“California Typewriter” gala in Cleveland

by | Mar 30, 2017 | Uncategorized | 8 comments

Hello, Cleveland!

What brought me the three-and-a-half hours up Interstate 71, a trip that I confess I nearly never take? The opening night of the Cleveland International Film Festival, where “California Typewriter” was the featured film. Readers of this blog are probably aware of the film. In case you’re not, here is a trailer that features my manifesto (though I am not the focus of the movie).

California Typewriter Trailer from American Buffalo on Vimeo.

Obviously, being the opening-night film was quite an honor.

The pre-film party was held in a beautiful Art Deco ballroom, where movie-reel-themed table decorations presided over sushi and canapés.

Here I am with director Doug Nichol; Ken Alexander of Berkeley typewriter shop California Typewriter; Toronto typewriter collector Martin Howard; and artist Jeremy Mayer, who turns typewriter parts into amazing sculptures. The film tells the stories of Ken, Martin, and Jeremy, interspersed with interviews with Tom Hanks, Sam Shepard, and others (including me), with many fascinating insights into the meaning, history, and potential of typewriters. It was my first time seeing the completed film, and I found it delightful and uplifting.

The film showed simultaneously in seven well-filled theaters in a cineplex. At the party afterwards, audience members were enthusiastic. Ken was a particular focus of attention.

Martin was invited to “type” on this dress decorated with typewriter keys.

Brian, Kim, and Ian Brumfield of Brumfield & Sons Typewriters attended the film and the party afterwards. Looking sharp!

Naturally, after the film everyone wanted to get their hands on a typewriter. The festival organizers made it possible, with several machines on which people were invited to write “love letters” to the festival. It was great to see people lining up get their turn.

I’m glad to report that the film recently secured an excellent distribution deal. It will be coming to theaters, and will eventually enjoy streaming and other forms of distribution. So you will get a chance to see it before long!


  1. Ted

    Swanky Hob-nobbin! Distribution deal – Sweet, I'll finally get a chance to see it :D

  2. Unknown

    The film was really not what I expected, and I was delighted in that surprise. I found myself on the edge of my seat on occasion; as a Royal 10 was chucked out a speeding car window – recounting the events that led to the creation of the book 'Royal Road Test,' as the typewriter shop building was put up for sale, as I watched Jeremy Mayer tear into what appeared to be a functioning H3k (more on this later).

    I also found myself reaffirmed by the musings of Tom Hanks, John Mayer, and Sam Sheppard … and Jeremy Mayer the sculptor.

    Moments of awkwardness washed over me as the audience laughed, sometimes nervously as a collector was bearing their soul – and the seeming anachronistic ironies of what they were trying to convey were seemingly lost on the non-typewritery audience – but as the film moved on, those moments of laughter turned into affirming "hmmmms" coming from those around me, people largely seemed to be 'getting it.'

    That apparent connection to the machines was somewhat proven out as the over 1500 people poured into the after party and saw the typewriters that were made available to them to type their letter to the festival. Their eyes, the smiles, the mostly respectful, introspective, and passionate typing sessions made me warm all over. I eavesdropped on some of the chatter between the typists and their companions, and it was largely positive about the experience and I lost count of how many people said they had, wanted or knew where a typewriter was, and they were going to get one. It may be a temporary wave of romanticism created by the emotions stirred by the film, and maybe these people will forget that feeling of satisfaction and control that they had at the keyboards in that large and noisy room – but I think there were many synaptic and soulful connections made that night, and a good number of these folks are going to find themselves a typewriter of their own.

    I also took the opportunity to talk to Jeremy Mayer, who I would have flippantly called a 'typewriter butcher' while walking into the film, and I let him know that I got it – I saw what he was doing, really saw it – and it was beautiful. He assured me that, appearances aside, he tries to only use machines that are really, really rough or even broken beyond reasonable expectation. He also takes boxes of parts to California Typewriter and lets Herb and Ken pick through them, sometimes in trade for old, worn out machines that even they have deemed irreparirable. Oh, and the seemingly good H3K, that was a machine that Doug Nichol bought online, and when it arrived the Hermes stamped frame was cracked in half on both sides. He didn't have to try to explain himself, but he did, and as a self-taught 'typewriter repair man' who has kind of taken a kind of personal hypocratic oath to preserve, repair, and 'do no harm' to typewriters, I respect what Jeremy is doing, and see the beauty AND in his way, the promotion of typewriters as art.

    We collectors might think about giving a rest to the hate mail and nasty comments that he is hammered with constantly…. and look deeper into what he's actually creating, and how he is giving back in many ways to our community.

    The film moved me.

  3. Unknown

    Ah … typing tomes on an iPhone that you later wish you could edit. :D (*hippocratic :) )

  4. Richard P

    Thanks a lot for sharing your impressions, which match my own in many ways.

  5. Bill M

    Wonderful! I'm glad opening night was a great success.

    I went the opposite direction and found several typewriters. I let one in my room for the maid to use. I hope I did not use the note she left like I did the Kalamazoo document.

  6. SteveK

    Really looking forwatd to seeing the film.

  7. Martin Howard

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Martin Howard

    What a wonderful time was had in Cleveland, in reuniting with the subjects of the film, meeting Brian and his family and in hearing peoples appreciation and love of the doc after the screening.

    As Richard says, what an honour it was for 'California Typewriter' to open the 41st Cleveland International Film Festival, only the second documentary to do so at CIFF. This is a beautiful film, that is as much a great sales pitch for typewriters as it is a journey of peoples pursuits that fly essentially untouched from the digital age that swirls around us. It is this uplifting and liberating message that I believe brought the film to CIFF.

    With a late summer release, it will reach so many people.

    The resurgence is alive and well!


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