Our documentary, "Mister Rogers & Me," will world premiere at the Nantucket Film Festival June 17-20.
Of course, the film was born on Nantucket in September, 2001, when -- during a chance encounter with my actual summer neighbor (my mother rented a tiny cottage on on the island's West End just next door to Mister Rogers "Crooked House") -- America's Favorite Neighbor asked me about my job at MTV.
"I feel so strongly," he said, "That deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex."
The following summer, I told Mister Rogers how frequently I'd considered what he said.
"Spread the message, Benjamin. Spread the message."
Eight years later, with stops in Durham, NC; Fredericksburg, VA; Washington, DC; Boston, MA; Pittsburgh and Latrobe, PA (plus hours upon hours in our New York City edit, one marriage, two births and a third expected within days of the films' premiere), my brother and my documentary is returning to Nantucket.
The film features interviews with Mister Rogers' friends, neighbors and collaborators: Tim Russert ("Meet The Press"), Susan Stamberg (NPR), and Linda Ellerbee (Nick News), Marc Brown ("Arthur"), Davy Rothbart (Found Magazine), Dr. Susan Linn (Campaign for a Commerical Free Childhood), Amy Hollingsworth ("The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers"), Tim Madigan ("I'm Proud of You"), Bo Lozoff ("Deep & Simple") and Beverly Hall ("My Nantucket").
The call came Friday afternoon. I was at work.
"Tell me where you are with your film," Artistic Director Mystelle Brabée asked.
My pulse raced. My heart throbbed in my ears. I turned towards the window, put my feet up on the radiator, and endeavored to remain calm.
"Well, last night we moved an entire segment from the last third to the first," I stammered. "Yunno, to increase stakes. But that's about the last, big change we can make; we don't have the time or money to do anything drastic, just voice over, music, trimming... stuff like that."
"Are you interested in a few notes?" she asked.
"Absolutely," I said, "Four people have seen this thing. I'm more than happy to hear your thoughts."
We talked a few minutes more. The entire time I wondered, 'Are we in!?!'
Finally, Mystelle said, "Let's move forward with this."
"Daniela will send you a confirmation letter..."
I called Christofer a few seconds later.
"We're in!" I said before thanking him for following me all over the Northeast and working into the wee hours night after night after night.
And then I called Abbi. My wife is due on June 9, just eight days prior to the start of the festival.
"I find it hard to believe this is just a coincidence," I told her. "A film festival on Father's Day Weekend with a film by a brand-new father about the grandfather he wished he'd had..."
Walking home, my excitement began to turn to anxiety. What about that last piece of footage? What about the music? What about the web site? The premiere party? Will the baby be born in time? Where will we stay? How will we get there? Who will come? Will we finish it in time? What about the end? Will anyone like it?
I looked up beyond the buildings to the stars, and heard Mister Rogers clear as a bell.
"You're doing fine, Benjamin. You're doing fine."