REVOLUTION OS features a performance of "The Free Software Song" by the hacker rock band The GNU/Stallmans. Richard Stallman wrote the lyrics to "The Free Software Song."
--Director J.T.S. Moore on the point of view of the documentary "Revolution OS"
August 28, 2001 (original written for Tech TV interview)
When I started making "Revolution OS," I basically had the same perspective on Linux and Open Source that I think most non-techies still have today. I was aware of Linux, but I didn't know anything beyond the fact that it was a type of operating system. And, I had no clue what the term Open Source meant.
So it is quite clear that my approach with the documentary was that of an outsider looking in. My background is in filmmaking and screenwriting. After earning my MA in film production from the USC School of Cinema, I worked as a screenwriter for Walt Disney. Consequently, the type of film I was interested in making was probablyquite different from the type of film that would have been produced by a Linux or GNU hacker. I decided I would focus on a specific set of interesting characters and craft a story with a villain, a dramatic conflict and a classic three-act structure. Also, I thought it would be great if I could end the film with an uplifting musical number. I guess this is the type of sensibility that gets hardwired into screenwriters and film students. Now some may complain about the Hollywood-style of storytelling, but most memorable movies either follow this approach or consciously diverge from it for effect.
When I started making "Revolution OS" in July of 1999, Silicon Valley was still getting drunk on the giddy "gold rush" atmosphere. That environment definitely had an impact on the type of documentary I was going to make. Along the way, I captured on film one of the quintessential experiences of the late 1990's: the breathtaking IPO of a start-up company.
At the same time, another more fascinating story became the dominant focus of the film. That was the story of Richard Stallman and his vision of Free Software, and how that vision lead to Linus Torvalds and the Linux operating system. From there the story became about a grassroots revolution that continually, through no grand design, kept battling one of the most powerful corporations on Earth: Microsoft. Thus, I had the classic underdog story.
For six months I tried to involve Microsoft in the documentary. However, all I got was the run around from Microsoft's PR firm, Waggener Edstrom. At times they would send me very cute, but evasive e-mails. Ultimately, Microsoft's lack of involvement was not much of an hinderance because the film was always going to be about GNU, Linux, Free Software, and the Open Source movement. To have included the occasional clip of some random Microsoft spokesperson would have only given the film the same disingenuous veneer of faux journalistic objectivity that is the silly hallmark of network TV news. More to the point, an anonymous Microsoft spokesperson would have lacked the first person perspective that was needed.
"Revolution OS" is about the people who actually participated in the history they are discussing. It is not a film of talking heads reading pre-approved talking points. All the people who appear in "Revolution OS" are speaking of their own personal stories. Those stories together comprise the mosaic that tells the story of the rise of the Open Source movement.
In that spirit, I still wanted to give Bill Gates a chance to speak for himself. So after some detective work in the Stanford University archives, I tracked down an original copy of Bill Gates's "Open Letter to Hobbyists." It was in that 1976 letter that Gates articulated his view of the proprietary model of software development and distribution. (The letter is also quite entertaining when read aloud.) Thus, Bill Gates and Microsoft positioned themselves as the natural antagonist in my dramatic story despite refusing a role in the film. The great irony of all this is that Bill Gates's own photo image company, Corbis, supplied all the eye-catching photos of him and Steve Ballmer used in the documentary.
Revolution O.S. is director J.T.S. Moore's first feature length documentary. Moore previously has worked as a screenwriter for Walt Disney Studios. He earned his B.A. in history from Stanford University and his M.A. in film production from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema/Television. Moore's previous film, the Civil War action-drama SHOOTING CREEK, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and later was licensed by Starz-Encore. Moore was born and raised in Atlanta and currently resides in Los Angeles.
REVOLUTION OS CAST & CREW:
PRINCIPAL INTERVIEW SUBJECTS:
Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman, Eric Raymond, Larry Augustin, Bruce Perens, Michael Tiemann, Brian Behlendorf, Frank Hecker, Chris DiBona, Nick Moffitt, Donnie Barnes, Rob Malda, The GNU/Stallmans, Marc Merlin.
Produced, Written, Edited, Photographed, & Directed by:
Music Composed & Conducted by:
Location Sound by:
Format: 35mm film/color
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Running Time: 85 minutes
INTERVIEW SUBJECT'S BIOS:
In 1991 Torvalds created the Linux kernel (the unifying program for a Unix-like operating system) at age twenty-one while enrolled at the University of Helsinki in his native Finland.
Stallman founded the GNU Project in 1984 in an attempt to create his own Unix-like operating system that was freely shareable. He also started the Free Software movement to espouse his political agenda of freely-shared intellectual property. Stallman's philosophical and technical work became the foundation for Linux and the Open Source movement.
Perens authored the Open Source definition and currently works as an Open Source evangelist for Hewlett-Packard.
Raymond authored the paper "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" which brought outside attention and understanding to the sociological underpinnings of the Open Source movement.
Behlendorf is one of the original co-developers of the Apache Web Server. Apache is the most commonly used web server in the world with almost 60% of the market. Apache was the first "killer app" for Linux.
In 1989 Tiemann co-founded the first company based upon the GNU Project technology and principles of the Free Software movement. Tiemann is currently the CTO of Redhat Software, the most prominent Linux company.
Augustin co-founded VA Linux Systems, one of the first companies based upon the Linux operating system. VA Linux Systems was a key early supporter of Linux and the Open Source movement. VA Linux System also set the record for the highest opening price for and IPO. On December 9, 1999, its first trade was at $299 per share. Currently, the stock trades around $5 per share.
Hecker is a former Netscape systems engineer that authored a key internal white paper that advocated Netscape releasing its source code to the public.
Malda (a.k.a. CmdrTaco) is the editor of the famous hacker website Slashdot.
Merlin is the president of Silicon Valley Linux Users Group.
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