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Manufactured by Spencer Ramsay

While pundits like to refer to the “feminization” of males in American society, Discovery Canada amped up the masculinity in a very positive way in the program Manufactured. There was no question in the display of “guy stuff” with sparks flying off the edge of grinders, precision laser cutters, and massive machines punching/cutting/folding metal into the ground. That’s not to imply that Manufactured was not of interest to all viewers, simply that it took an approach of “cool” which is undeniable. Director Spencer Ramsay reveled in manifesting this thirteen-part series for Discovery Canada which presented the history and manufacturing of products like the Minimoog synthesizer, Zippo lighter, Galaxy Deluxe Mechanical Bull, Louisville Slugger pro stock bat, Leatherman Wave Multitool, and others. Focusing on why it's made, how it's made, and who makes it, Ramsay was able to synthesize a dynamic visual aesthetic with an educational approach. It’s as if Spencer found a way to put the nutrients of vegetables into beer.


Manufactured is proof that the success and enjoyment of any subject is often a result of who is telling the story. The enthusiasm which Ramsay possessed for the products displayed in the program is evident in each episode. What could be a moderately interesting topic is revealed to be fascinating through his storytelling style. Throughout thirteen episodes, Manufactured examines the history and production of products across North America. Ramsay relates, “I wanted viewers to be truly curious about the stories behind the products we featured which required finding ones which were either iconic or extremely intriguing. We had to consider how familiar they were and how interesting the manufacturing process was but our ultimate goal was to feature products guys already have and those they want in the future.” Series creator Andrew Burnstein succinctly states, “Manufactured is a biography show where the hero may be a tool, a tire, or a toilet.” In other words, guy centric stuff.

Manufactured likely owes part of its success to timing. Many shows with a great premise have faltered because the public is not quite ready for them (a 1989 NBC memo unearthed in 2014 revealed that the network nearly axed the show Seinfeld). The present day expansion of cable and internet has led to a benevolent splintering of viewers who seek programming less formulaic. That might seem like an odd comment to make concerning a show about manufacturing but it once again points to the way in which Ramsay and Discovery Canada craft the story around these products. Spencer took a decidedly “wow” approach to the look of the show which appealed to the visually motivated viewers. GoPros lined the conveyor belts and swooping crane shots communicated movement and excitement. The director worked with acclaimed cinematographer Duraid Munajim (known for his work on the Oscar-Winning Zero Dark Thirty, multiple Oscar-Winner The Hurt Locker [including Best Film], The Sum of All Fears) to attain a signature look for Manufactured. Ramsay confirms, “I’ve had the pleasure of working with on several project in the past. I find his extensive experience in documentary and scripted features incredibly helpful when it comes to filming interview subjects. On Manufactured we often discussed how we could portray the factory itself as a character and what kind of shots would best tell the audience about its unique personality.”


The average viewer might not be cognizant of why they find the look so enticing but the products themselves are undeniable in their appeal. If there’s a cool alpha-male in a movie you admired, it’s a safe bet that the character had at least one of these. Manufactured travelled to Bradford, Pennsylvania where the Zippo lighter has been produced since the 1930’s. This copy of an Austrian lighter was made sexier by George Blaisdell in the early part of the last century. The present day owners care about the tradition of the product and the town, choosing to keep the Zippo plant in Bradford.
The Minimoog was the first time a keyboard was attached to a synthesizer. Coming of age in the prog-rock and new wave era of the 70’s with bands like Kraftwerk and Emerson, Lake & Palmer; the Minimoog plant in Asheville, North Carolina is ground zero for the still futuristic sounding instrument as nearly everyone who work there is a musician. Spencer reveals, “One of the great things about Manufactured is that we disprove the idea that a manufacturing plant is a mundane place to work. For example, the Minimoog plant is one of the coolest factories I have ever visited. Practically everyone who works there is also a musician so it was nothing to hear a mini jam session breakout around the factory.”
Sam Adams brewery founder, 5th generation brewmaster, and Harvard law and business graduate Jim Kock ushered Manufactured around the facilities in Boston and regaled viewers with the story of how in 1984 he packed up his consulting business and created the Boston Lager Beer Company. The history of the recipe is traced back to Jim’s great-great grandfather in the 1800’s. Today the Boston Lager Company maintains a small brewery in Jamaica Plain, MA where they brew smaller batches of their season beers.

In all these stories the essential factor is a leader with vision who champions the creation of their product. Drive, innovation, and talent are the ingredients for success. This positively correlates with the success Manufactured has achieved in telling the story of these legendary products. Greatness can oft times be overlooked until viewed with the proper vantage; which in this case was achieved via Spencer Ramsay.

Written by Kelly King

Manufactured by Spencer Ramsay Reviewed by JaamZIN on 9:00:00 AM Rating: 5
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