The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
Apple launches the Macintosh and transforms the way we use computers.
A company called General Magic is spun out from Apple to transform how we use a telephone.
General Magic ships one of the first handheld wireless personal communicator— what today we call a smartphone.
From mobile computing, social media, downloadable apps and e-commerce to touchscreens, emoji and USB, the products and services that now dominate the tech industry and our day-to-day lives were born at General Magic.
But this was before the Web, before 3G, before Google, before even those bricklike mobile phones were in every pocket.
The technology, networks and online content that make an iPhone possible today just weren’t there in 1994. Neither were the users—not yet.
But although General Magic failed, the vision, the concepts and the people who pioneered them went on to change everything.
It’s 2017. The iPhone X has just been released. eBay sell a quarter of a billion dollars worth of goods every day. And anywhere, anytime communication is now on our wrists. Each of these incredible world changing feats has been shaped by a Magician.
But instead of the masters achieving these feats, it was the apprentices who went on to really change the world. They took the vision and the lessons learned at General Magic and went on to found eBay, develop Android, create the iPod, iPhone and Apple Watch, and eventually, lead digital transformation from within The White House.
General Magic had its World Premiere at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and opened to rave reviews from film, business and tech press.
In July 2018, a special Silicon Valley premiere of General Magic was held for hundreds of former 'Magicians', friends, family and press. The private screening was followed by a Q&A with Tony Fadell, Megan Smith, Marc Porat, Andy Hertzfeld, Bill Atkinson, Susan Kare, Darin Adler and filmmakers Sarah Kerruish & Matt Maude.
'General Magic—how tech superfriends assembled, dreamt up smartphones, and failed' (Ars Technica)
'At premiere of General Magic doc, tech icons consider the future' (CNET)
'7 design lessons from Silicon Valley’s most important failure'
'Before Apple’s iPhone There Was General Magic' (Barron's)
'“General Magic” captures the legendary Apple offshoot that foresaw the mobile revolution' (Fast Company)
The visionary with the right idea and the right pitch but the wrong timing and the wrong execution.
The humanitarian and brilliant young engineer who now operates at the centre of the world stage.
The Yoda of our story, one of the world’s greatest software engineers and the man forever putting the new first.
The apprentice who worshipped then surpassed, who saw the cracks and witnessed his gods become mortal.
The truth teller who famously stood up to Steve Jobs. Courageous about confronting reality and speaking truth to power.
The benefactor who gave his blessing, then launched the Newton without a word to the Magicians.
The Frodo of General Magic. Who undertook the quest to take anytime, anywhere communication to our wrists.
The prophet in exile, whose spirit and rebellion haunt this story.
Director, Producer, and Writer
“The making of GENERAL MAGIC was a very personal journey for me. Not only had I filmed the early days of that company but I also experienced the catastrophic failure of a startup that I had been very involved in. So often we hear about the great success stories in Silicon Valley but what about all those people who don't make it? This was my way of understanding the role of failure in any creative endeavor and what it takes to bring important ideas to life.
Our hope is that this film will inspire the next generation of technologists and makers to learn from those who have gone before them and apply the lessons of General Magic to solving the most important problems of our day.”
Before moving back to London, Sarah Kerruish lived in Silicon Valley for 15 years where she worked as a filmmaker with some of the great inventors of our age. Her films have been distributed worldwide and won many awards, including a Peabody and an Emmy nomination. In 2017, she made a short film about the last few days of the tech team at the White House under President Obama. Sarah is currently Chief Strategy officer at Kheiron Medical, working with an incredibly talented deep learning team to improve the detection and treatment of breast cancer. In 1993, she worked with a documentary crew filming the team at General Magic. As a former Magician herself, Sarah’s unparalleled access to the subjects in our film allows her the greatest insight and intimacy to the heart of our story.
Director, Producer, Cinematographer and Writer
“When I began working on GENERAL MAGIC, there was this amazing moment reviewing the archival films shot at the company in 1992, seeing all these young people sitting on the floor of a tiny office. It was incredible to see the founders of eBay, Linkedin, Android, and Nest sitting there. Engineers that now lead Samsung, Apple, Facebook, Google.
Imagine one class at high school and every single student going on to change the lives of billions. What was the special ingredients that led to the technology we use today? What was discovered or learned? Watching that archival tape I wanted to make their story. Humanize and de-mystify the people that shape the industries and technologies we use every day. Show the emotions behind those who made the emoticon. The touch screen, the software modem, the tools we now can’t imagine living our lives without.”
Matt Maude is an award winning director, writer and producer. After starring in the UK ITV soap Crossroads during his teenage years, Matt moved to working behind the camera, directing and producing adverts, promos, music videos and narrative shorts. As a screenplay writer and director, Matt won the Kirin First Press Award for direction and the Epic Award for Best Screenplay and was nominated for the Virgin Media Shorts Award. He is a member of a UK’s regional screen agencies ‘Super 8’ - one of eight filmmakers to watch. In 2017, he joined Sarah Kerruish in creating a film about the last week of the Obama Administration. General Magic is his first documentary feature film. At the Tribeca Film Festival, Matt was nominated for the Best New Director Award.
Executive Producer & Story Creator
Michael Stern is senior counsel in Cooley’s technology transactions group in Palo Alto. He has practiced law in Silicon Valley for 35 years, working with startups and established companies such as Pixar, NeXT, eBay, Adobe and Cisco.
A former English professor and newspaper reporter, Mike's articles and reviews have run in publications as varied as The American Prospect, Science Fiction Studies, The American Lawyer (where he was a contributing editor), The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. As an active Dickens scholar, Michael co-endowed a chair in Dickens studies at UC Santa Cruz, where he participates in the Dickens Universe every year. As General Magic’s general counsel, Mike saw the cracks before they came through the ceiling. As the film’s executive producer, Mike connects the legal dots with the financial tees.
"Working at General Magic was an all-consuming, life-changing experience for me. The company was full of the smartest and most creative people I had ever known. It was a story that cried out to be told, something unique amid the routine frenzy of life in Silicon Valley. I carried the ache of the untold tale with me for many years.
That was until Sarah said that it was time to make a film instead. This story could add a whole new perspective to the past by focusing on the subsequent triumphs of the whizkids— the young Magicians and their success over the last twenty years—those who have done so much to make the Magic vision a reality in the present.
Best of all, making the movie recapitulated the experience of being there—working with incredibly talented people, forming deep and lasting friendships, walking through walls to ship a final cut. Having two peak experiences like that—how lucky can you get?"
Reynold D’Silva founded Silva Screen Records in 1986. Since then, he has been instrumental in growing the company’s repertoire of original soundtracks including Crocodile Dundee, The Wicker Man Batman Begins, The Departed, Iron Man, A Single Man, Dear John, The Expendables, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Project X and Gravity. Silva Screen Records are also the exclusive worldwide partner for BBC soundtrack releases, working alongside the likes of Hans Zimmer.
John Giannandrea left General Magic to become one of the first employees at Netscape. Today he is a senior executive at Apple Inc., leading its Machine Learning and AI strategy effort.
Writer & Story Creator
With a background in academia, publishing and creative writing, Jonathan has consulted on a variety of documentaries, most recently the forthcoming The Island and the Whales. He is currently working as story producer on Churban, a feature documentary on the last survivors of the Holocaust due for release early 2016.
Co-Producer and Story Creator
D&AD Yellow Pencil winner, Ceri Tallett, is co producer and part of the film’s writing team. Having worked at Pentagram, Apple and an array of leading ad agencies and brands on tone of voice, copywriting and branding, Ceri’s style eye leads the direction of the project’s feel and design.
The fourth employee at General Magic and subsequent Head of HR, Dee Gardetti went on to work at various startups and businesses in both Silicon Valley and San Francisco. As co-producer, Dee has been instrumental in the logistics side of the film, organising schedules, setting up interviews and bringing the former Magicians back together on film.
Claire Ferguson is a documentary film director and editor. Her previous work includes the award-winning The Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003), The End of The Line (2009) and the Grammy winning A Concert for George (2005). Prior to documentaries, Claire worked in drama features alongside the likes of Terry Gilliam, Mike Leigh, Stanley Kubrick, Richard Attenborough and The Beatles.
Anna Meller has been working as an editor for the past 8 years, having edited several Sundance featured shorts as well as documentaries for the Guardian and Vice Media. General Magic is her first feature. Anna is co-founder of London-based production company Bullion Productions.
Sunday, August 26, 2018 - 7.20PM
ASFA: Lecture Hall
1800 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr. Boulevard, Birmingham, Alabama 35203
World Premiere of the Film at the Tribeca Film Festival. Premiere was followed by a Q&A with former 'Magicians' Marc Porat, Tony Fadell, Megan Smith, Andy Hertzfeld, Joanna Hoffman and Directors Sarah Kerruish and Matt Maude. Moderated by Emma Sinclair of The Guardian. TimeOut voted the film one of it's Top Ten Picks for the Tribeca Film Festival.
Special event for General Magic employees, family, friends and press. Screening was followed by a Q&A with former 'Magicians' Marc Porat, Tony Fadell, Megan Smith, Susan Kare, Andy Hertzfeld, Bill Atkinson, Darin Adler and Directors Sarah Kerruish and Matt Maude. Moderated by Christina Passariello of the Washington Post.
Photos | Press