The Idea - An Experimental Narrative Film by Bill Knowland


Set in 1912, this surreal experimental narrative film is told with visual effects and no dialogue.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the independent short film, The Idea, we present the following blog.

An excerpt from the 20 minute experimental narrative film,
The Idea by Bill Knowland


The Idea is a visual fable that can be viewed at three levels. A visual level encompasses diffused and sepia toned film shot at 10 fps and step printed back to normal speed. The Idea contains rotoscoped, bi-packed mattes of lumia and other color images. a simple narrative level tells the story of a luminous egg with magical properties that is exploited by those that come into contact with it. A metaphorical level includes the basic symbol of the egg representing an idea and other symbols representing purity, sterility, unfulfilled emptiness and strength.


The Idea is one of the best short films I have ever seen. It is an amazing 20-minute work with very high production values. In the film a chain of events begins when a woman (Lorene Yarnell) gives birth to an egg. Everyone wants the egg, believing that it holds the answer to each individual’s needs in life.
~John Douglas


Knowland’s film works on a metaphorical level, exploring the mysteries of creativity, motivation, emotion, desire and fulfillment. He maintains deeply personal and compelling reasons for directing. “I tend to visualize things in such detail that I have to put it on film.
~Linda Leeb, Film Tape World

The Idea was presented with a live musical performance by the Club Foot Orchestra at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco.

lumia-effects-experimental-film-the-idea-by-bill_knowlnd.jpgThe movie’s special effects include a house of cards that took 14 painstaking hours to create, and a five-foot-high egg made of plaster and fiberglass. “I don’t mind sharing my ideas with others. One idea can spark other people to have ideas. The death of one can stimulate new ideas,” Knowland said.
Anne Burke-Contra Costa Times

filmmaker-bill-knowland-1990.jpgI wanted to get back to that origin. I wanted to be near the birth of film—film as an idea. Now film is transcending into something else.

Bill Knowland
Producer, Director
Director of Photography

Awards: CINE Golden Eagle
Best Experimental Film at the BACA Film & Video Festival
and a Silver Apple at the National Educational Film Festival

Other exhibitions include:
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Millenium, the Oakland Museum,
Athens International Film Festival, Louisville Film Festival, and the
Odense Film Festival in Denmark


Bill Knowland and John Scarpa work on lumia sequences for The Idea

Masks of Illusion  

Burning Man  

Click here to visit Canyon Cinema and rent films by Bill Knowland, or other experimental filmmakers.  

Topics: independent film, experimental narrative