The Hulu Original documentary “WeWork: or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn” follows the rise and fall of hippie-messianic WeWork founder Adam Neumann, who was forced out of his own real estate company after his promise to the public at large fell flat.
In an interview for Variety’s “Doc Dreams,” presented by National Geographic, deputy editor Meredith Woerner spoke with director Jed Rothstein about Neumann’s ambitious plans and how his opinion on the controversial figure changed over time.
From inception to completion, the documentary consisted of a five-person crew and took one year to make. Rothstein said he conducted approximately 30 to 40 interviews, each of which was shot during the pandemic. As a director, he said he is interested in telling stories about New York and finance, but particularly ones like “WeWork” that help people understand more about themselves.
“It’s like a fable from the era that just ended,” Rothstein said. “Even though that era is just 15 months behind us, in a way, it feels like 15 years.”
Rothstein said the WeWork story offers great insight into the way the world works. He said his perception of Neumann changed while making the film, as he began to see him as a more complicated person.
“Certainly, there things he did and mistakes he made are worthy of a lot of criticism,” Rothstein said. “People are complex, and one of the great things about documentaries, when they work, is you really hold conflicting ideas in your head.”
Rothstein hopes that viewers take away lessons from this story about how things were done wrong in this “late hyper-capitalistic age” and how one can form a community that helps rebuild society after the damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think we are in a revolution in so many ways, in terms of race relations, capitalism and just how we all want to walk through the world,” Rothstein said. “Not that WeWork speaks to all of these issues, but certainly I think it speaks to some notion that as we put things back together, what are the parts that we want to leave behind?”
Watch the full conversation above.