James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem chooses Denver photo for Canon short-film project

"Fires Be Damned!"
"Fires Be Damned!"
Melissa Wollenberg

When Melissa Wollenberg of Highlands Ranch snapped a cute/surreal photo of her son in a gas mask, standing before the orange haze of this past last summer's out-of-control fires, she had no idea that it would eventually be chosen by film legend Ron Howard and LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy for their upcoming short-film project. "It was just a fluke," remembers Wollenberg, who submitted the improvised pic to Canon's Project Imagina10n photo contest, where it was selected (along with nine others) by Murphy as a storytelling directive for the film. "I was just really excited when I found out that the photo made it at all. I am a complete amateur and yet when I saw [my son in a gas mask], I had to take a picture. It was just a weird feeling. I didn't really have any expectations."

See also: - LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver - Gio Toninelo's Little Denver photography exhibit looks like big fun - Month of Photography's The Big Picture: It just keeps getting bigger and bigger

As Murphy explains in his quirky promotional video, each of the ten photos selected will influence different aspects of the film, with designations like "setting" or "tone" directed toward each picture. Melissa Wollenberg's photo was selected for the "backstory" category.

Director/actor Ron Howard will be on hand to mentor Murphy through the process; Jamie Foxx, Eva Longoria and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone are also making Project Imagina10n films of their own. "James is a cultural arbiter -- everything he touches, his fanbase gets excited about," Ron Howard recently said of his protege. "James's music, his shows, his style, they're so unique. I'm sure his film will be as well."

Just before disbanding LCD Soundsystem last year, Murphy opened up to NPR's Terry Gross about his reasons for breaking up one of the most memorable bands of the decade: "Doing a band properly kind of means you don't get to do anything else. And there's a lot of things that I'd really like to do that I can't because of [my band]." Presumably, working in film was one of them.

James Murphy, formerly of LCD Soundsytem
James Murphy, formerly of LCD Soundsytem

James Murphy, formerly of LCD Soundsytem
a failed attempt at directing a feature at the age of eighteen, Murphy is now returning to the video arts decades later. But that's not completely out of character, considering he didn't start LCD Soundsystem until well into his thirties.


Still, photography has been a passion throughout Murphy's life -- particularly using Canon equipment -- as he explained to Pitchfork last summer. "I don't feel that weird feeling where I'm trying to convince myself that the company's okay," he says. "I'm genuinely like, 'Oh! I have eleven Canon cameras already.' That made it easier. Plus, I just like having a deadline, because you can say, 'I want to direct something' your whole life and never do it. I think having [this project] based on photos is cool. I'm a still photographer -- I like pictures and I don't like that they're so disposable now. I'd like if people take their pictures seriously."

In a YouTube video where he announces his photo selections (see below) Murphy explains that he had a particularly difficult time choosing the "backstory" picture, simply because he enjoyed so many of them. "Mainly I just liked the picture. It gives me ideas," he says of Wollenberg's photo. "The kid is wearing a gas-mask -- how could that not be part of somebody's backstory?"

Wollenberg has vague memories of hearing about LCD Soundsystem during her days as a "sometimes-punk-poser" while living in New York City; now she plans to study up on Murphy and his musical legacy. Her memories of the day the photograph was taken, however, are crystal-clear. "My kids and I were playing in the back yard, when the sun and sky changed colors over a very short time," she recalls. "A neighbor called to us that the smoke was getting worse from the fires and that we should really go in. Every kid in the neighborhood went in and one of mine grabbed his gas mask (which he bought for fun at the army surplus, 'just because'). He ran outside and kept playing basketball. He was the only one and I grabbed my camera. I thought it was hilarious."

Murphy is slated to begin working with Ron Howard on Projection Imagina10n in early 2013, with plans for a summer release. For more information, visit

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