The suave folks at Blanka and Candy organized a 50 Years of Helvetica print show that’s been touring exhibit spaces worldwide. Now they’ve made a short film of the opening at the Design Museum London for your viewing pleasure.
Sam Mallett, a graphic design student from The University of Wales, has done a series of prints using the original metal type versions of Neue Haas Grotesk and Helvetica.
From Sam: “I did a short work placement in Zürich and had the opportunity to play with some lead type, so I designed and printed this poster to illustrate a small but important change in the typeface’s development. It’s an A3 poster with 72pt. Halbfett Haas Grotesk in one colour and 72pt. Halbfett Helvetica in another. I printed and numbered 100 posters in various colours. You can see the colours and photos of the printing process on my Flickr page. To make some funds for my final major project I was hoping to sell a few. If anyone wants to buy one, contact me at sammallett [at] mosaicparty [dot] com”
Okay, one more “It was a year ago today…” memory, then I’ll spare you my nostalgia. This screening was so packed that we had to let people sit in the projection booth. And the 50 Years of Helvetica exhibit is still up at MoMA until March 31. By the way, all our letterpress prints and cards were printed by the excellent Coeur Noir Letterpress here in Brooklyn. Tell ‘em I sent ya.
Austin, Texas - March 13, 2007
It was one year ago today that Helvetica had its World Premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival. Showing the film in public for the first time was surreal, and extremely stressful, but it was a life-changing event for me. I’d never made a film before, and it was incredible to have a sold-out audience respond like they did, and then do my first Q&A session (with David Carson, no less). Suddenly I was a filmmaker, where before that day I was just a guy who liked films and had helped some friends produce a few of their documentaries.
My head is still reeling from the 12 months that followed. Visiting 100 cities in 25 countries, meeting (literally) thousands of designers all over the world. Hearing from all the people who were inspired by the film. Seeing it broadcast on BBC1 in England, getting nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, all of this is way beyond what I ever imagined when I first came up with the idea to make a movie about a font. The result is that I’m addicted to the process of directing documentaries, and plan on making as many as I can until they stop me.
So on its one-year anniversary, I’d like to once again thank everyone who helped me make this film, everyone who’s actually in it, everyone who helped organize events during the past year, everyone who’s watched the film, and every graphic designer on the planet. You all rock.
What’s next? Helvetica focused on the people who make type, and how graphic design affects our lives. My next film focuses on the world of industrial design: the people who make objects, and how those objects affect our lives. Yeah, that’s sort of a vague description, I know. We’ll have a website up soon that’ll give you more details. I’ll try to continue blogging here for the near future, and then switch over to the new film blog at some point.
The one thing I’ve learned about making documentaries is that each one is an adventure. So I hope you’ll stick around to see me through the next one.
The Blu-ray editions are now available for pre-order. Standard edition here, European orders here, and the awesome Experimental Jetset limited edition that I’m holding, here. And I promise this is the last “blu” pun in my post titles…
Filmmaker Justin Mitchell took a break from shooting his new documentary in Brazil to add his comments to the On Google Video and The New Paradigm discussion. So I thought I’d start a new thread with his post:
What is the answer my friend?
For those reading, I have worked with Gary and Plexifilm on two of my films (Drive Well, Sleep Carefully: On the Road with Death Cab for Cutie, and Dirty Old Town: Ted Leo).
I write this from Brazil where I am currently spending five weeks finishing a new documentary. Without going into too much detail, we have shoe-string funding for the film but not enough to make up for the five weeks film work that I’m missing by being gone. The hope, the ‘dream,’ is that down the road some finances are returned via distribution of the film.
The ‘new paradigm’ as it applies to film-making talked about above is here to stay for sure though I challenge anyone to define what exactly it is or to explain how independent creators are supposed to make a living off of it. How and where will that happen in the future, in this new paradigm?
I’m not talking about Hollywood films and I’m not talking about faux independent films (financed by sub-companies of the larger corporations.) I’m talking true independence — the kind of film-making that answers to no one, that allows for creative freedom without concern for stock-holders’ dividends.
Herein might lie the problem: Hollywood films may be able to truly maximize the potential of the new paradigm, work all the angles with all different streams of marketing, etc., and ‘give away’ versions of their films in some digital format and still make money. It’s already happening. But to apply the same rules to independent ventures such as ‘Helvetica’ is ridiculous. It just doesn’t work cuz there just isn’t the same marketing money to work with. And in that, the new paradigm, for me at least, falls apart. So I ask again, what is the answer?
All the comments on this blog are all valid, everyone has their right to opinion and will act as they see fit. What I’m curious is, how many of you are creating content and watching it being given away for free without your consent? At the end of day, most directors/producers struggle to pay rent and make ends meet the same way that everyone else does. It’s our own damn fault that we’re crazed enough to blindly jump into making films that often times require going into major debt, working 24/7, and generally driving everyone around us equally insane. Hopefully we create something that entertains you and hopefully we ‘break even.’ For some they will keep making films regardless of any of it. But for others, it will simply be impossible. The danger of this new paradigm is that talented independent storytellers may get lost, give-up, or be shoved into an abyss of free downloads.
For all those who believe that watching something on low quality Google video is somehow lesser an experience, think about this: We have almost come full-circle in the limited life of the moving picture. The first moving pictures were tiny double-postage sized images that one viewed by looking into Edison’s Kinetoscope (if you go by the generally assumed history.) Well, now we stare into the tiny screens of our cell phones or laptops. The quality was poor then and at the moment, still is on most of these viewing platforms.
Not only is the image size similar, but the content length is coming full-circle as well. Short form, easily digested content in 1895, short form, easily digested content in 2008. Our expectations and our baselines for viewing experiences have shifted. Not only that, but a lot of people want it for free and feel they deserve it for free.
If this new baseline is where its all going, we risk potentially losing many talented voices. We’ll end up with nothing but one-line artists and content that where you won’t have to think too hard or follow a story for more than five minutes. It’ll be free but it’ll be content that’s created in a day rather than over the span of a year.
Why type all this? I guess because I hope there is an answer. I guess because just as ‘Helvetica’ being on Google Video and some of the comments here demonstrate, we are moving somewhere and moving fast indeed. Hell, we’re practically already there. We better talk about it now before the trip is over and end up somewhere that none of us are happy with.
Okay, I just got photos of the Blu-ray HD special edition package from Experimental Jetset, and I’m about to pee myself. So I had to share a few of the pix:
The 12″ gatefold sleeve
Inside: the Blu-ray disc sleeve and a fold-out poster
A new media format meets an old media format. And it’ll come in a custom cloth record bag… more pictures here.
Big television news: Helvetica will have its US television debut on PBS, as part of the Independent Lens series. It will premiere early in their 2008-09 season, we’ll have the exact broadcast date in July. I am extremely excited and honored that Helvetica is joining Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, The Weather Underground, An Unreasonable Man, Wordplay, and dozens of other films that have had their television premieres on Independent Lens.
So in answer to Charles McGrath’s recent New York Times story, “Is PBS Still Necessary?”, I’ll answer with a resounding: Yes!