The Making Of
Director Gary Hustwit discusses breaking into the rarified world of top designers and how his own curiosity about a typeface has driven him to make two more films about the ubiquity and impact of design.
Independent Lens: What impact do you hope this film will have?
Gary Hustwit: I think it’s important that we all think more about the design of the objects we buy and use every day. Industrial design permeates every aspect of our lives. The computer you’re reading this on, the chair you’re sitting on right now, the lighting fixture above you—on average we each touch 600 different objects a day. We fill our homes with them, go into debt to purchase them and sometimes destroy the environment in using them. So the more we understand about what goes into making them, the better informed we can be about our role as consumers of all this stuff.
IL: What led you to make OBJECTIFIED?
GH: In 2005 when I began the process of making my first documentary, Helvetica, I wasn’t planning on making a series of films about design. But after completing it, I found that I still had so many questions about design’s role in our lives, and that the documentary form was an excellent way to try to answer those questions and explore a subject that interested me. One design film wasn’t enough!
IL: What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?
GH: Probably the biggest challenge was encapsulating the subject matter—there’s just too much to talk about. Cars, computers, furniture, soda bottles, toothbrushes. How do you make a film about every manufactured object in our environment? What ends up connecting all these different objects is the thinking of the people behind them, the challenges they face and their creative processes.
IL: How did you gain the trust of the subjects in OBJECTIFIED?
GH: Since I’d already made Helvetica, and a lot of the subjects I approached had seen that film, they had an idea about what I did and what I was trying to do with OBJECTIFIED. That made it a lot easier.
IL: What would you have liked to include that didn’t make the cut?
GH: We shot 80 hours of interviews and observational footage, so there is so much material we didn’t get to use. There was a lot of candid observational footage that we filmed on the streets, just watching how people interact with objects, which I found fascinating. We included quite a few of those moments in the film, but I could probably do an entire film of that stuff.
IL: Why did you choose to present your film on public television?
GH: Public television audience members are interested in the world around them, they’re curious about other people’s lives and they want to make a difference. That’s the kind of audience I’d like to think I’m making these films for.
IL: What didn’t you get done when you were making your film?
GH: Nothing… making films is now all I do!
IL: What’s next for you?
GH: While I was making OBJECTIFIED, it felt so much like a companion piece to Helvetica in a way, like it was an extension of the same exploration I’d started in the first film. And midway through OBJECTIFIED, I had an idea for a third film, which could complete the trilogy. So I’m starting that one now, we’ll release more details about it soon.
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