Located in Berkeley, California, Herb Permillion III took over typewriter retail and repair shop California Typewriter more than 30 years ago. The following year, Apple released the personal computer. But Permillion wasn’t deterred. He and longtime repairman Ken Alexander believe in the typewriter and know that if they hold on long enough, it will come back into vogue. They might be right, or they might lose their shirts waiting.

Permillion and Alexander aren’t the only typewriter faithful, and first-time director Doug Nichol assembles an impressive line-up of clacking keys and dinging bell enthusiasts: Tom Hanks, John Mayer, Sam Shepard, David McCullough, Mason Williams, collector Martin Howard, and sculptor Jeremy Mayer—who uses typewriter parts to manufacture magnificent works of art extolling the virtues of this magnificent machine.

California Typewriter is both an exuberant embrace of an analog world and an exploration of how technology influences artistic expression. No one in California Typewriter thinks typewriters will replace computers—all of them rely on the internet and social media to either promote their work or hunt down typewriters—but they all understand that a typewriter can give you something a word processor can’t. For Hanks, it’s the aesthetic appeal of creating a piece of history. For John Mayer, it’s a way to unlock creativity without pausing to edit—Mayer perfectly describes the process of writing as, “Paving a road and driving on it at the same time.” For Howard, it is the object of his obsession.

From the obsessed to the curious, California Typewriter covers it all. Now streaming on Hoopla and Kanopy.

The above blurb first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 24, No. 30, “Ushering in a great era for film.”


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