Thursday, January 03, 2008

Mister Rogers, The Small Gesture & Me

It's been well over a year since I interviewed NPR's Susan Stamberg.

I just finished scripting her segment of the film, and was struck -- as I have been throughout the scripting process -- by the subtle details of our conversation that I'd since forgotten.

Towards the end of our twenty-minute conversation there in NPR's Studio 5C, Susan pulled a photo of Mister Rogers and her from a frame. The photo, she said, held a sacred place just beside her office door.

"I look at it every time I walk out," she said.

Tonight at dinner, I told Abbi, "I don't want to be an also-ran. I want to be special"

For some reason, I have a tendency to gauge the success or failure of my personal creative projects (recordings, writings, this film) on the scope and scale of their audience. My cover of John Denver's "Leaving On A Jet Plane," then, is the most successful thing I've done based on its 15,000+ iTunes downloads. Everything else? Tough to say.

Despite the rise of the long tail, we remain in the era of the blockbuster. The bar is high. Our cultural attention span is instant, and we are always looking towards what's next. So films are judged on opening night. Books are judged by their New York Times Book Review. Records are over by the time they're released. TV shows "jump the shark" after their pilots.

Throughout my life, though, I've wrestled with the flipside. Mozart never sold out Madison Square Garden. Picasso didn't live in Tribeca loft. Hemingway was never on Oprah. Why, the, should I judge my art by of Multiplex standards?

Our conversation (the one that often includes the phrase, "I just wish I could quit a be creative full-time") concluded with my oft-repeated by not-fully convincing mantra, "I guess it will work out as it should."

This is on the set [of "Mister Rogers Talks With Parents About Divorce"]… Fred and I just sitting there posing for publicity shots. I love looking at it. And I especially love looking at his hands, which were so graceful and delicate.

I said, “How do you do television? How do you do television?”

And he said, “It’s a medium of the small gesture.”

Earlier this week, I told Chris that we needed a reality check. "Mister Rogers & Me" is unlikely to be picked up by IFC or Fox Searchlight. It might not air on PBS, or even Ovation. It's likely to be a fully-independent, completely grass roots little film, one that we drive from town to town over the course of the summer. Which, given that I'd like to think that it's Oscar-worthy (at least its subject matter, if not its execution), is a bummer.

But, as he's been doing since I met him, Mister Rogers sent me a message tonight.

Small gestures.

The rest will work out as it should.


Linda said...

Newport Film Festival is a few weeks before Nantucket, you should consider it. Several of the docs we've had over the years have earneed Oscar noms. Small gestures, small state!

Therapeutic Ramblings said...

I stumbled across your trailer on YouTube and got really excited at the thought of a movie/documentary. I've added you to my blog list, and I look forward to following your journey.