Can you remember a time before your iPhone or hand-held phone? Going back to 2002, the first BlackBerry phone was launched. I didn’t have one, but my husband did. He used it mainly for texting; it was a large device, although it looked as though it was designed to fit inside of a men’s front shirt pocket. The new movie “BlackBerry” is out now and the film is great! The mixture of creativity, and humor with cut-throat business is an intriguing tale.
The year is 1996, in Waterloo, Ontario, a city in Canada. Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and his business partner and best friend Douglas Fregin (Matt Johnson) are close to creating the world’s first smartphone. Struggling to keep their company in the business, Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) agrees to join the company; as he sees the future with their new product, he also has the money and experience needed to create and sell a much-needed prototype of their invention. Most know the BlackBerry phone had a short run-life, yet most don’t know the entire story of its humble beginnings, the key players, the launch, and its growth to a billion-dollar operation.
Sadly, most know of the demise, as the Apple, iPhone, tweaked the idea several times, especially in size, to mainstream the product, thus seeing a rapid decline in BlackBerry sales. The film is directed by Matt Johnson, and co-written by Johnson and Mathew Miller, with beginnings in 2017 when asked by Niv Fichman, the President of Rhombus Media, created an adaptation of the bestselling book “Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of Blackberry.” Johnson recalls, “The Blackberry was the status symbol of the early-2000s, and at the beginning of the social-media era, it made you part of a group. The BBM perfectly captured that, like you can’t talk to somebody on BBM unless you both have Blackberries, it opened up a new way of communicating before Instagram DMs or Snapchat.”
The more Johnson and Miller learned about the early days of Lazaridis’ company, Research in Motion, the more they came to identify with its culture and the environment the engineers worked in. When adapting the book, Johnson and Miller attempted to stay true to the story while also bringing their own unique storytelling perspectives and experiences to the film.
Recently, Matt was in Chicago with his film, “Blackberry,” which screened at the Music Box Theater on May 5, during the Chicago Critics Film Festival, of which I am a member. Matt spoke with me after he introduced the film. The link is https://bit.ly/BlackBerryInterview
What struck a chord with me is that Johnson captured the creative genesis of problem-solving. Too often, we take how a product is put together for granted—with the hand-held phone race; we see how that process evolved up close and personal. As a former teacher of gifted students, I appreciate seeing that process portrayed in a film; it was fascinating to watch. For me, that is the film’s heart, is when they work together to reach a goal. Honestly, it is such a great feeling, and I created lessons so my students could experience the process. It also seemed more of a healthy environment, as Steve Jobs was a constant criticizer and somewhat of a bully at times. These guys were excited and reveled in each others’ success.
I highly recommend “BlackBerry” as Canada should get its due; check it out now.
Listen to the Hollywood 360 Radio Network Podcast:https://bit.ly/SuccessionBlackberryH360
Sarah Knight Adamson© May 10, 2023