My first doc of the festival was Print the Legend, which was ostensibly about 3D printing. I say ostensibly, because it has a tendency to vacillate back and forth between two fairly separate subjects. One is a NOVA-esque exploration of competing technologies, their methods, and the applications and implications of 3D printing. The other is a human interest story about the companies and people pushing the tech forward, using them as a sort of microcosm to explore business and management in the entrepreneurial space. Both are interesting, although I felt the tech side of things was ultimately much more compelling, The bigger issue comes from the fact that the exploratory link between the two is tenuous. It’s like digging two wells instead of one. They might both strike water, but they’ll pump dry faster than one well drilled deeply.
I did have an opportunity to talk to some of the filmmakers involved, particularly co-director Clay Tweel after the screening, and I asked him about this seeming dual focus. It turns out the genesis of the project was less about 3D printing technology and more about trying to find the next Steve Job-type figure, the guy at the forefront of some new technology that would be as revolutionary as the PC. That led them to Bre Pettis at MakerBot, one of two companies the film spends extended time profiling, and set them chasing 3D printing. The footage for the film was shot over the course of about two years, and a lot of the strength of the doc came from the fact that its crews happened to be at those companies when they announced pieces of major news. Clay described the whole film as glimpsing a moment in a rapidly evolving industry. Whereas I think the film comes across as more of an (at times incomplete) investigation of what might be, his vision was as more of a painting of what objectively was.