Filmmaker Jed Rothstein emphasizes human drama behind the financial roller-coaster ride of coworking startup WeWork.
Streaming in the Documentary Spotlight section at SXSW Online 2021, “WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn,” filmmaker Jed Rothstein pulls back the curtain on the most compelling tech business story in recent memory. Ignited by best-in-class branding, charismatic leadership by co-founder Adam Neumann, and purpose-driven messaging, coworking startup WeWork snowballs from its first location in Lower Manhattan to global dominance in the coworking industry and a $48 billion valuation. Rothstein offers new insights behind the WeWork story via interviews with employees like Megan Mallow and Don Lewis and various business pundits. Rothstein and editor Samuel Nalband craft the storytelling with fairness. They capture the early excitement of WeWork customers and the hustle of Neumann.
Startup stories often focus on money raised and lost. Rothstein never loses sight of the emotional pull of a startup valued at $47 Billion. Wisely, he moves beyond the failed public offering, financial charts, and investments by SoftBank Group. Rothstein understands that the key to his movie is emphasizing the human element of the story.
“WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn” is the story of Adam Neumann and his struggle to grow as a leader. Neumann’s struggles impact the opportunities for WeWork to grow and create emotional and financial fallouts for WeWork employees.
Rothstein maintains a swift pace via compelling interviews and detailed reporting. Cinematographer Wolfgang Held brings extra energy to the movie via lively visuals. Their collaboration results in a business story that becomes more than a business documentary. “WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn” is a human tragedy that happens to take place in the fast and furious world of startups.
It’s worth noting that Neumann refused any cooperation with the movie. However, Rothstein makes skillful use of interview footage and marketing videos to keep Neumann front and center throughout the film. I’m curious to learn Neumann’s thoughts on the movie. I think Rothstein recognized Neumann’s charisma and hustle while delivering some pointed criticisms about his financial missteps.
“WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn,” tells a fair story. What more can a startup founder expect?
“WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn” streams via Hulu starting April 2, 2021.
Director: Jed Rothstein
Editor: Samuel Nalband
Cinematographer: Wolfgang Held
Air Date: April 2, 2021
Behind the Curtain: WeWork plans to merge with BowX Acquisition, a special purpose acquisition firm, to gain a listing on the stock market.