My Visit To Castle Gaiman!

Hello everyone! Again: my apologies for the vast stretch of ‘nothingness’ between posts, but much has happened, so let’s get to it!!!

Photo by: Cat Mihos

About two weeks ago, I got a chance to fulfill a dream that had been percolating-away in my brain since first beginning work on the film version of Neil Gaiman’s The Price way back in 2005: to visit with the author at his wondrous home and film an exclusive interview with him as a behind-the-scenes featurette for the BluRay/DVD. Well, I was finally able to do just that, and got much, much more than I could’ve possibly imagined!

The entire trip was made possible by Cat Mihos, my most excellent Co-Producer & Mr. Gaiman’s assistant extraordinaire. Brimming with excitement, I packed up all of my camera equipment and drove off to Salt Lake International on a sunny October afternoon … where  I almost blew the entire adventure before it even began by missing my flight — literally by about 30 seconds (I’ve never done that before, and never plan on doing it again)!

All anxiety was swept away later that evening as we drove up to that amazing house, where we were warmly greeted by Neil and his glorious, white German shepherds, Cabal and Lola. Over the course of the next few days, I would come to know each of the wonderful animals Neil has rescued and with whom he shares his home (there are areas designated as “Cats Only” or “Dogs Only,” and even “Humans Only”). And from that first night, I began to see several recurring examples of his generosity, beginning with the gift of his time.

Cabal

Princess photo by: Kyle Cassidy

Joey photo by: Kyle Cassidy

In addition to recording the interview (which contains many enthralling stories and revealing insights regarding the genesis of The Price, and of the process of creation itself), I was also invited to wander about his gorgeous house and the sprawling woodland it lays nestled against, and encouraged to take as much video /photo-reference as I wanted! (An offer I absolutely made the most of, to the tune of more than 86GB worth — score!!!) In opening up his home to me, Neil pointed out specific places where events occurred in real life that eventually found themselves into his story of a stray cat that came to protect their house from … something.

Photo by: Cat Mihos

Self portrait by: Cat Mihos

Photo by: Cat Mihos

Then there was the warm and friendly group of people who work at Castle Gaimain (a terrific name coined by the equally terrific photographer and frequent house-guest, Kyle Cassidy). I was treated to a complete tour of the grounds by “Hans The Woodsman” (aka Hans Newstrom) and laughed out loud at his hilarious recounting of how he elected to “test” the electric fencing  installed to protect the precious beehives from the threat of hungry/curious bears.

Hans Newstrom

I was also able to chat with the “Merry Housekeeper” (Mary Edgeberg) and Neil’s right-hand woman, the one and only “Quiche” Lorraine Garland (or “Quiche Me Deadly” as she is known by in local Roller Derby circles), who graciously invited me to visit her lovely home that she shares with a group of stunningly beautiful Bengal cats, all of whom she has rescued and now cares for.

Mary Edgeberg

Lorraine Garland

Magic the Bengal

I had the tremendous good fortune to record the thoughts and reflections of these people who each play an integral role in Neil’s world. There is a genuine, familial love between them, and all were more than willing to share their impressions of Neil, his home, and all of the extraordinary animals that live there.

Let me share one example that really says it all: “Quiche” was organizing/producing her team’s Saturday evening Derby match, and had invited her famous boss to join in the festivities. As seems the norm with him, a conflict arose with yet another event requesting his presence, but which would put him miles away in the opposite direction and make it impossible for him to attend the bout. So what did he do? Had himself flown back in a private plane after finishing the first event in order to sit on the floor of the local community events center with the rest of us, and happily cheer-on Lorraine’s team. She was walking about 10 feet off the ground for the rest of the night.

I soon discovered that what I was actually gathering  were the makings of a wonderfully intimate documentary about a man who could create a story as affecting and deeply moving as The Price, and the people, animals and things he surrounds himself with. Now much more than just an interview, this film will be called Castle Gaiman: The True Stories Behind The Price. Here is a teaser trailer that will give you just a taste:

My hope is that this film will not only showcase all of the true stories that came together to help form The Price, but will also convey a glimpse of the man I saw, one whose every minute seems to be not his own, but whose graciousness with others is truly astonishing.

So many of my experiences there reflected his tendency to give and to share. One afternoon, I got to ride shotgun in his car as we listened to music and talked about books and movies and all sorts of things (I mostly listened … above all else, he is an incredibly interesting person). I was included in not just one, but two late-night dog walking escapades with Cabal and Lola, braving the near freezing blackness of the Midwest as Neil, Cat and I made a list of our favorite horror films (you can read about our choices in this CNN GeekOut article). I remember having that distinctly disorienting feeling of complete unreality hit me while hungrily listening (with a big, stupid grin plastered/frozen across my face) as he told us about his favorite episode of Night Gallery.

And finally, this incredible moment:  we had been watching a truly bizarre British TV series from 1960 called The Strange World of Gurney Slade, and as we sat down to sample the final episode, Neil casually pointed to the coffee table and remarked, “I thought you might like to take those with you …”

I followed his finger and had to blink for a few moments before I understood what I was looking at. It was the actual pair of “see-in-the-dark binoculars” from The Price. Sitting there, right in front of me. And he was giving them to me. Just to see and touch them, and to take some pictures would have been astounding…

I’m staring at them now as I write this, sitting in a place of honor on my desk. Look:

But there is still a more precious gift that I brought back with me from that unforgettable stay: to have had the rare opportunity to visit one of my heroes up-close and still come away with all of the magic intact.

Happy (early) Birthday Neil, and thank you for all of the many gifts you’ve given us. To have so much and then to give back so liberally to others (be they people, animals, or even fans), is a quality that in my mind would certainly entice whatever guardian angels there are to bestow their protection.

About Xtopher

Director of The Price, and Owner/Creative Director of Silver Fish Creative, LLC.
This entry was posted in Castle Gaiman, The Price. Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to My Visit To Castle Gaiman!

  1. Trey says:

    What a wonderful post! You look so thrilled in all of your pictures, and it’s not hard to understand why. And the binoculars? Wow! I’d have teared up and blubbered like an idiot the moment he offered them.

    • Xtopher says:

      Trey, you don’t know how close I came, man!!! Seriously! I just sat in my attic room for hours that night staring at them, hoping they wouldn’t evaporate like some happy dream when I woke up the next day … but they didn’t!!! :)

  2. kyle cassidy says:

    “and … come away with all of the magic intact.”

    That’s the whole thing right there isn’t it? Wonderful blog, beautiful, beautiful BTS. It’s like being there.

    Can’t wait for the movie.

  3. Trevor says:

    I continue to be fascinated by your journey, and I keep cheering you on. These branching stories will all make the release of The Price that much more rich. It’s not just one story, it’s a whole tree of them!

  4. Ed White says:

    So very excited to see the movie, and pleasantly surprised to see the work that’s going into the extras! I can’t wait to get my Blu-Ray in the mail :)

    • Xtopher says:

      Thanks Ed … everything is moving forward, some elements faster than others, for sure. But I am confident you’ll find it all worth the wait! :)

  5. Fantastic! Awesome to see you put your creative stamp on the BTS doc Christopher – love it!

    • Xtopher says:

      And thank you for all of the terrific advice … long live Phillip Bloom!!! :) Fingers crossed that The Elders will hit soon …

  6. Of all the adventures you’ve been on since this project got underway, this must be one of the coolest and most gratifying. Congrats! The post was so fun to go through, looking forward to the rest!

    • Xtopher says:

      It was indeed, Anthony! Truly one of those “is this really happening to me???” situations! :) But even better to have learned that Mr. Gaiman really is the person I hoped he was.

  7. Wow! I’m extremely envious, Neil Gaiman has been a hero of mine for many years! I’d love the same opportunity you had (but then I’d probably be completely tongue-tied if it should happen). Can NOT wait for the Blu-Ray!

    • Xtopher says:

      Believe me Jon, I feel extremely grateful to have had such an experience — and I did occasionally find myself at a loss for what to say! :)

  8. Nicoletta S. says:

    Thanks a lot for this fascinating insight into Neil Gaiman’s world. :) With every of you posts I’ get more exited to finally see your movie. Keep up the good work and the energy you put into it.

    • Xtopher says:

      Thanks Nicoletta … it has been a wonderful journey so far, and I truly appreciate your encouraging words! Glad to hear you are still excited!

  9. Marc Lisetto-Smith says:

    This looks (and sounds) wonderfully amazing and magical …So interesting to watch this project unfold. I am looking forward to this film with a great deal of interest and anticipation!

    Many thanks …

  10. The Imp says:

    I am so jealous! What a great adventure.

    I’m so glad this went as it did. There are those who we want to meet and when we do we find out they aren’t the people we thought they were, but Neil always strikes me as as honest in his public life as he would be elsewhere. To come away knowing that your appreciation for the man is not misplaced is a great treasure.

    • Xtopher says:

      That’s absolutely the way I feel, and I’m glad it came across that way. Of course no one is perfect, but that shouldn’t stop us from consistently trying to better ourselves; seeing Neil in his own environment really inspired me to keep pushing myself.

  11. Kelly Weiand says:

    So very cool. It’s refreshing to hear someone at his level of fame is just as cool and approachable and just plain NICE as you’d hoped. Thank you so much for sharing this journey and experience with all of us.

    • Xtopher says:

      You’re welcome Kelly; it was always my hope to be able to share my tremendous good fortune with Neil’s many other fans so they could enjoy these experiences as well.

  12. James says:

    Keep on being amazing Chris! We’ll all be waiting patiently for the finished product to arrive in the mail, and be cheering you on in your wonderful journey at the same time! Oh, and a big thanks to the big man Gaiman. He seems like a real gentleman; quite rare in today’s world methinks.

  13. Genevieve says:

    Christopher, every time I read one of your wonderful updates I am so glad that I backed this project, if, for no other reason, than to watch your excitement (don’t get me wrong, I still want my DVD). I just wish now that I would have been able to pledge more to be able to attend the premiere!

    • Xtopher says:

      Thanks Genevieve — I’m glad the excitement shows, because the way all of this has snow-balled has been a thrilling validation of my own beliefs: that if you stay focused and persistant and don’t loose your passion along the way, good things will happen … :)

  14. DellaDoor says:

    I’m a bit late to the journal read, but I’m glad I got here. It’s rather nice to know that the man who’s got his own special section on my bookshelves is also a kind and genuinely likable human being. Thanks for sharing, and I’m glad you were able to have this experience. You seem to appreciate time instead of expecting it, and I like that.
    Regards,
    Della Door

    • Xtopher says:

      Thank you, Della; that was a very kind thing to say. I feel wildly fortunate to have been gifted with so much of his highly-prized time, and be allowed to have a look at everything for myself.

  15. All I can say is: holy cow you are lucky! That must have been utterly fantastic visiting Mr. Gaiman at his home; I love to hear how people I admire are in real life, and he sounds wonderful. Thank you for sharing your visit with us, can’t wait to see the full doc and The Price!

    • Xtopher says:

      Believe me, I know it, Court; I keep asking myself everyday, “Did that all really happen? Really?:) And yes, he is wonderful.

  16. Trish says:

    I am so happy for you Christopher! You write with such heart that it is really hard not to feel your emotions as you describe your amazing visit.

    You are also offering us a side of Neil Gaiman that we cannot experience anywhere else. Thank you.

    It’s been said, but I too cannot wait to see the finished product. Your post may be separated by a “vast stretch of nothingness” but I am willing to jump that chasm every time to read them.

    Stay real.

    Love,
    Trish

    • Xtopher says:

      Thank you, Trish. I am trying my best to share my tremendous good fortune with the rest of you, and I’m so pleased it seems to be getting there! :)

  17. David Darroch says:

    What a fantastic experience! Your ambition, vision and determination have taken you to a very special place.

    I’d never hear of Kickstarter before Neil tweeted about your project, and never backed anything like this before. But the feeling of being even remotely involved with bringing something of Neil’s to life, and something that is so obviously a labour (although I’m sure that’s not the correct word) of love, means it’s the best few quid (bucks) I’ve ever spent.

    And from the quality of everything you’ve produced, from the wallpaper on the site to the Castle Gaiman trailer, I’m sure this is going to be a damn fine movie.

    To steal from one of the greats, “May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness … and I hope that somewhere in the next year you surprise yourself.”

    Best wishes

    Dave

    • Xtopher says:

      Wow — thanks Dave!!! And I truly do appreciate your ‘quid,’ my friend (it is frankly a very frightening stewardship, deciding how to properly utilize those ‘sacred’ funds). Awesome quote btw … I wonder just who could have written such wise sentiments … ;)

  18. Rosalind says:

    I must agree with everyone else – you are indeed lucky to have had such an opportunity! This whole project, and the direction it has taken, as well as opportunities it has brought along with it, are quite astonishing, and somewhat of an inspiration as well. You followed your dream and trusted in your talent to bring this whole thing to life, and _this_ is the outcome. And what an outcome!

    Neil’s house looks exactly like the type of place he belongs to – it has a certain fantastical feel to it. And that, is just by looking at the photos!

    Keep up the awesome work! I look forward to more updates!

    • Xtopher says:

      Thank you Rosalind; it can be easy to let discouragement creep in, but I have always believed that if you keep trying (and are kind to others along the way), good things will happen!

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