Skip Links

How Jobs-as-FDR film was made... and Chaplin 'cameo' wasn't

Trio involved in production of Apple's long-lost '1944' tell story behind the film

By Paul McNamara on Tue, 05/08/12 - 12:46pm.

We had been involved in producing audio-visual modules and stage productions for Apple sales conferences and product introductions - including the 1983 sales conference where Macintosh was first shown to the sales force and the now-famous Software Dating Game ...

... was staged. Image Stream also staged the 1984 shareholder's meeting where Steve pulled the Mac out of a cloth bag ...

... and first showed it to the world at large.

At this (Hawaii) conference, Image Stream produced media and staging for all of the general sessions and some of the breakouts. We did the opening from an idea that Steve himself came up with: "Bluebusters."

It was the year of Ghostbusters, and Steve thought it would be cool to do a parody of the song and produce a video where Apple vanquished the forces of IBM. It was clear that the metaphor of Apple as the liberator of the office worker wasn't confined to the famous "1984 commercial. It ran deep.

(Editor's note: Two-minute versions of "Bluebusters" have been on YouTube for several years, but here's a four-minute version - director's cut? -- provided to me by Craig Elliott. Unlike "1944," Steve Wozniak makes a cameo appearance in this one. ... Then we're back to Markman's story.)

(Scriptwriter) Glenn (Lambert) and I flew to Cupertino for a briefing with the head of Mac marketing, Mike Murray. We hoped that we'd get some background information, head back to L.A., talk on the plane, eventually come up with something, work up storyboards and head back to Cupertino and pitch our idea to Apple.

Mike talked to us in general terms about marketing strategy. He said that in 1984, Macintosh had established a beachhead in businesses, but had very little penetration so far compared to IBM. In the coming year, however, with new products coming on line - including a laser printer, a revolutionary plug-and-play network architecture (AppleTalk), a file server, new software, and ways to bridge into existing IBM networks, Mac would move in from the beach.

If you know Apple history, you'll know that some of those products didn't make it to market on time. AppleTalk and the LaserWriter were the few that shipped. The rest of what was termed "The Macintosh Office" was announced, but were not ready for the market. In 1985, Mac sales stalled. Apple went into crisis. Steve into exile - until 1997.  Mike Murray moved on to Microsoft where he became VP of HR.

As Glenn and I listened to Mike talk about beachheads 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. (Editor's note: Lambert credits Markman with suggesting Jobs play FDR.)