Nestled near the base of the hills of Griffith Park and Hollywood, right off the 101 freeway lies the famous American Film Institute. It is the scene for this screening which had several distinguished guests including the filmmakers as well as several people featured in the film and some lucky guests of which my younger brother Chris and I were happy to be part.
For this intimate screening, the spotlights and red carpet were left for a later event. There were no limosines or paparazzi - (it was that secret and exclusive!) and I didnt hear about any after party at the Playboy Mansion. Nevertheless, there was a undeniable excitement in the crisp LA night air.
Once inside the Louis B Mayer Library, it was suddenly quiet as if we were in the wrong place - Alfred Hitchcock was rolling film somewhere. There were not any signs for the event. But out of the corner of our eyes, in a seemingly empty room , we spotted a green Olympia SM3 and it was like fingerprints at a murder scene: THIS WAS IT!
Director Christopher Lockett held attention at the door, his opera quality voice carried like a rising crescendo wave that maintained a height of those seen at Waimea Bay. He greeted us warmly and heartily - he was clearly in a fabulous mood and understandably so: he was right about to share his passion project with some friends. In a swift motion he gestured for us to sign in on the Olympia.
This should be the way everyone signs in for any future Typewriter movie screenings, premieres, and showings be it at any film festivals or Regal Cinema. This was an initiation - and all it took was to type out your name. And a transformation occured and you were now truly ready to see the world of typewriters.
Once 8:30pm came around, Christopher gave an inspiring introduction to the film, sharing some details of the making of the film. A unbelievably paltry $9,254.00 was raised through Kickstarter and served nearly the entire budget of this documentary. Christopher likened this sum to "less than the craft services budget for an indie film" - that gives you a real idea of how stretched the filmmakers were for this documentary. Still, passion overcame the difficulties and challenges. Christopher shared some creative solutions such as hiring someone off Craigslist to do some supplemental shooting for $50.
The film began.
The preface showed what you would expect a typical documentary to start with: some history and facts which is fine since typewriters are over 100 years old... but that is all this film shared with those PBS-type documentaries. It presented its content in a hip and organized way. Slowly the cast of characters were revealed, their roles introduced and then each of their individual stories woven into a narrative whole.
The documentary explored how the relationship of people and typewriters was and how this relationship has changed and evolved through the typewriter's lifetime - some people had literally lived their whole lives with typewriters such as the repairmen; some had abandoned it only to find it again such as some collectors; some discovered the typewriter despite it being considered archaic and obsolete such as the younger generation who like to type; and some vigilantly kept with their typewriters against the blanket of technology such as authors like David McCullough.
The people interviewed had various opinions of the typewriter and its place as well as future prospects. One repairman said basically that typewriters will eventually die out. This was sad but certainly possible. A real poignant part of the documentary showed that a lot of the repairmen wanted to pass on their knowledge to their children, specifically sons, but their sons wanted to go a different route for a career. Bill Wahl shared that his son would have been the 4th generation to repair typewriters. Still, others felt that typewriters have a promising future because they are being discovered by the youth. And basically everyone expressed in some way that typewriters will always have a place because they capture people's imagination.
Although there are so many highlights of the film, my favorite parts of the documentary were those interviews with the repairmen especially the scenes with mid-90s year old Manson Whitlock who singlehandedly infused the film with such genuine humor I can still recall him and laugh. I feel these repairmen were, if not the heart of the film, then certainly its spirit. They personify the typewriter and its journey. They have gone through what the typewriter has - ups and downs, top of the world and near death and now, resurrection, a hopefully sustained one.
Also notable must be the interviews with authors specifically, David McCullough and Robert Caro. These 2 are men who have made their careers writing and doing so with their trusty typewriters. In fact, they are both so linked with their typewriters it might as well be a body part. It really hit home that this machine could play such an important part in someone's life as to be called a "partner".
And of course, I also enjoyed the parts that showed the collectors and those in the forefront of the typewriter's resurgence: the typosphere. I am glad Richard Polt is our ambassador as he represents the best of us and our intentions. Others shown were Michael Clemens and the Reverend Ted Munk who both had some great contributions to the typewriter story.
The film is such a treat to watch and like many of us will feel, you really need to watch it more than once because nearly every frame has at least one typewriter in it and at times (such as when interviewing Richard Polt who has the lovliest background of dozens of desireable typers), many!!! So there can be a lot of distraction for those of us whose eyes dart to any shape akin to a typewriter. Lots of eye candy in the film, alright.
The film ended to as much applause as 30 people could muster so much so that it was the applause of a crowd double and im sure the sound overfilled and poured down the hills and woke up Bruce Willis. Christopher Lockett had about a 20min Q&A and a lot of the audience sentiment was that we were particularly happy with the people assembled to interview for the film. I also overheard some platen recovery/Ames/West Coast platen discussion between Ruben and Ermanno - i guess this subject wont go away until we find a real solution.
Christopher mentioned that he read the Wired Magazine article Meet the Last Generation of Typewriter Repairmen and was inspired to do the film. He said that typewriters deserved an elegy but i believe what he ended up making is not at all a lamenting swan song but a chronicle of the seasons like that shown on National Geographic nature documentaries that present out of winter comes the spring.
Those of us who already live and love typewriters will only care for our machines more. I have a strong sense that this film will inspire and transform many curious into full blown collectors and members of the typosphere. It should elicit a conscious response from any viewer: either instill a reverence for the typewriter's past and/or evoke an active participation to join the growing movement.
That is the lasting message of the film. We can help the typewriter by spreading the word and keeping it alive. The same goes for this wonderful documentary, a real treasure for the typewriter: we should talk about it and spread the word about The Typewriter (In the 21st Century).