Opportunities & Automobiles

With the crisp autumn air and distinctive smell that heralds the change in seasons, my thoughts have turned to my visit with Neil at his splendid Castle Gaiman. Sifting through memories both spellbinding and surrealistic, there is a moment  I still feel pangs of regret for.

One day, we traveled through some strikingly pretty country in Neil’s car to attend an event for his good friend and assistant, Lorraine, and her  roller derby team. As we drove, I asked him a few questions, but was leery about ‘taking’ too much after he had already generously invited me to stay in his home and spend a few days tagging along (for a more detailed explanation of my concerns with overstepping boundaries, see this blog post regarding an experience being on set with Stephen King).


(This photo was taken by the one-and-only Cat Mihos, who arranged my trip and then selflessly sat in the back seat despite my feeble attempts at chivalry.)

One thing I asked was what he thought of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. He responded that after the first film, he chose not to watch the rest; having lived with his own vibrant visions of Tolkien’s world for many years, he wasn’t ready to replace those imaginings with someone else’s version of Treebeard. I can respect that wholeheartedly, but since those are my all-time favorites, I couldn’t think of a whole lot to add at that point in the conversation. He was listening to various musical selections (clearly enjoying himself, even singing along occasionally), and a sense of having encroached upon a very, very busy man’s pleasant afternoon drive began to creep over me.

That might seem odd to some of you, but I’ve had the chance to see firsthand how much his fans can ask — even demand — of him. By nature, Neil is a generous and kind man, and I didn’t want to take advantage of that; I still don’t.

He drove a Mini Cooper  that day, a fitting choice of vehicle (I thought). Back when I created the original images for the animatic of The Price, I used a SAAB for the car in a scene where the Narrator returns home from working on his latest book to find the mysterious Black Cat ragged and “almost unrecognizable,”  sitting on the front porch like a weary sentinel.


When it came time to render this shot in 3D, I decided to go with the Mini instead, and had a ton of fun setting-up the materials and animation rig (check out those Minnesota tags)!


Looking back, it feels as though a rare opportunity was squandered that October afternoon by not allowing a more natural moment to just … happen. I was too worried about the author-fan scenario and withdrew myself somewhat out of fear that I might become a nuisance or irritant — one more fan with his hand out (despite the fact that he remained friendly and exceedingly hospitable throughout my time there).

Fear is a dangerous thing when we allow it to dissuade us from moving forward on our chosen paths, sowing its dark seeds of doubt and insecurity. I will do my upmost to bear that in mind while continuing to craft this little film that I so dearly love; here is one final image to help with that:


About Xtopher

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

18 Responses to Opportunities & Automobiles

  1. Jordi Kroon says:

    It’s a tough one, straddling the line between wanting to make the most of your time with someone and not wanting to bother them too much. From what you write here I don’t think you overstepped any bounds in disturbing his day. Perhaps by allowing the silence to happen a bit, you gained some more insight into who Neil actually is as a person? Not sure if it will help with the Neil character in the film, but you now know what kind of music he likes to listen to when relaxing and what he would sing along to.

    As for the film: the Mini looks very detailed. It’s a small part of the story but authenticity is worth it. As for the final image, I love the lighting effect on the cat fur and the details such as the broken tail and nipped ear. You can see the cat is watchful, yet relaxed.

    Thanks as always for the update and keep up the good work on the film!

    • Xtopher says:

      Holy smokes, Jordi — that was quick (and so very observant)! Yeah, it is a tough situation to call, but every time I look back I shake my head a little. Thank you for always brightening the day my friend!

  2. Jill says:

    I still cannot wait til the day we get to see the finished product! Wishing you well as you continue to create beautiful things!

  3. Lisa says:

    I was just thinking of you and your project this morning and here you are! Thank you for sharing your post and updates. Isn’t it hard to be in the presence of someone you admire so much? We get inside our own heads, but have to remind ourselves to enjoy the moment and be present. And honestly, sometimes quiet is the best conversation of all. I’m thankful that you continue on and am still anxiously await the end result. My niece majors in animation at her college in NYC, so I know it’s very time consuming and complex work to realize the vision you have in mind. Smooth sailing as you forge ahead!

    • Xtopher says:

      I like that … “sometimes quiet is the best conversation.” Wise words Lisa! :) And I appreciate the empathetic insight via your niece (and wonderful to hear she is perusing her studies & developing talents) — thank you so much!

  4. Trevor R says:

    Like Lisa, I was thinking about you this morning before I was alerted to this post.

    It’s amazing how much we punish ourselves with fearful internal dialog, when we almost always guess wrong about how we are being judged by another, or even whether we are being judged at all. Better to ask the awkward but authentic questions, like “Are you weary of questions and would prefer to simply enjoy the drive, or should I continue to pepper you? I’d be happy either way.”

    Love the Mini. Way better choice than a Saab. (Not that I don’t like Saabs – had one in Norway – just don’t think it would fit the context as well).

    • Xtopher says:

      Hey Trevor! There must have been something in the air, great minds think alike and all …;) I wish I could think more clearly in moments like that and be able to come up with the type of question you suggested. The one thing I feel good about was my attempt to be respectful — I don’t think you can ever go too far wrong if that’s your motivation. The way celebrities and public figures are so blatantly disrespected now, just because we can carelessly spray-out 144 letters soaked in whatever poison seemed good at the time, is both discouraging and disheartening.

      And yeah, the Mini works better; great to hear from you man!

  5. Violet W. says:

    Oh man, I was just thinking about this project today and wanted to check up on it real quick. I’m so glad something like this is really happening. Thanks so much for utilizing your talents and passions to spread this great story to others.
    Your experience that you shared had quite an impact on me. I have just gone through something very similar where I wanted to talk to someone I admired and respected, but held back in fear of being a nuisance. It’s good to know that other people struggle with the same doubts and regrets- It gives me hope.

    • Xtopher says:

      That’s rather astounding (and humbling) to realize that many of you were thinking about this project today — and while I was preparing my post! Thanks for sharing Violet; it made me glad to know you were able to glean some hope from my awkward tale! 😉

  6. Fear is a real killer when it comes to many things. Getting over fear of the unknown has been one of my number one improvements in the last few years. It’s what allowed me to live in a Chinese monastery for a summer and is why I’m now living in Japan. And how I managed to come here and spend a week before getting to my university just tooling around the country seeing things and getting lost and being okay with being in it up to my neck. It was a bit scary at times, but also a lot of fun — especially in hindsight. Hindsight usually shows us that the scary things ended up being okay, and the scary parts just turn into memories of exhilaration.

    Always good to hear from you and nice to see updates on the work.

    • Xtopher says:

      I love what you said, about how the scary parts “just turn into memories of exhilaration” as I believe that to be exactly true. Like many others, conquering fear has been a running theme in my life. Allowing yourself to have experiences in unfamiliar lands and cultures inspires me (as you so often do, Michael). Thanks for touching base, my friend!

  7. Stephanie Harper says:

    Ha! I had been composing an email to you myself (it was still in my head) and here you are!
    Hoping very much that this project is still bringing you joy.
    It has been so amazing and educational watching the progress and learning about all the details that go into this kind of a project. Another beloved film many years in the making I backed on Kickstarter is just getting done (Troll Bridge) and it is just a mind boggling amount of work!
    Thank you for having me along on this magical journey. I am going to call shotgun.

    • Xtopher says:

      Your words have extra significance as I read them again this morning, Stephanie. This project genuinely has brought me large amounts of joy and satisfaction, despite the setbacks and periods of frustration/stagnation, and that is what I hold onto when the occasional negative comments reach out to sting; the happy encouragements from you (along with many others) burn through them like sunshine on a darkened day. Thank you.

  8. Pat Kiewicz says:

    So nice to have an update. (How odd that it arrived last week while I was having surgery to correct an issue with my vision.)

    Wishing you the best.

    • Xtopher says:

      I’m glad the timing was pleasing to you, and my prayers that all went well with both your surgery and recovery, Pat! Thanks for taking time to write! :)

  9. Brad Allen says:

    Is that Element 3d I see? :)
    Are you building this in After Effects? Hope everything is moving along well for your project
    Nice to see the updates

    • Xtopher says:

      Sharp eye there, Brad! Yes indeed, Element 3D really changed the course of the entire project … so we can all blame Andrew Kramer and his team of mad geniuses for delaying The Price this long! (I am totally kidding, of course; I’m not sharing the blame for that with anyone.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *