California Typewriter Debuted In Boston And We Caught Up With The Film’s Director

California Typewriter opened Friday night at the West Newton Cinema and we had a chance to catch up with the film’s director to hear why it was so important to tell this story.

The movie is filmed in documentary style and features interviews with artists, writers, and collectors who remain steadfastly loyal to the typewriter as a tool and muse. (Did we also mention the film also stars Tom Hanks, John Mayer, David McCullough and Sam Shepard)?

The film also documents the struggles of California Typewriter, one of the last standing repair shops in America dedicated to keeping aging machines machines like the Smith-Corona clicking.

California Typewriter is director Doug Nichol’s debut feature length documentary, which explores the meaning and value of “obsolete” typewriters in today’s culture of disposable electronic gadgets. Last year, the film world premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and played at the Denver and Boulder Film Festivals. As John Mayer says, technology is “less about what you are using and more about how you are using it.”

The film delivers a thought-provoking meditation on the changing dynamic between humans and machines, and encourages us to consider our own relationship with technology, old and new, as the digital age’s emphasis on speed and convenience redefines who’s serving whom, human or machine.

Nichol is a three-time Grammy Award winner and nominee, who began his career as a DP/ Cinematographer, shooting the rock and roll documentaries “Truth or Dare” (Madonna) and “Rattle and Hum” (U2). Since then, he has made hundreds of music videos and music documentaries for various recording artists such as Lenny Kravitz, Pulp, Aerosmith and Sting. He later moved to London in the mid-90s and began working in advertising, creating and directing many award winning campaigns for brands such as Levis, Smirnoff, Virgin and Mercedes.

We caught up with California Typewriter‘s Director, Doug Nichol, to discuss why this story had to be told and today’s relationships between people and their phones.

Tell me about the film and why you think it was important to tell its story.

The film was a labor of love in that it was made over five years. It centers on a family in Berkeley trying to keep a typewriter shop open. It is doing really well and people really seem to love the movie. The film is not about typewriters. It’s more about the people whose lives are connected by typewriters and the different ways we look at the world. It also discusses where we are heading. It’s not a documentary in the traditional sense. The film is not nostalgic, but it’s an interesting feeling and makes people think about it. It’s a really beautiful movie.

The Boston Typewriter Orchestra participated in this film as well.  Can you talk about their involvement?

They play music on typewriters and it’s really funny what they do. There is always a lot of laughter from beginning to end.

You have made music videos for some of the top bands in the music industry like Boston’s favorite, Aerosmith. How did you get into film?

I went to USC Film School and actually worked with a lot of Boston bands, including the early music of New Kids on the Block. I did the whole album “Hanging Tough” and have worked with Aerosmith and Extreme as well as Sting and Lenny Kravitz. This film I just made for the love of making it.

Was it easy to get actors like Tom Hanks and Sam Shepard on board with this film?

One I started making it, people saw the passion in the film and wanted to be a part of it. Tom made a big jump and then everyone else started seeing what we were doing with it. The film is really a meditation on where we are going as a society.

What do you think about people’s relationships today with their phones and always being connected?

I have always been into technology. I was in the room with Steve Jobs when he introduced the first iPhone. We are so reliant on technology, but we are moving ahead without realizing what it is doing to us as human beings. Sam said that people used to go to coffee shops and talk with each other. Now they just go and stare at their phones.

California Typewriter is now in in theaters by Gravitas Ventures. Check out the trailer here: