Monday, May 04, 2009


Objectified is director Gary Hustwit's follow-up to his well-received documentary Helvetica. Continuing on with the theme of design, Objectified takes an expanded view and looks at what design is, how it affects people, and where it is going in the future. Hustwit interviews a number of design luminaries, including Jonathan Ive, senior VP of industrial design at Apple and the principal designer of the iPhone among many other products.

A number of designers talk about what inspires them and the things they come up with. But even though the film celebrates the work they do, it also raises at least some questions about a profession that can at times be at odds with environmental sustainability and really only addresses a small percentage of the people on the planet.

Objectified is a really interesting documentary that makes you appreciate the beauty and artistry of everything from a laptop computer, to a chair, to even the most mundane household objects that we all take for granted, like a toothbrush or a vegetable peeler.

Director Gary Hustwit was in attendance and did a Q&A after the film.

  • Hustwit still had questions to ask about design after completing Helvetica, hence the continuation of the theme in Objectified.
  • Hustwit wouldn't reveal specifics because he's still working it out in his head, but his third documentary will also share a design theme.
  • Seeing more about the process of design during the course of filming and interviewing subjects has caused him to think more about why he makes films, but didn't necessarily affect how he made this film.
  • He found it interesting that all the designers he interviewed seemed really interested in their camera gear and that all wanted to try to redesign it and make it better.
  • On their way to interview Jonathan Ive, the airline lost the crew's tripod and boom mike extension, so they had to jury rig ones from stuff they bought at Home Depot, and were a bit embarrassed to show up at Apple with it.
  • Before filming, Hustwit talked to a lot of designers, educators, and writers to get a wish list of topics and people to interview, but he also did have a number of people in mind that he wanted to have for the film.
  • He was intrigued to find out what was on the designers' minds, who they were as people, and what drove them to do what they do.
  • He hopes at some point to be able to make a documentary about Tom Waits.
  • Hustwit has known Kristian Dunn, guitarist for the band el ten eleven, for 15 years, and finds his music clicks with Hustwit's visual imagery, hence the music in the film.
  • Hustwit mentioned that documentaries generally aren't scored since you don't know what the editorial cut will be until close to the end.
  • With Helvetica, he just told musicians he was making a movie about the font, and found it interesting the things he got back.
  • Luke Geissbuhler, the director of photography, also worked on Helvetica, Borat, and Bruno. His father is a Swiss designer.
  • Hustwit says he is learning from Geissbuhler, as he hadn't done any filming before Helvetica, and Hustwit ended up shooting about 30% of Objectified himself.
  • Editor Joe Beshenkovsky has worked on a number of episodes of the cable version of This American Life.
  • Objectified, despite its look, was kind of low budget and a bit of a credit card movie, but hundreds did end up working on it.
  • When asked, Hustwit said that there needs to be a dialog on sustainability, but it does come back to us as consumers; he thinks there is a change going on in terms of patterns of consumption. If more people understand the things behind design, maybe they will think more about what they buy.
  • Designers were asking the question of how you justify making all these things, but the system depends on consumers continually buying things, especially now with all the talk of recession.
  • Everything is designer; it's about re-evaluating and redesigning to make things better. Designers, especially in Europe, are being involved in more discussions about public policy, in part because of this philosophy and methodology of looking at problems.


My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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