At the turn of the century, an arrogant inventor is in the midst of a dry spell that threatens to ruin him. Could the clever young acolyte who shows up at his door be his salvation?

Frank Todaro brings us to the early 20th century in ‘Men of Vision’, when inventions and inventors swaggered high. The film is a period comedy about a once-acclaimed, now failing inventor who finds himself desperate to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world. A large ego and an even bigger blind spot don’t help much.

Men of Vision

Men of Vision: Desperation is the Mother of Invention

I knew I wanted to use the visual language of period drama to enhance the comedy. But I also wanted to give the story needed gravitas. The aim was to make the comedy to feel subtle and sophisticated rather than something sketch-like.

The general idea of skewering arrogant men who ‘know best’ was fertile territory for satire / commentary. But in particular, this character and story grew out of my personal frustration with men who lack the strength or vision to leap into the future on behalf of all of us. The idea is, we all know the future’s coming, can we embrace and create it? Or will we decide to remain entrenched or even become backwards-facing?

Bryan Burton in Men of Vision

The cinematographer did an amazing job giving the film a lush, moody look that beautifully evoked a bygone era, but it could only be achieved on the shoulders of handsome, era-accurate locations, sumptuous, detailed set design and fantastic period costumes and makeup. All of it meshed perfectly with the brilliant performances of the two leads, Aaron Serotsky and Bryan Burton. Their rapport and skill at delivering pages of antiquated, quasi-scientific dialogue while nailing the snarky, subtle comedy was simply a joy to watch.

Shooting Location in Men of Vision

We had a tiny lighting package and were dealing with a time period where the illumination was provided entirely by available light. Complicating things was that fact that we shot on the three shortest days of the year. Which created tons of pressure to move quickly. I think we averaged about 2 1/2 takes per setup. Thankfully our amazing actors knew their lines and could pound through it. But sometimes they’d want an additional take and I’d have to say no.

The Inventions

In terms of production, I was fortunate to be able to ask favors of some incredibly talented people I’ve worked with over the years in commercials. The crew did me a gigantic favor working for free in a tough situation, but I literally could not have done it if Legacy Effects and Method Studios hadn’t agreed to so some incredible and complicated work. Legacy created a pair of props that literally did not exist anywhere (the ‘Illumintatra’ and proto-zipper), while Method created stunning visual effects that simply could not have been pulled off practically for any amount of money. I actually built a bunch of props myself knowing we wouldn’t be able to find them. The large band saw, drill press and jeweler’s lathe you see in the background were all build from wood and styrofoam in my garage. I also made the radium helmet and leather wrist brace.