I’m a bit of a documentary fanatic. I particularly like the ones that provide real insight into the creative process and follow it to it all the way to the result – good or bad. Here are my five of my favorite documentaries since 2010. What are your favorites?
- General Magic: I was an advisor to Apple in the 1980s and had a front row seat to the creation and demise of this adjacent organization that produced many of the leaders and technologies we credit today with creating the digital economy. The names may not be familiar, but the companies they went on to form will be. An innovation leader can learn a great deal by studying this colossal failure.
- Eames: The Architect and the Painter: Before ‘design thinking’ became the most overused and misunderstood term since ‘reengineering’, there we pioneers who actually designed unique products. Charles and Ray Eames created one of the first functional and financially viable design studios. Their unlikely collaboration, perseverance in the face of every imaginable adversity, and challenging marriage are a testament to the power of a shared mindset.
- Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street: Sesame Street is arguably the most original and influential television program of all time. It not only changed an entire genre it also influenced how we see the world. To make the program a reality took political influence, community organization, fund raising, and an enormous amount of trial and error with wildly creative talent. As Sondheim put, “The art of making art is putting it together.” This documentary shows you how it’s done.
- Finding Vivian Maier: What if the greatest artists among us are virtually unknown. This French housekeeper to families in Chicago brought her camera everywhere and photographed what seemed to be everyday events. What made her different was that her aesthetic sensibilities were superb. No one knew until they found her collection of photographs after her death. A must watch documentary for snap happy smartphone amateurs.
- Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present: What if the creative process was the art? Abramović herself has been on display via her performance art. Her art brings us face to face with our own process of making sense of the world. Weather lying on a bed frame suspended over a grid of lit candles at the Guggenheim or staring with patrons at the MoMa, Abramović makes us mindful of the artistic value of what we would otherwise miss in our daily routines.
- The Beatles: Get Back: This Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) series gives us an intimate look at how constructive conflict often produces the very best art.
- High Score: This chronicle of the history of video games stars a charming cavalcade of colorful dreamers and inventors who turn their adolescent hobbies into the gaming industry juggernaut that is today.
- American Masters: This PBS showcase of great American artists of all types is treasure trove of inspiration and insight for anyone who wants to hone their creative skills or just enjoy watching how the best of the best do it.