Tribeca 2018: General Magic

Marc Porat, Founder and CEO of General Magic, displays his 1989 drawings of the Smart Phone he imagined. Still taken from GENERAL MAGIC, directors Matt Maude and Sarah Kerruish.

General Magic is a documentary that brings to life what Forbes has called “the most important dead company in Silicon Valley.”

Because the people profiled had a role in creating the technology, the documentary actually asks that you place your phone in airplane mode or power it off.  It’s a nice meta joke that works at the film’s expense.

This documentary features an incredible array of Silicon Valley visionaries with impressive resumes.  General Magic originated within Apple in 1989 before spinning off in 1990 as its own company.  Featuring many members of the Apple Macintosh team, the company would be founded by Marc Porat, Andy Hertzfeld, and Bill Atkinson.  They knew that the future of technology would be in handheld communications.  By 1994, they had invented the first smartphone.

General Magic is a company that nobody heard of yet it plays such a big role in our lives.  Think about it.  The people who had a hand in inventing the iPhone, iPod, Android, and eBay all worked for the company.  As a result of all their impressive work, technology made a big jump over the next two decades.  While the company may have folded up shop in 2002, their legacy lives on.

What was once seemed like it was science fiction, General Magic turned it into reality.  Outside of the tech world, people might not know their names yet they’ve all played a role in our everyday lives.  Co-directors Matt Maude andSarah Kerruish tell their story by way of archival footage and present-day interviews.  It’s footage that, as a result, makes for a compelling documentary.

Marc Porat was the founder and CEO of General Magic.  This is somebody who was working on designs for a smartphone as far back as 1989!

Tony Fadell, who later founded Next Technologies before selling to Google for a few billion, is the person who had a hand in inventing both the iPod and iPhone.  How about that for a heck of a resume?!?  Since he was three years old, he would spend every weekend fixing or building things.

Andy Hertzfeld was one of the members of the original team that worked on the Apple Macintosh.  He went on to co-create Google Circles.

A former Google VP, Megan Smith served as the Chief Technology Officer in President Barack Obama’s administration.  Smith was also the founder of Planet Out.

Joanna Hoffman was portrayed by Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs.  The head of marketing for General Magic, she’s the woman who stood up to Jobs.  Like Hertzfeld, she was also a member of the original Apple Macintosh Team.

Kevin Lynch was the creator of Dreamweaver.  Formerly the CTO of Adobe, he’s now the current VP of Technology at Apple.  He was the lead engineer that worked on the Apple Watch.

Finally, there’s John Sculley, who served as the CEO for Apple from 1983-1993.

Other people that worked for General Magic include Andy Rubin, who helped to invent the Android, and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

General Magic is a noteworthy documentary that offers up a portrait inside the world of remarkable tech geniuses who were inventing technology ahead of its time.  Maybe one day, someone watching the film will have the bright idea for the next technological innovation.

DIRECTOR:  Matt Maude, Sarah Kerruish
SCREENWRITERS:  Matt Maude, Sarah Kerruish, Jonathan Keys
FEATURING:  Tony Fadell, Marc Porat, Andy Hertzfeld, Megan Smith, Joanna Hoffman, Kevin Lynch

An official selection of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, General Magic holds its world premiere as a Spotlight Documentary.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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