This week, SnagFilms spotlights the ever-present fascination with one of America’s most coveted brands. Kobi & Ron Shelly are two Israelis who went to the States, specifically to a little geek cultural phenomenon known as Macworld, to find out a little bit more about those that become obsessed with the tech giant Apple. The brothers, whose documentary film is now available for instant viewing on SnagFilms, offered insight on the making the film in this interview.
Director: Kobi Shely
Writers: Kobi Shelly, Ron Shely
Producer: Kobi Shely
Cinematography: Alon Grego
Editors: Kobi Shely
Music: Roy Zu-Arets
The directing duo make introductions and talk about finding those “Macheads,”…
We’re filmmakers and brothers. We were raised in Israel and came to study film in New York. Kobi learned documentary filmmaking from working as an assistant editor. Among other things he worked on TNT’s John Garfield story and directed his first short, “Intervention,” which won an award at the cutting edge Brainwash Film Festival. Before coming to New York, Ron was a partner and creative director in a leading advertising agency. In NYC, he studied filmmaking and interactive telecommunications at NYU.
The initial reason for choosing MacHeads was quite random. We use Apple hardware, same as most creative people I know. However, we’re not Apple fanatics. When Kobi shot his short film “Intervention” back in 2006, the crew took a break and the cinematographer checked his emails. He told everyone that Apple is going to run Windows and a heated debate started among the the film crew – the Mac VS PC war. Back home, Kobi tried to figure out why people are so avid for Mac, [and decided] to find out the answer to this question by making a film about it. With this notion Kobi started to do his research. Very soon he came across Philosophy Professor David Schultz [who has] has written 29 articles on the culture of Mac, and one paragraph that caught my attention stated, “So why do I engage in Mac philosophy? I do so because NOT to do so is downright anti-Apple, and Steve Jobs should be our model of what an archetypal Mac user is.” Throughout his work, we kept encountering words like attachment, “tradition,” “myths,” “rivalry,” “obsession,” “generations,” “religion,” “betrayal,” “crisis,” “savory leadership” – some of the best ingredients for a good story.
So, we took on the journalist approach, taking the camera and pushing our way to where the action was. We figured we needed to be at Macworld, our only chance to get close to Apple’s key figures and maybe get their reactions. We understood that’s where we’ll find the our Macheads and get their story. Since we don’t live in the US and had no backing sponsors we had to count every dollar and gamble where to go and how much to spend. I’m glad we managed to capture Job’s keynote from our point of view and did not rely on news reels. Being there and filming the event enabled us to expose another layer of how Apple works and how Macheads responds to their marketing magic tricks.
Difficulties…cross-cultural and otherwise…
As independent filmmakers from Israel coming to explore this phenomenon in America, we encountered many cultural difficulties. We had a ridiculously small budget to shoot the entire film. We came as “Apple outsiders” and also American culture generally. We thing this ended up allowing us to get a different, fresh point of view – a new angle. We came out to explore a specific phenomenon and ended up capturing a much wider aspect of the American way of life. Probably the single most challenging thing was exploring the hidden layers of the strange relationship between the brand and its most loyal customers. Apple is a very secretive corporation, it was impossible to get to interview Jobs or any other key figure in the company. Eventually we knew that the story is really the members of the “cult of Mac.” No matter how hard we tried we just could not reach over the other side of the fence of Apple Inc.
Another challenge was related to the fact that as brothers, we were engaged in a creative process that naturally sparked heated, passionate arguments. Luckily, we developed a good mechanism to make professional decisions, and at the the end, it just made the whole experience very special.
Dealing with a high tech subject matter, we took the risk that the film will address a niche audience. Yet focusing on the users (i.e the story behing the people as opposed to the computer), makes “MacHEADS” a fun film for any documentary fans.
On the brothers’ inspirations…
Kobi is very inspired by British documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux. He always brings a fresh viewpoint when he explores cultural phenomenons in the US. Like us he’s very curious about his subjects and the American culture. A huge film that made an impact on Ron and got him thinking about “MacHEADS” was “Jesus Camp,” a brilliant documentary.
On their next project…
Our next project follows the MLS team Chivas USA, a Mexican team that operates in the US national soccer league. They are a strange [group] in the scene. The Mexican immigrant community who follow the team is at a constant struggle to keep their Mexican identity while being an integral, un-alienated part of America. We follow the team and the fan community as they make their run for the national championship.