Doug Wilson directed a documentary called Linotype: The Film, which he made with two friends, Brandon Goodwin and Jess Heugel.
It is about an old printing machine that radically altered mass communication forever. The three friends raised funds on Kickstarter to make the film, then began traveling the country, and eventually outside the country, to interview a handful of people who really know the Linoptype, tracking the bright history and uncertain future of the monolithic print machine.
I interviewed him in early 2011 while he was in the process of making it.
Do you now or have you ever had a garden gnome in your possession?
I have never owned a garden gnome but I’m fairly sure when I was a teenager, I stole some from a neighbor’s house and set them in someone else’s yard.
I think it’s safe to assume the biggest thing going on in your professional life right now is ‘Linotype: The Film’. Why is this movie important to you?
‘Linotype: The Film’ is about an old printing machine called a Linotype. The Linotype completely revolutionized printing and communication similar to the way that the internet is changing everything right now – but it was invented in 1886. This major invention of the early 20th century was invented by a guy that no one has heard of although the impact of the Linotype is as big as Henry Ford’s car or Edison’s light bulb.
It is important to me because people need to know about this machine and its impact on society. This amazing thing was invented and changed society and education and no one really cares. No one knows about it and the guy that invented it died unknown and poor. I hope to change that.
Professionally, I have no idea where this will take me. I am a graphic designer and letterpress printer, not a film director. I actually have no idea how to make a documentary film. But I know a good film when I see it and I know how to communicate visually – all the rest is details, right?
What makes you think you have what it takes to direct this film and do a great job?
Honestly, I am pretty terrified to be making this film. I’m not 100% sure that I can actually MAKE this film – but that is the fun of it. If you totally know you can do something before you start it, what is the point? Where is the fun in that?
What’s a ‘normal’ week like in the life of a documentary director and his crew?
A normal week for me is writing probably about twenty emails a day for upcoming shoots and people interested in the film, staying on top of our website and twitter account, and scheduling upcoming shoots. Coordinating the crew’s schedule is difficult as the guys are full-time media freelancers and one is finishing up school. I hope he graduates after all of the weeks he is missing this semester….
Directing and producing a film is a LOT of work. I am actually mostly a producer. I only get to play director on film shoots about two percent of the time. The rest is actually making this film, connecting with people, and making sure I book a rental car at the right airport. Did I mention I write a lot of emails?
As film production ramps up, what do you see as the biggest challenges ahead? What is it about the project that keeps you going and keeps you optimistic?
Staying optimistic is easy and difficult at the same time. We have had such a great response to the film and the support from all over the world encourages me on a daily basis. It is very easy to get overwhelmed at all of the details of the film. I am very much a completer of tasks, and there is ALWAYS more tasks to complete for the film, so I can get discouraged by never really feeling that completion. But in the end, I believe and love what I am doing – how many people can say that?
Your professional career up to now has centered on graphic design, but you’ve been able to do a wide variety of work within that field, and now the film. Is there some central passion or mission that ties together everything you do?
Passion and curiosity are what drive me to create. I am always asking questions, always asking ‘why?’ That is why I started the film. I asked ‘why don’t people know about this amazing machine? Are there still people crazy enough to use these machines? Will they survive?’ And here we are, making a crazy movie that I hope people will like. Or at least not hate.
You can find out more about Linotype: The Film on the official website and you can find out more about Doug on his website.
This interview was originally published as part of a larger story about Linotype: The Film on March 19, 2011 on OCSPLORA.com.