His ideas often begin with a single image or concept. Once he has that initial picture in mind, he reverse-engineers it, asking a series of questions that inform how he approaches a project before working it into a fully realized idea. 

His current project is a campaign for Nokia, who wanted to work with him again following a successful (and viral) video piece last year that created the effect of zooming down 5th Avenue in Manhattan. The video was created with Nokia’s then-new Lumia 1020. For the current project, Nokia asked Paul to “do something” with the company’s 41-megapixel camera phone. 

A bullet-time piece immediately came to mind, but Paul wanted to bring something new to the genre. He imagined creating an array that could capture a roving portrait—a portrait that would spin from the ground up. So Nokia shipped Paul and his team 50 of the new cameras, which they fashioned into a 180-degree arch. He had an app created so the cameras could talk to each other, and everything was in place to create the first mobile bullet-time machine on the streets of New York. 

“It’s a sort of time machine,” Paul says. “It’s a stop-motion sequence that’s all the same moment shot across multiple cameras from slightly different angles.” The final product is a seamless series of portraits that show a cross-section of the city he calls home.

A common theme in Paul’s work is manipulation of perspective and perception. He notes, “If you see two different pieces of mine next to each other, you might think they were done by two different people. But if you see five, you might start to see some unifying thread between the work.” That thread is a fascination with visual experimentation and a total commitment to the world he is creating. But this isn’t a simple case of a boy and his toys. Story is also central to Paul’s work, and the emotive quality he wrings from high-tech projects is a testament to his imagination and skill as a filmmaker.

Up next? Paul is working on a scripted short film, and he’s excited to begin to work in longer forms, with the goal of making a feature-length film in the near future.