Kobi Shely and his brother Ron are obsessed with Apple, but they don't camp out in line for the latest "i" product. Where as most Apple followers are excited by iMacs, iPhones or even the occasional Newton, Kobi and Ron are more fans of the fanboys— intrigued by the "Macheads." MacHEADS: The Movie is their half-funny, half-disturbing documentary on the subject a year and a half in the making. Just last week, they put the final touches on the film to ready it for distribution.
We had a chance to ask director/writer/editor Kobi Shely about his first movie. And he had some interesting things to say about Apple and the people who really, really love them.
Tell me about shooting the documentary.
MacHEADS was produced throughout 2007 and 2008; First day of shooting started with Macworld conference in January 2007 and ended in June with the first release of the iPhone. Brothers Ron and Kobi Shely, and Director of Photography Alon Grego flew from Israel to San Francisco and met up with a local production teams. The budget came independently - we managed to come up with approx US$200,000.
How many people did you chronicle?
We interviewed 50 people form the community and inside Apple, but naturally not all of them were included in the final cut.
Can you define "Machead" in one sentence?
(Obviously you take more time to do it in the film.)
MacHEADS starts with a definition from the Urban dictionary - a person who regularly uses and is somewhat obsessed with Apple computers; or Macs. I would add to this A person who had put the Mac (including: UI, OS, APPLE Inc. , Steve Jobs and peripheral Mac products) in the centre of his day-to-day life.
Why did you pick Mac enthusiasts as the topic for a documentary?
I think Mac enthusiasts are the best topic for a documentary as an art form the investigate human phenomenon. In fact, before starting the project I was surprised to find out that this film was not done yet. Mac enthusiasts posses all the right ingredients and traits for a compelling documentary: lust,obsession, devotion, comradery and ... sex appeal
Did making this film provide any particular insights to why/how people are obsessed with the Apple brand?
We wanted to answer the core question : How is a community formed around a brand and how did this phenomenon begin? I wasn't satisfied with the usual answers about design and the "power of the brand". I knew there was something bigger. During the filmmaking process it became obvious that there is a community and there is Apple. Although they correlate, in many ways they are separated.
In the early days the only people who were using personal computers were hobbies and scientists. Apple was the first company to actually build a prepackaged product for the rest of us. This sparked a sense of techno- utopia, different people were getting together to change the world through technology by using a Mac. And as often in these world-changing situations these people were the underdog, the minority. They had to band together to survive, their survival mechanism was similar to those penguins who hold together and got to press tightly together and exclude all outsiders to share what ever body warmth they can manage.
This is why this community is so obsessed with Mac because it managed to tap into their survival mechanism. However there is an expanding base of Mac fans who simply follow Apple because it is cool and fashionable, these are not the die hard obsessed MacHEADS.
Is Mac obsession any different from obsession with any other hobby, person or company?
I'd have to say that there is no question that it is an obsession not like any other. In the 90s crisis Mac users went out of their ways volunteering to save the company from going down, how many brands can claim that? And it wasn't just a one time thing - it was through a period of almost 3 years. This kind of loyalty, in my opinion, brands can only dream of. What is interesting to me is that Apple never figured out how to manage their die hard fans, in some way the Macintosh community scares Apple. And now that Apple has become an overwhelming success they want to move away as far as they can from their most loyal and create a clean image of a lifestyle brand.
Walk me through the process of post production.
Post production took us almost 8 months to complete. We are a small production company and when I say small I really mean me and my brother and MacHEADS is our first documentary project. There are benefits of being fully independent but there are also downsides of not having a team of specialising people in the process of post. We had to rely on ourselves to figure out ways to research archives go through legal issues compose the story, score the music, animate and colour correct the footage...I edited at my apartment on Avid Xpress Pro (using of course a G5), the online was done on Symphony, music composed in L.A by our talented friend and composer Roy Zu Arets, and sound design was executed by Ohad Tzachar who worked in N.Y for a leading broadcast company. A lot of people we worked with were in some ways Apple fans because they come from creative fields and they were very keen to get on board and help.
What's the future for MacHEADS: The Movie?
During the filmmaking process we came to realise the promise of web 2.0 and community driven distribution. Although we are negotiating with some distributors about Television deals, we believe such a film could become a good proof for the digital independent distribution potential. MacHEADS is in general a film about the community and for the community and this is why it is best fit for web 2.0 distribution. Also we hope to be able to get onto iTunes which is also a natural platform for such a movie. Now that we are done with the post production we are planning a few special screenings in San Fransisco and NY. We will naturally be going on festival circuit tour all across the world.
So are you a Machead?
No, but like most creatives we use and love Apple products. [MacHEADS]