Interview by Carla Sanchez Taylor
Academy Award–Nominated filmmaker Jed Rothstein specializes in hard-to-get stories from around the world that help people understand one another better. WEWORK: OR THE MAKING AND BREAKING OF A $47 BILLION UNICORN is a feature documentary that explores the rise and fall of one of the biggest corporate flameouts and venture capitalist bubbles in recent years – the story of WeWork, and its hippie-messianic leader Adam Neumann. Utilizing interviews with journalists, experts, high-ranking former employees, and former WeWork members, WEWORK: OR THE MAKING AND BREAKING OF A $47 BILLION UNICORN takes a look at the community-centric, people-first ideal that sent the little co-working venture sky-rocketing into unicorn investment territory, and then investigates what was really going on behind the scenes. This marks Rothstein’s first appearance at SXSW.
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AMFM Magazine: What in particular drew you personally to this story?
Jed Rothstein: I love financial mysteries. We live in a capitalist world, for better or worse, so understanding how we treat one another in business is crucial to understanding how we live together. This story offered all that and more. Adam promised that WeWork would reinvent how we work, live, and even teach our kids. He promised the “We Generation” that he was going to remake the world. Was his pitch real? A cynical ploy to make money? Both? When billions are at stake, as they were with WeWork, a lot of things get clarified. And adding thousands of bottles of tequila to the mix doesn’t hurt in terms of making the story crazy, either.
AMFM Magazine: What was your selection process like when deciding which former employees to interview?
Jed Rothstein: We cast a wide net and tried to represent as many corners of the WeWork story as we could. Most importantly, I wanted to speak with people who had first person experiences that were deeply meaningful to them. Their journeys are what give the larger narrative its heart and soul. Adam may have been on a financial rocketship made of paper, but for his followers and employees, the ride was very real.
· While documentaries are informative, many hold a narrative structure.
AMFM Magazine: What was the message you wanted to convey to the viewer?
Jed Rothstein: Now more than ever, it’s clear that we need to find ways to come together. The WeWork proposition was that we could do that in a kind of “capitalist commune.” It almost worked, but greed, hubris and dishonesty ultimately proved its undoing. Is there another way or another version of the idea that might actually work? As we emerge from this plague year, can we rebuild our societies better using some of the lessons from WeWork’s rise and fall? I sure hope so.