Synopsis

A Penn & Teller Film

Produced by Penn Jillette, 2013

Tim Jenison, a Texas based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all art: How did 17th century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer ("Girl with a Pearl Earring") manage to paint so photo-realistically -- 150 years before the invention of photography? The epic research project Jenison embarks on to test his theory is as extraordinary as what he discovers.

Spanning eight years, Jenison's adventure takes him to Delft, Holland, where Vermeer painted his masterpieces, on a pilgrimage to the North coast of Yorkshire to meet artist David Hockney, and even to Buckingham Palace to see a Vermeer masterpiece in the collection of the Queen.

Cast Biographies

Tim Jenison

Inventor

Tim Jenison is considered the visionary force behind the desktop video revolution. Jenison founded his technology company, NewTek, in 1985, and led the way in the development of a series of highly successful products, including DigiView (one of the first video digitizers for a computer), DigiPaint, and the Video Toaster®.

Jenison learned about technology and electrical equipment from his father, who ran an electrical engineering firm. At an early age, he learned to play the piano, and his keyboard talents propelled him to leave college to join a rock band—where, of course, he continually worked on ways to improve the sound equipment.

Jenison was one of the early enthusiasts for personal computers. By the late 1970s, he saw the computer as the integrating medium for his various passions: electronics, music, film and video. He decided that forming a company was the best way to fuel his endeavors to create sophisticated, yet affordable video software tools that everyone could use and enjoy.

David Hockney

English Artist

David Hockney, born July 9, 1937 in Bradford, England, is an artist whose work in a variety of mediums has been exhibited around the world, most recently at a major exhibition of his landscape paintings and multi-camera films at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2012 which then traveled to Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and Museum Ludwig, Cologne. “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” opens at the de Young Museum in San Francisco October 26, 2013.

Filmmakers

Teller

Director

Teller has been the smaller, quieter half of renowned magic duo Penn & Teller since 1975.

Teller is an Emmy, Writers Guild Award, Obie and Drama Critics Circle winner, Teller with partner Penn Jillette, has enjoyed successful runs on Broadway, sold-out world tours and is the current longest-running headline act in Las Vegas.

In 2008, Teller conceived and co-directed a bloody, supernatural thriller-inspired stage version of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” that toured the East Coast to raves from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. In 2010 he co-wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway hit “Play Dead.” Conceived as an ode to the classic midnight spook shows of the mid-20th Century, he again received raves from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and earned a Drama Desk nomination for “Unique Theatrical Experience.” Most recently, he consulted on the magic and effects for the Geffen Playhouse production of “The Exorcist.”

Teller has starred in his own television series and specials, including the hit Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, has written five books and has a prolific career as a magic consultant for live theater, television and films.

In 2013, Penn & Teller received their very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Penn Jillette

Producer

Penn is a cultural phenomenon as a solo personality and as half of the world- famous Emmy Award- winning magic duo and Las Vegas headliners Penn & Teller.

His solo exposure is enormous: from Howard Stern to Piers Morgan, from Oprah to Glenn Beck, to the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. He has appeared on Dancing with the Stars, MTV Cribs, and Chelsea Lately, and hosted the NBC game show Identity. As part of Penn & Teller, he has appeared more than twenty times on David Letterman, as well as on several other TV shows, from The Simpsons, and Friends to Top Chef and Jimmy Fallon.

He cohosted the controversial Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, which was nominated for sixteen Emmy Awards and was the longest-running show in the history of the network. He most recently cohosted the Discovery Channel's Penn & Teller Tell A Lie and was part of the most recent cast of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice.

Together since 1975, Penn & Teller’s live show spent years on Broadway and is now the longest-running headliner show in Las Vegas where it plays nightly at The Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. In 2013 the pair was once again awarded Las Vegas Magicians of the Year. Penn’s latest book is God No! Signs You Might Be An Atheist and Other Magic Tales, which spent six weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list upon its release.

His new podcast, Penn’s Sunday School, was the No. 1 downloaded podcast on iTunes during its debut week and was named by iTunes as Best New Comedy Podcast for 2012.

As a philanthropist, his efforts have resulted in raising thousands of dollars for Las Vegas-based charities AFAN (AID for AIDS NV) and Opportunity Village. The annual “Penn & Teller’s 13 Bloody Days of Xmas” continues to be the most successful blood drive in the Vegas Valley resulting in an average of 4000 pints donated every holiday season.

In 2013, Penn & Teller received their very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Farley Ziegler

Producer

Her latest project is as producer of Tim's Vermeer, the most recent film from Penn and Teller, directed by Teller and produced by Penn Jillette, about inspiring inventor and indefatigable explorer Tim Jenison and his pursuit to paint a Vermeer. She previously worked with Penn Jillette and Teller, producing with Penn the hit comedy documentary, The Aristocrats. With producing partner Christina Ricci, she created and ran Blaspheme Films, their production company. As a production executive at Single Cell Pictures, she was instrumental in bringing Charlie Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich to the screen. She served as story editor and creative executive for director Sean Penn at Clyde Is Hungry Films.

Prior to that, she collaborated with Peabody-Award winning monologist Joe Frank to create his series for National Public Radio, "In the Dark." She began her career in film as assistant to director David Fincher, working with the director at Propaganda Films on his groundbreaking commercials and music videos.

Conrad Pope

Composer

Regarded by his peers as the "musician's musician", composer Conrad Pope is one the busiest and most sought after music professionals working in film today. As an orchestrator for film he is known for collaborations with film composers John Williams, Alexandre Desplat, James Newton Howard, Danny Elfman and Howard Shore.

Immediately after recording in London his score to Tim’s Vermeer, Conrad went to New Zealand to work with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, conducting the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Howard Shore’s score to the latest installment in the Hobbit saga: The Desolation of Smaug.

For their latest advertising campaign, United Airlines, with the blessing of the Gershwin Foundation, commissioned Pope to create a new arrangement of "Rhapsody in Blue" which he conducted and recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road.

As a composer, Pope's most recent dramatic score is to Harvey Weinstein's production of Simon Curtis' film "My Week with Marilyn", starring Michelle Williams and Kenneth Brannagh. The soundtrack, featuring legendary pianist Lang Lang is available on Sony Classics.

As an orchestrator and conductor, Conrad has contributed to more than a hundred movies. The contemporary classic films to which Pope has contributed are far too numerous to list fully, but included among them are the most recent installments of the Star Wars films, the Harry Potter series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Jurassic Park and The Lost World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Trek X, the Matrix films, as well as such memorable dramatic films as Life of Pi, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Argo, and Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.

Classically trained at the New England Conservatory (where he received the George Chadwick Medal, the school's highest honor), Princeton University and at Munich's Hochschule fuer Musik, Pope has garnered numerous awards and prizes including the prestigious Leonard Bernstein Fellowship and Fulbright Fellowship, grants from the New York State Arts Council, the MacDowell Foundation, and Meet the Composer. As a composer for the concert stage, he has received commissions from the Australian International Symphony Orchestra Institute and the
 Spokane Symphony Orchestra where his piece "Purple Prose", at its premiere, was greeted with a standing ovation, as well as critical acclaim.

The Mystery of Vermeer

During the late 1650s, Vermeer and other Dutch artists began to place a new emphasis on depicting figures within carefully composed interior spaces. Vermeer’s works are small and rare. Of the 35 paintings attributed to him, all of them are admired for the detail in which he rendered the effects of light and color. Little is known for certain about Vermeer's career. His earliest signed and dated painting, The Procuress (1656), is thematically related to a Dirck van Baburen painting that Vermeer owned and that appears in the background of two of his own paintings. After his death Vermeer was overlooked by all but the most discriminating collectors and art historians for more than 200 years. Only after 1866, when the French critic Théophile Thoré-Bürger rediscovered him, did Vermeer's works become widely known.

Tim’s Vermeer is not the first look into Vermeer’s likely use of optics in his works. Professor Philip Steadman (seen in the film) caused a sensation in the art world in 2001 when he published his book Vermeer’s Camera. Steadman investigated the suspicions of art historians who suggested Vermeer used a camera obscura, an optical device that could project the image of sunlit objects placed before it with extraordinary detail. However, Steadman’s experiment used a technique known as “reverse perspective” which produced startling results. He found that six of the Vermeer paintings he analyzed depicted the same room, the painter’s studio in Delft, and the geometry of the six was consistent with their being projected on to the back wall of the room using a lens and then traced.

These findings were not intended to challenge Vermeer's genius but rather to show how, like many artists, Vermeer was able to use technology to paint his extraordinary compositions more accurately. Nevertheless, Steadman’s book caused a storm of controversy, dividing art historians while convincing many scholars in the history of science, technology, optics and photography.

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