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The Story Behind That Odd Steve Jobs-as-FDR Video


"Steve's eyes were sparkling through it all. By the time I got to, 'and you as FDR,' I had made the sale."

Last week, the Blaze brought you the film Apple created for an internal meeting called "1944," in which Steve Jobs took on the role as FDR. Little was known about the film at the time it was exclusively released to Network World, but now the filmmaker is speaking out about it.

Michael Marksman writes on his blog that he was the creative director for the film early in his career. In the spring of 1984, the production company Image Stream, for which Marksman worked, was called upon to produce the film for one of the company's sales conferences.

Here's how Marksman recalls his meeting with head of Macintosh marketing, Mike Murray, and Glenn Lambert, who Marksman had hired to write the "introductory hooplah for the Mac session":

As Glenn and I listened to Mike talk about beach head and market penetration, and as we watched him draw on his white board, the parallels to the landings at Normandy seemed obvious. I think Glenn was first to connect 1984 to 1944. And the idea clicked in almost immediately.

Given the way Steve had positioned Apple against  IBM, it just seemed to fit. Glenn, Mike, and I began brainstorming right there in the office. Ideas came tumbling out. IBM had Charlie Chaplin for P.C. advertising. And, it turns out that Charlie Chaplin not only had a Hitler-like mustache, he had actually done a Hitler sendup in The Great Dictator. We'd show oppressed workers liberated by the brave forces of Macintosh. We got so excited by the idea that Mike wanted to rush right in and pitch to Steve.

I called Chris in L.A. to outline what we were thinking. War movie. Stock footage from the D-day landings. Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel hanging on the wall. Mac marketing team in cameo roles. And the topper: Steve as FDR.  He said he'd start looking for a director (or maybe he had one in mind).

Glenn, Mike, and I marched into Steve's office to give him the pitch. Pretty much the way I outlined it in the previous paragraph. Steve's eyes were sparkling through it all. By the time I got to, "and you as FDR," I had made the sale. In the binary universe of Steve Jobs, something is either a zero or a one. This was a one. Instantly. Definitively.


Glenn and I had discussed getting a professional impressionist to dub in the FDR dialog. When we mentioned that to Steve, he immediately jumped in to say, "no, I'll do the voice myself."

Probably the fastest I've ever gone from brief to yes in my entire career. The whole journey in less than 90 minutes. That NEVER happens. But the idea was so apt. And Mike had jumped right in to pitch it out with Glenn and me. So, in a way, it was sold even before it was completed.

The rest is filmmaking history.  Read more of Marskman's account of the making "1944" here.

If you missed the video in our previous post, check it out here or watch this clip:

[H/T Gizmodo]

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