“I hadn’t been interested in the origins of the browser,” confesses Matthew Carnahan who created, directed and produced “Valley of the Boom” for National Geographic. Watch our exclusive video interview about the program starring Bradley Whitford and Steve Zahn above.
The series, set in the 1990s, chronicles some of the key players in the early battle to be the dominant web browser on the web. Carnahan says he got interested when he realized “that the stakes were so high. It’s a story about people on the fringes who were worth billions of dollars one minute and the next were back on the street. Players like Microsoft played so dirty and Bill Gates was totally gangster! Which I never really knew.”
“Valley of the Boom” swerves from comedy to drama to documentary. Carnahan explains, “it was really fun to go back and forth with scripted vs documentary. We let the documentary contradict the scripted rather than being in support; send in imposters and play it like that. It was another kind of mode of play. During the browser wars there were true innovators and, like in any gold rush, a lot of charlatans and imposters. So it was fun to play with being imposters ourselves. I mentioned Bill Gates was kinda gangster, so we did a 90s style rap battle for the browser war between NetsCape and Microsoft.”
On the use of real life talking heads to play with the storytelling, he says that “it just seemed like a really great opportunity because people are still alive. We were working with Arianna Huffington as producer. She had unbelievable access. We could get people like Mark Cuban who was there then. He was riding this codec for live broadcasting. He was a total tech nerd.”
Reflecting on the show, Carnahan adds, “I fell in love with people that write code, and I fell in love with this world. When it’s pure innovation it’s so wonderful and authentic; then when commerce and Wall Street comes in it all turns to crap. There are still wonderful people out there making incredible things and there are still charlatans too.”
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