A few weeks ago, before the capitalist cogs of MTV chewed through senior management (including my supervisor and mentor of ten years who was -- it should be noted -- wildly supportive of this project), I sat through one of those particularly mind-numbing marketting meetings in which the nameless mega movie studio endeavors to excite the mega media network.
It was, by and large, a black hole of a meeting, mostly devoid of inspiration or creativity. Except that one of the studio's many trailers gave me an idea for the next iteration of ours.
And so I just screened our Tim Russert, Susan Stamberg, Marc Brown, and Bo Lozoff interviews for the first time since we shot them late last year. In addition to jotting down key soundbites like this one:
Fred Rodgers wasn’t a scientist. He wasn't Mother Theresa. He wasn't a great politician. What was he? He was a man that was known throughout the land for his simple decency and good will.
I was making notes on what broll we'd need to acquire to cover the conversations, as well as what VO (voice over) I would need to write and record to make some cohesive sense of the interviews.
It will be, make no mistake, a Hurculean task.
The general arc of the film is simple. It is, in a nutshell (and as I think I've recently written), based on the classic myth hero's journey. In short: boy receives challenge, leaves village to find something, encounters resistance, overcomes adversity, receives reward, then returns to village to share reward.
In the case of "Mister Rogers & Me," then, the challenge comes from Mister Rogers when he told me to "spread the message" that "deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex." To spread the message, however, I need to understand it. And so I set out to learn what he meant. I travel to North Carolina (Lozoff), Washington, DC (Russert, Stamberg), and beyond. I explore the spiritual, economic, and political considerations of the phrase, "deep and simple," and then come home to share my learnings.
The bad news is that the spiritual, economic, and political considerations of the phrase are vast and many. It is a life's pursuit. I could conduct interviews until I am 73. (Heck, Mister Rogers did).
My interviews are not super cohesive. They're wide ranging, sometimes a bit fawning, even rambling. There are plenty of suspects to implicate: advertisers, fast food makers, Hollywood, Washington, DC. I don't push on certain subjects hard enough. And, in some cases, I don't think I knew what the pertinent questions were until after I conducted the interview. Making matters worse, we've been shooting one camera, have a minimum of
The good news is that I'm beginning to see what the whole thing might look like: a few minutes of set up (a rapid condensation of my original "eulogy"), followed by a series of brief, lightly-edited interviews, and concluding with a deep, simple, hushed epiphany.
It won't be perfect, but it will be heartfelt. It won't be exhaustive, but it will be fair. And it won't be completist, but it will be representative.
Long ago, author (and Guardian Angel) Amy Hollingsworth -- our very first interview -- said to me, "I only hope that your project can begin to reflect the gentle spirit of the man." If all else fails, and the film is boring, pedantic, and amaturish (all valid possibilities), I know in my heart of heart that, if in intention alone, we have already succeeded.