On Wednesday night Hillman Curtis died.
Hillman passed away at home on April 18th at 6:03 pm in the presence of his loving wife, two children, his sister, sister in law and brother in law. He was 51 years old and died after a long and fiercely fought battle with colon cancer. (hillmancurtis.com)
It touched me and many others in the community. I had a personal connection to Hillman. He inspired me and a whole community in the early days of interactive development in 2001. A friend gave me his first book while I was working at an agency in Germany, and I was inspired by his ability to do digital storytelling, and master this new medium so brilliantly. He clearly shaped my further path.
But Hillman was able to constantly evolve and reinvent himself. The same way he started off as a musician and then evolved to digital, he started to explore filmmaking. At that time, my interest in online video manifested itself in founding this blog. Even though my approach was different and rather technical, it was an interesting match during that time. I interviewed him in 2004, he shared his passion for online video, and I ended up contributing a chapter to his new filmmaking book. I was fascinated first meeting him during that time in a cafe in Manhattan – it was a sunny day, and he gave me some of his book copies.
In the coming years he evolved his filmmaking, and I participated in a sequence in one of his movies. It never made it into production, he wasn’t happy with the results, but it was amazing to see him in his role as director.
When I started at Adobe, I asked him if he wanted to provide us his short film “Bridge” for demo purposes – he agreed, and it ended up to be the reference movie for years, and still is as of today. I personally seen it thousand of times, and literally heard a colleague discussing the interesting dynamics between the actors just last week. Hillman’s ability to define a theme, and combine it with stunning visuals and a storyline was art. He unveiled the actors were simply neighbors from his Brooklyn neighborhood.
Just couple of weeks ago I reached out to him again to see if he would be interested in another interview as part of the new technology experience focus of this blog. It was great to reestablish the connection after so many years, and he responded with his typical “far out”. I was excited. But the moment I read his answers and he unveiled his terminal illness, the situation became clear. His words were as deep as always, though it unveiled his suffering. After publishing it, I sent him a follow-up email – he never responded.
When I heard the news I was in shock. The world lost a great artist, designer and filmmaker. Hillman touched me, and he touched many, many others.
Hillman, you will be remembered.
The Future of Web Video – Interview with Hillman Curtis – 2004 Interview
Interview with Design Legend Hillman Curtis – 2012 Interview