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SXSW Interview: Startup Culture Exposed in 3D Printing Doc Print the Legend

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Directors Luis Lopez and Clay Tweel discuss their award-winning documentary Print the Legend, which had its world premiere this month at the 2014 South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival.

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Directors Luis Lopez and Clay Tweel / Courtesy of the Filmmakers

 
Premiering last week at South By Southwest, the documentary Print the Legend chronicles the mainstream rise of 3D printing over the past five years, due in large part to startups such as Makerbot and its aspiring rival FormLabs. The film also features the anarchist Cody Wilson, whose attempts to spark an anarchist revolution with his plastic, made-from-scratch handgun ("The Liberator") caused a major ripple in the ongoing national debate over gun control.

In contrasting the behind-the-scenes machinations that brought this new technology to the forefront with the hipster-glam personas of the key players, Print the Legend separates fact from myth, offering up a wholly riveting biopic of a burgeoning industry.

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Cody Wilson at Firing Range/ Courtesy of the Filmmakers

 
Directors Luis Lopez and Clay Tweel, who met while working on Seth Gordon's The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, found themselves in the right place at the right time in 2009, when they stumbled upon what they call a "macintosh moment." While stereolithography (the technical term for 3D printing) was developed in 1986, it took over a decade for the technology to find its way into models that made sense for home use, and Lopez and Tweel were there to document the startup culture that soon developed.

With Makerbot--led by self-proclaimed Steve Jobs-wannabe Bre Pettis -- leading the way, Formlabs followed a few years later, raising capital via what became a high-profile Kickstarter campaign. Adding another layer to the story, the open source community that made everything possible -- even Cody Wilson's gun plans -- was soon at odds with the profit-margin realities of building a corporation. Ideals were tested, integrity was questioned, partnerships crumbled, and these filmmakers were there to capture it all.

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Bre Pettis of Makerbot / Courtesy of the Filmmakers

 
We caught up with Lopez and Tweel at SXSW, where we discussed the vision they had for their debut feature, their impressions of startup culture, the significance of the film's title, and what it's like to hang out with a self-proclaimed radicalizing anarchist. (Wilson's not that into the Second Amendment, they swear.)

Watch a Print the Legend clip reel from SXSW:

Like Print the Legend on Facebook.
Follow @PrintTheFilm on Twitter.