Why didn’t I think of that? | Watch 5 Films About Wild Inventors


Set to make its world premiere at TIFF2017 this fall, THE TESLA WORLD LIGHT is a dazzling short film about the father of alternating current, visionary inventor Nikola Tesla. Inspired by real events, director Matthew Rankin’s avante-garde-influenced film offers up a tragic fantasy as Tesla makes one last appeal to J.P. Morgan, his onetime benefactor.

The Tesla World Light, Matthew Rankin, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Tesla’s discoveries built the very foundation for the modern power grid. But there are other discoveries you can make in the NFB collection, with films about wild inventors and their wonderful creations.

Project Grizzly

Perhaps the best-known of all the films in this list is the 1996 cult hit Project Grizzly, featuring DIY North Bay-based inventor Troy Hurtubise and his attempts to design a grizzly-bear proof suit of armour.  Troy puts himself through all manner of ordeals as he tries to perfect his creation—and while his invention would earn Troy an Ig Nobel Prize and help inspire an episode of The Simpsons, Troy was deadly serious.

Project Grizzly , Peter Lynch, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

The Balgonie Birdman

Just one year after the Wright brothers made their historic first flight in 1903, Balgonie, Saskatchewan-based inventor Bill Gibson started working on his own flying machine. Bill would eventually relocate to BC before making it into the air in 1910, with Canada’s first human-powered flight. His pioneering contributions to Canadian aviation are brought to life via stop-motion animation in the delightful short, The Balgonie Birdman.

The Balgonie Birdman, Brian Duchscherer, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

The Devil at Your Heels

Maybe some ideas are never meant to leave the ground. Or at least that’s what one might think after watching the jaw-dropping The Devil at Your Heels, about Canadian stuntman Ken Carter’s attempt to jump one mile over the Saint Lawrence River by attaching rockets to a full-size Lincoln Continental.  Yes, a Lincoln. I’m sure that’s one way to void the warranty.

The Devil at Your Heels, Robert Fortier, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

For great info on this film and Carter, who would die tragically during a subsequent attempt at rocket-powered car flight, check out Albert Ohayon’s post: “The Devil at Your Heels: Is this for real?”

Night Mayor

And what invention could be more quintessentially Canadian than the “Telemelodium,” which broadcast images of Canada from coast to coast in 1939 using the Aurora Borealis? Alright, so it didn’t actually exist. Still, Guy Maddin’s mad creation in Night Mayor is a totally cool idea—and was in fact intended as a metaphor for the NFB, in a 2009 film Maddin created to help mark the film board’s 70th anniversary.

Night Mayor, Guy Maddin, provided by the National Film Board of Canada