Avi Weider started making movies in high school, thrilled to “while away the hours editing Super-8 silent shorts” in a film production class at Brooklyn College that he talked himself into for English class credit. In college he studied Film theory, history and criticism but has to teach himself the ‘making’ part of film. After more Super-8 “epics followed,” he got out of school and started working on features in the editing room. His 1998 short “I Remember” debuted at Sundance, while at the same time he began supporting himself with computer programming for corporate clients.
Then, he opened Loop Filmworks, where he produced commercials and promos for cable and broadcast TV, while helping produce some feature documentaries and writing screenplays. In 2006 the focus shifted back to filmmaking, resulting in his Sundance Lab and Sloan Foundation supported projects, “Zeroes and Ones” and SXSW-debuting “Welcome to the Machine.”
What it’s about: Upon fathering triplets, filmmaker Avi Zev Weider explores the nature of technology, seeking what it means to be human.
Avi says: Typically, films about technology focus solely on specific inventions, scientists or discoveries. In the daily major media as well, most stories are about the business of technology, dealing with novelty and glossing over any nuanced issues. It is with rare exception that a film engages the larger questions surrounding technology. However, quite the opposite is true of most people’s daily encounters and conversations. That is to say, every time we have a discussion about technology, be it artificial intelligence, cell phones or e-mail, the conversation invariably ends up being about ourselves – about what we value as people. And it is these values – be it choices, be it relationships, be it family – that are what make us human.
Ultimately, what I continue to find really fascinating is that the force that shaped the creation of the smartphone in my pocket is the very same one that can make people kill each other and is also the same force that may very well allow my children to live forever.
What challenges did you face making the film? My biggest challenge was trying to contain a topic that easily becomes so wide and ranging, so as to go in a million directions at once. When you try to talk about how technology affects us human beings, you quickly get into areas of philosophy, science, religion – you name it.
The other very challenging aspect for me was the birth of the triplets. Suddenly, my time to work on the film evaporated. But, as it turned out, their birth and all the challenges therein was also the key to how to ultimately structure the film, how to give it the emotional weight I felt it needed and how to personalize what could be a very cold and alienating topic.
What’s in the pipeline? I’ve got my Sundance Lab and Sloan Foundation supported narrative project, “Zeroes and Ones.” In many ways I feel it’s a (twin?) sister project to “Welcome to the Machine” as it was conceived fairly simultaneously and is about technology and interpersonal relationships.
“Zeroes and Ones” is about a young woman who, in creating an ‘intelligent’ computer out of discarded parts, completes her grandmother’s story of how she survived Auschwitz. So, again, it’s a film about personal history (my own grandmother was a survivor), digital memory versus human memory and how technology is really a reflection of who we are and who we want each other to be.
Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
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