General Magic
General Magic
A motion picture. By Spellbound Productions.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Alan Kay


This is the story of one of history’s most talented technology teams.

From the first smartphones to social media, e-commerce and even emojis, the ideas that now dominate the tech industry and our day-to-day lives were born at General Magic, a 1989 Silicon Valley startup that most of us haven't heard of.

General Magic, the upcoming documentary, is a tale of how great vision and epic failure can change the world. The film features members of the original Mac team along with the creators of the iPhone, Android and eBay.

These designers, engineers and entrepreneurs saw the future decades before it happened. General Magic captures the spirit of those of us who dare to dream big and the life-changing consequences when we fail, fail again, fail better, and ultimately succeed.



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.



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.

GMFilmStill - The First Smart Phone Andy Hertzfeld.png
GMFilmStill - Young Megan Smith.png
GMFilmStill - Marc and the Book.png



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. 

'At premiere of General Magic doc, tech icons consider the future' (CNET)

'General Magic—how tech superfriends assembled, dreamt up smartphones, and failed' 
(Ars Technica)

'7 design lessons from Silicon Valley’s most important failure'
(Fast Company)

'Before Apple’s iPhone There Was General Magic' (Barron's)

'“General Magic” captures the legendary Apple offshoot that foresaw the mobile revolution' (Fast Company)

'Poignant, entertaining and full of life lessons from the small and personal to the universal.’

- Forbes

'The biggest eye-opener of Tribeca 2018'

- Film Journal

‘It’s all informative, but the biggest kick is giggling at the key players’ startlingly accurate predictions of the kind of world we’re now living in'

- Village Voice

'A fascinating look at what it means to fail, and whether a failure that changed the world is really a failure at all.'

- Apple Insider

‘General Magic is a reminder of how compelling stories about technology can be.'

- The Verge

'Copious amounts of fascinating behind-the-scenes footage illustrating the youthful energy and passion fueling the enterprise'

- The Hollywood Reporter

‘Tech nerds everywhere should rejoice at General Magic’


'Ultimately, it’s not a film about tech. It’s a film about people who have a dream to change the world and what it takes to do it.'

- Recode Decode podcast hosted by Kara Swisher (listen here)


The Cast


Marc Porat

CEO of General Magic and visionary of the smart phone. Former member of the Aspen Institute, founder of multiple companies in the sustainability and the built environment sector.


Megan Smith

Brilliant engineer and humanitarian, former U.S. Chief Technology Officer under the Obama Administration and VP at Google, co-founder of The Malala Fund and shift7.


Andy Hertzfeld

One of the world’s greatest software engineers, member of the original Apple Macintosh team, co-founder of General Magic and co-creator of Google Circles.


Tony Fadell

Joined General Magic as a young college apprentice, then continued on to co-invent the iPod and iPhone, found Nest and today heads the innovative Future Shape.


Joanna Hoffman

Member of the original Apple Macintosh team, Head of Marketing at General Magic and the woman who famously stood up to Steve Jobs.


John Sculley

The benefactor who gave his blessing, then launched the Newton without a word to the Magicians.


Kevin Lynch

Former CTO of Adobe, creator of Dreamweaver, lead engineer on Apple Watch and current VP of Technology at Apple.


Steve Jobs

The prophet in exile, whose spirit and rebellion haunt this story.


The Filmmakers

Micheal Stern, Matt Maude and Sarah Kerruish - Producers.jpg

Sarah Kerruish

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.

Matt Maude

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.

Michael Stern

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

Executive Producer

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

Executive Producer

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.

Jonathan Key       

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.


Ceridwen Tallett

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.

Dee Gardetti           


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       

Senior Editor

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       


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.




For private or corporate screenings of General Magic, please contact us.

Sedona International Film Festival (Arizona)
Feb 26 - 28, 2019

Boulder International Film Festival (Colorado)
Feb 28 - Mar 3, 2019

Omaha Film Festival (Nebraska)
Mar 5 - 10, 2019

San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (California)
Mar 12 - 18, 2019

Previous Festivals

**** World Premiere ****
Tribeca Film Festival - New York, April 2018

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. 


Los angeles film awards **** WINNER: Best Documentary Feature ****

Napa Valley Film Festival **** WINNER: BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE ****



Louisville International Festival of Film

Philadelphia Film Festival

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

Washington West Film Festival

Milwaukee Film Festival

Next International Film Festival Houston

27th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival

Denver Film Festival

SF Doc Stories

Gold Coast International Film Festival

Hawaii International Film Festival

Williamsburg Independent Film Festival

Palm Springs International Film Festival

Private Events

Magician Premiere in Silicon Valley - California Theatre, San Jose, CA

Private Premiere 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

Computer History Museum - Mountain View, CA

Private Screening. Q&A w/ Marc Porat, Megan Smith, Andy Hertzfeld & Bill Atkinson. Moderated by Dan'l Lewin
Live Stream | Photos


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