The new documentary about WeWork begins with Adam Neumann releasing a fart.
It’s 2019, and Neumann, the charismatic founder and then CEO of the company, is recording a video for WeWork’s roadshow. Flatulence is not the only problem for Neumann. He struggles to read the telepompter. He demands silence from everyone in the room and insists that he get the text right if everyone can just keep quiet. It is this kind of archival material that makes WeWork: Or making and breaking a $ 47 billion unicorn worth watching.
The story of WeWork – the star-eyed founder who was raised in a kibbutz, the real estate company that was named a technological start-up, the investors and the failed stock market move – is now well documented. Journalists, meanwhile, have been discussing the company’s meteoric rise and, more recently, its deflation. Reeves Wiedeman’s thorough report, Billion dollar loser, was published in October. A second book, The cult of us by Wall Street Journal authors Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell, coming out this summer. WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork tells the same story in podcast form. Apple is now developing a WeCrashed processing for his streaming service, starring Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway. More screenplay dramas are in the works, including another TV series and a movie.
That’s all to say We work the documentary, which premieres this week on South by Southwest and airs on April 2 on Hulu, is not the only history of the co-workers, nor is it the most comprehensive. But the film offers an easy course in the material, especially for those who do not like to read. What We work lacking in detail, it compensates for the immediacy of its medium. Billion-dollar loser mentions that Neumann is dyslexic; in the documentary you can immediately see his frustration with the telepompter. Similarly, Neumann’s grandiose statements about himself and his company appear different when you hear them directly from his mouth than on the page.
WeWork’s director, Jed Rothstein, is best known for stories of religious terrorism and financial fraud. His portrayal of Neumann adopts similar themes of extreme greed and self-grandeur. This is actually not a documentary about a company, but a character study of its leader that is bigger than life. Although WeWork has another co-founder – Miguel McKelvey, an architect who gave WeWork’s distinctive design – he is not mentioned much in the film. Instead, We work goes into Neumann’s background, his family and his vision.
From the beginning, WeWork was more than office space. It was ‘the world’s first physical social network’. It was not for people at work, but for people do what they love. Neumann is an exceptional salesperson for his idea, for investors and customers as well as his own employees. The documentary uses testimonials from many former WeWorkers, explaining the appeal to the company and Neumann. Make these sit-down interviews We work sometimes feels like a documentary about a cult. But they also add an important nuance to a story that can be easily reduced to the more odd details. One of the company’s former lawyers appears on screen to explain some of the more legally questionable business decisions, but he also talks about how fun it was to work there. It was not just a hot, new startup, it was a business with a mission – one that does nothing less than change the world. ‘It was not just the way people change jobs. We will eventually change every facet of the way people behave, ”says Megan Mallow, former assistant of Neumann, in the film. “It really spoke to me.” In public, Neumann said that every employee of WeWork gets equity. But in reality, employees were given stock options – often to compensate for low salaries – most of which were ultimately worthless.