How Real is a Digital Future?

In late 2017, I was introduced to a funny Austrian named Florian Kaps who goes by the nickname “Doc.” As a card-carrying member of his Impossible Project which, over a ten year period, miraculously resurrected Polaroid instant film from the dead, I knew very well who he was, but we’d never formally met. And little did I know how much this meeting would affect my life.

A few short weeks later in early 2018, Doc, and filmmaker Jens Meurer, along with a small production crew turned up at the door of the Analog Lab to film scenes as part of a documentary film called An Impossible Project.

Still frame from An Impossible Film
35mm still frame from An Impossible Project documentary in the Analog Lab

The film, an incredible analog artifact on its own captured on 35mm film stock, records the ups and downs of the phoenix-like transformation of The Impossible Project to again be Polaroid while making convincing arguments for analog artifacts, experiences, and imperfections as a counterbalance for the amount of ourselves we give up for the convenience of digital.

Everyone visited by Doc throughout the film are not just concerned with preserving old things, but inspired to breathe modern ideas into them — to reinvent them for today. This includes activist and Geocities founder, David Bohnett, designer Erik Spiekermann, journalist Christopher Bonanos, digital anthropologist Rahaf Harfoush, arts technologist Kamran V, Roberto di Puma and Maria Sebregondi from Moleskine, and many others —including the Analog Lab!

Fast forward to December 2018. Doc, Jens and the film crew returned to Menlo Park to spend another day with us in preparation for a special co-produced event in Vienna. The idea was to bring these people together in real life — to connect, discuss, and challenge each other and hopefully unearth truths that make an irrefutable case for the need for analog products and experiences in a world being overtaken by all things digital.

Still frame from An Impossible Film
Behind the scenes of the “An Impossible Film” documentary.

Throughout these final shoots, we captured a special Behind the Scenes film that shows another side of the final journey to this grand event in Vienna. It includes moments from inside the Analog Lab, at Supersense in Vienna, and Südbahnhotel in Semmering. The film also captures a once-in-a-lifetime moment using a 20x24 instant camera. You can count the number of those still in existence on one hand, and the group’s reaction during that moment says a lot.

I pushed to involve the Analog Lab because this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But it also presented a well-aligned and unexpected avenue to express the intention behind the Lab’s existence in the middle of an all-digital company. Real things offer a unique way of exposing the process behind their creation that is understandable and fundamentally beautiful — and this becomes particularly interesting when you explore it in a digital world.

Still frame from An Impossible Film
Sacha Peres conducting. Live recording at Südbahnhotel.

And then just as the film finally premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in late January, COVID landed and turned everything upside down.

But all is not lost. Although the finished 35mm print of the film is sitting on a shelf right now, plans are afoot for digital screenings and a slow return to analog. The most current info is available on the official film website at film-impossible.com.