Making His Ode to Joy of Books
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Making His Ode to Joy of Books

A Toronto ad man devotes over 50 hours of physical labour to bring the magic of books to life in a stop-motion viral sensation.

At a time of e-books and rising rent, Toronto is mourning the loss of independent bookstores like Dragon Lady Comics, The Book Mark, and Glad Day; a recent history filled with many other closures; and bitter twists like the conversion of Pages Books & Magazines (into a condo sales centre). Book-lovers were in need of a miracle-maker like Sean Ohlenkamp to bring the city’s love of books back to life.

Okay, Ohlenkamp may not actually be a magician or a protege of Dr. Frankenstein—in fact, he’s an associate creative director at the Lowe Roche advertising agency here in Toronto—but with the help of his camera, 15 to 20 volunteers, four nights of after-hours physical labour at Type Books in November, and months in the editing room, his stop-motion video titled The Joy of Books is the closest thing to movie magic we’ve seen in a while.

“From the moment the doors locked at 6 p.m. we started working, arranged and rearranged, shelved and re-shelved…it took about fifty-odd hours of heavy lifting,” Ohlenkamp told Torontoist. “The first night I was there until twelve or one putting all the books back, went home and slept for a few hours, and then came right back.”

Finally finished last weekend, Ohlenkamp uploaded the video to YouTube on Monday. In the scant two days since it has garnered nearly 27,500 views and the attention of the Washington Post, BoingBoing, the Spectator, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, and many others. Not to mention, lots and lots of love for books and independent bookstores everywhere.

“I feel amazing, it’s really nice because I’ve been a little desensitized to it,” he said. “It was a very private process, me staring at the screen over and over again and no one else seeing it. But putting it out there and seeing the very positive response renews my appreciation for the time that has gone into this.”

It was a combination of friends, students, and colleagues who donated their evenings to the project (they are all listed on the video’s YouTube description), committing anywhere from a few hours to a full night. But Ohlenkamp and his “very, very loving and forgiving” wife Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp were there for the entire filming process. Ohlenkamp provided the vision, but it was a group labour of love: Tom Westin of Grayson Matthews Music + Sound composed the original score, and Blonder Ohlenkamp created the green crocheted monster named “Oog” (seen chasing salt and pepper shakers at around 1:00) as well as a clock (at 0:35). That references the original video that inspired The Joy of Books—one the couple filmed in their living room last Family Day weekend:

Besides simply offering the physical space for the shoot, Type Books plays another role in the video and its message.

“The personality of the store really matches the personality and aesthetic of the video I wanted to create,” Ohlenkamp said. “I could have done this in a toy store or a grocery store or whatnot, but it wouldn’t have lasting value. If I was going to put in the effort, I wanted something to have a message to go along with a beautiful visual.”

Now that the project is finished, Ohlankamp admits he’s “done moving books for quite a while.” But he’s hopeful that the video can at least convince a few others to pick up one or two.