Ken A. Meyer began working at Wieden+Kennedy in Portland, Ore. in 2002, two years after being diagnosed with systemic scleroderma, a life threatening autoimmune disorder that thickens and hardens the skin and internal organs. 10 years ago, he asked the agency to help him make a film about his experience and how he’s found comfort in the works of Paul Klee, a Swiss-German painter who had the same disease.
The result is Angel Applicant, a 74-minute documentary that made its world premiere at South by Southwest on Monday and was awarded the festival’s Documentary Feature Jury Award. It is written, directed and edited by Meyer, who has had to retire due to his illness, with Jason Roark, another former W+K employee, serving as director of photography and a producer.
“Dan (Wieden) and David (Kennedy) didn’t start an advertising agency—they founded a place that would champion the creative projects of our people —whether on behalf of a brand or simply for the world to see,” W+K creative leader and Angel Applicant executive producer Susan Hoffman tells Adweek.
A master of the modern art movement, Klee fled Germany in 1933 when he was branded a “degenerate artist” by the Nazi Party. He began suffering from a mysterious ailment while in Switzerland that initially stopped his work, but then he became even more prolific, painting deeply personal pieces that chronicled his experiences with titles such as “Fear of the Mirror,” “Suddenly Rigid” and “Storm in the Body.” Images of the work are interspersed throughout the film as Meyer describes how systemic scleroderma has changed his own life and the way he connects to Klee’s story.
“I am eternally grateful to Wieden+Kennedy for playing such a pivotal role in the creation of this film,” Meyer tells Adweek. “W+K is such a special and generous place that truly invests in its people and their ideas to help change the world through creativity.”
Director: Ken A. Meyer
Executive producer: Bill Davenport, Patty Brebner, Susan Hoffman, Anna Beth Nagel
In Association with Wieden + Kennedy / JOINT / New Nebula Society