Linotype the Film: Interview with Director Doug Wilson
Earlier this year I was at the UK premier of Linotype: The Film. A beautifully crafted documentary tracking the story of the Linotype type casting machine, described as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by Thomas Edison.
There were many laughs from the audience but overall it’s an historic and quite poignant story. I had the opportunity to catch-up with Doug Wilson, the director and producer, about its reception.
What’s been happening up to now?
DW: We released Linotype the Movie on DVD, on October 16th and we’ve had a really good response. Some have been waiting for the film for almost two years because they were original backers on Kickstarter, so the three of us involved [Brandon Goodwin, Jess Heugel] felt fantastic I must say.
It’s available digitally via Amazon and iTunes and you’re selling a physical version direct?
DW: Yeah, because it’s been such an independent film from the beginning, we’re just doing our own Blu-ray and DVD distribution with all the bonus features and subtitles and seven different languages. About an hour ago I sat down and did a batch order of and got them all labelled and they’ll go out this evening.
A lot of people really warmed to the film and are now asking what’s next. Where do you think this’ll go now?
DW: When we set out, it was to tell the story of the Linotype. It wasn’t to kick off a specific career or to use it as a stepping stone. It really was to tell the story of Linotype and the people that ran the Linotype machine – to honour their lives and the story of the machine. So we’re incredibly thrilled that it’s been so well received and I feel very honoured. I don’t think that I quite realised the historical importance it might have until maybe I was doing it, you know? I didn’t think, “oh well, I’ll make this great historical piece that will be in museums and people’s collections.” I think that I naively made it because it was a story that I thought was interesting and needed to be made.
So as many people certainly ask, “well, are you making another film” but I really don’t know if there’ll be another film. Plus I’m still wrapping up everything with Linotype and definitely want to take a bit of a breather.
Do people often make comparisons with Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica?
DW: Yeah, definitely. And actually what’s fun is even Gary Hustwit, called and was supportive — that was obviously very kind and a big help to us. Certainly people have drawn those parallels and I feel quite honoured. I remember when I was a student at university, Helvetica came out and to me, it was so fascinating to see a film about a typeface.
I feel like our film is even more personable, it’s more about people and not just about old, weird technology and our editor, Brandon Goodwin made sure that it wasn’t just a type nerd film.
So yeah, I’m flattered to have this film compared to Helvetica and proud that is can stand alongside it and be part of that historical canon of films about type. It makes me very, very honoured. Even in my own personal film collection it’s next to Helvetica!
I assume since the film a lot of people are asking “how can I get one of these?” “Doug must be the fountain of all Linotype knowledge now”?
DW: Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun and people do seem to contact us. Even people who don’t know about the film perhaps search on Google, “Linotype” and our film is one of the first things that pop up. So I certainly believe it’s garnered a lot of new interest in the Linotype and I’ve heard of several people who want to go to Linotype University, which we feature in the film and get hands-on experience with the Linotype. Larry Raid has 100 machines in his barns and out rusting in the fields and hey, that’s great, as much interest as we can gather in the Linotype in these operators and their stories, the better, in my opinion.
It’s a great tribute to the operators — a generation that’s disappearing — what do hope for the film’s legacy?
DW: In the beginning I don’t think I fully understood it. I just felt the story needed to be told. And unfortunately, since we’ve filmed some of our interviewees have passed away and some are really quite sick now. I just feel like we were really at the right place at the right time and I feel honoured to have made the film and to be able to tell their stories. One of the main characters is Guy Trower and we actually got to film the very last time he ever sat and ran a Linotype machine. And he had done that for 60 years of his life and now he’s quite sick. I feel quite honoured because it’s a legacy that I didn’t expect to be a part of and I feel honoured that I could be a part of documenting these lives. That’s what I love about documentary films — I was lucky to be a part of it.
Thanks very much to Doug Wilson for his time.