A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
Jehane Noujaim's documentary follows the ups and downs of Kaliel Isaza Tuzman's Internet start-up venture. The filmmakers were sure the company would be a sensational success. Instead, STARTUP.COM chronicles a spectacular business failure. Tuzman goes into business with his high school best friend, Tom Herman. Tuzman will be the CEO and Herman will be in charge of technology at govWorks.com. From 1999 to 2001, govWorks went from eight employees to more than 200, and then down to none. They raised $60 million and ended in bankruptcy. Events are filmed not just in the office, but in the bedroom, the gym, the car, in a pizza parlor, a company retreat, etc. We see sides of their personal lives and arguments over priorities and presentations. A competitor visits the office and then there is a mysterious burglary that appears to be espionage. Finally, we see the almost unbearably painful moment when the friendship is shattered by the business, as Herman leaves and then tries to return only to be formally terminated. At the end, though, Herman tells Tuzman that "I had a great time over the last year and I love you." And we see from the end credits that they are still in business together – using their expertise to advise distressed dot.coms.
Is it any good?
In finding one story to tell among 400 chaotic hours of footage for this enlightening film, there were probably a million options. The story the filmmakers chose to tell is the story of the Herman/Tuzman relationship and the way that the very qualities that made the two men good complements for each other ultimately led to catastrophe. Maybe it is because their access to the principals of the firm was extensive but they were not allowed to film the backers or board, so the story they told was determined by the pictures they had to show it. Maybe it is because the filmmakers were women, so they saw the story with a Deborah Tannen-esque yang to Tuzman's testosterone-driven yin.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how we make choices when our work and professional lives conflict. At one point in this movie, Tuzman, under intense deadline pressure, calls for an all-weekend meeting. Herman refuses, saying that he promised to be with his daughter. Families should talk about what happens next, and what they would do in that situation.
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