A man discovers a tape recorder implanted in his ear that has been monitoring and recording his entire life from the moment of his birth.
‘The Tiny Tape Recorder’ is a stylistic film about a man who, after suffering from intense headaches, discovers a tape recorder embedded in his ear. As it begins to malfunction, he must re-live the emotional pain of his past while dealing with the reality of ever-present surveillance and a government that for some reason wants to know everything about him.
When I wrote this film, the idea that the government actually listened to and recorded average American citizens seemed absurd and conspiratorial–an interesting thought experiment that would be fantastic fodder for speculative fiction. I wrote this film long before Edward Snowden and the many revelations about the NSA’s surveillance programs. But I was interested in the idea that if that kind of conspiracy actually existed, what could one glean about a person from all that data? If an individual could see the particular events and data points from their life, could they make out a pattern and perhaps see themselves in a new light? I wanted to present these big ideas in a small, intimate package, letting the unseen bureaucratic machinations of a shadowy governmental agency remain off-camera and deal with one person and one set of personal issues.
For director Paavo Hanninen it was important that the film was made in a way that highlighted the analogue nature of recording to tape, so with the DP they decided to shoot on film and in post composer Hanan Townshend and sound designer Will Patterson worked with reel-to-reel tape machines to create analog effects and distortions that would not be possible through digital manipulation alone.
People say all the time that film is a collaborative art, and this is one of those shoots that definitely proved that to be true. Parts of this film involving highly choreographed in-camera production design shifts led by our production designer, Danielle Dyar, required the hands, feet, and minds of every single person on set to pull off, and it is a tribute to the talent and dedication of everyone involved that this film exists. The entire cast and crew was on point. We could have easily run out of film before we got out of that living room.
The film’s authentic nature plays through wonderfully giving it its grainy and distorted style, all poised together by an extraordinary coordination by the entire team to achieve a seamless mind twisting experience.