Every year it seems my family and I wind up celebrating my birthday somewhere along the vast stretches of interstate that constitute the 1000 mile pilgrimage we make each summer to be with family north of the border. A sourly noted coincidence is that it almost always occurs during the very week of the San Diego Comic Con — the Mecca of all Geekdom — and often while I’m not even in the same country. Although this has never been a big deal (as I cherish every minute we get to spend in the gorgeous Okanagan valley), I have long wished for an opportunity to go and see for myself what all the Comic Con-fuss is about.
Part of the joy in writing this blog comes from the opportunity to share with you some of the astonishing experiences that have transpired during the production of this little film. Most recently, two things happened that made this year’s birthday extra-extra-special…
First, I had the extraordinary good fortune of being invited to attend and participate in the 2016 San Diego Comic Con!
And then, this happened:
Photo by: Mysterious Female Gaiman Fan (who took this for me after I took one for her)
I’m going to explain the excessive use of italicized words in just a moment, but there is something more important to show you first: here is the brand new trailer that was created exclusively for Comic Con!
It was such an enormous thrill to watch this on a huge screen and hear an audience (larger than my family) react to it for the first time!
So… how did all of this come about? Neil’s Director of Development (and my own wonderful Producer) Cat Mihos asked me to be a part of a special SDCC panel entitled “Neil Gaiman in Film.” Focusing on the work of several talented artists who have been inspired by Mr. Gaiman’s life and creations, each of us showed clips from our cinematic projects and shared the motivations for making them.
Photo by: Tyler Bel
From left to right, our distinguished (motley) group included: Olga Nunes and Alan Amato with their documentary Temple of Art, our fabulous moderator (and childhood friend of Neil’s) Geoff Notkin, the incredible Cat Mihos herself, her partner-in-crime and the panel’s appointed color man Ethan McQuerrey, Patrick Meaney the director of the featured documentary Dream Dangerously, his cinematographer Jordan Rennet… and that other dude there at the end.
(As I began listing these talented folks it became apparent there was no realistic way to include all of their multi-hyphenate descriptors, so you’ll just have to take my word for it: this is a powerhouse group!)
Photo by: Taylor Maw
I was sincerely honored to be included and had a veritable blast onstage (hopefully video of the proceedings will be available soon), but it got even better afterwards when I had the opportunity to speak with some hardcore Gaiman-ites who had stories of their own to share.
First, a young man named Ryan shook my hand as he thanked me for creating the animatic of The Price, claiming he had watched it more than 20 times. He said it gives him hope as an artist (he is a writer) when hitting those down days that we all struggle through, and found it has provided inspiration for him to keep going. I was overwhelmed to hear this, and felt an intense gratitude that my little prototype film had such an effect on this earnest fellow; his enthusiasm to see the finished movie was humbling.
Next, a woman named Sarah approached me with tears in her eyes. She thanked me for working on The Price (her favorite short story), and referenced something I’d said when introducing the teaser trailer for Castle Gaiman. It was reminiscent of this blog post about my visit to Neil’s Midwestern home where the real-life events of this fictitious story took place. I told the audience (who all looked at me in various shades of jealous-green) about getting to spend time there, catching glimpses of the relationships he has nurtured not only with a variety of ‘lost’ animals that he shares the house with, but also the ‘lost’ people with whom he surrounds himself. And by ‘lost,’ I mean individuals who may not feel as though they fit the regular-shaped holes that society has available for them to fill; somehow, he has made them all a home.
Because of this remark, Sarah related an experience several years prior at Comic Con when she had waited for hours to see Neil in sweltering summer temperatures and while she was extremely pregnant (with a son who was attending himself this year). At some point, she was told that she had been waiting in the wrong line, and had to scramble up elevators and down corridors to arrive at the new location. Then, after waiting even longer in this second queue, was informed she had been in the correct line the first time around, and would now miss the event altogether. Heartbroken and feeling miserable, she made her way back only to find closed doors; all her efforts to see him had been in vain.
But wait…this is a Neil Gaiman story, so it can’t possibly end there, right?
With a huge smile, she said that as Neil was leaving the room after the panel concluded, he recognized her from the line, walked over and sat down for 15 minutes to chat with a tired mother whose fan-hopes were suddenly rekindled in the best possible way.
“I was one of those lost people you mentioned.” she finished, her eyes still gleaming.
Photo by: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for STARZ
Everything about this entire experience was so overwhelming that I cannot begin to give you an accurate sense of what it all felt like (keep in mind this was my first time at SDCC), but let me share a few more moments.
Getting to attend the American Gods panel as part of Neil’s “entourage” was both exhilarating and rather startling, especially when finding myself at the pre-panel gathering in the presence of actors like Ian McShane, Kristin Chenoweth, and Producer/Writer and Showrunner Bryan Fuller. I’m standing there trying not to gawk openly at all of these people, when Neil calls out my name and comes over for a hug while wishing me a happy birthday — I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that, right? I don’t even know if I said anything that made sense after that, just grinned a whole lot. Maybe too much.
Photo by: Natalie Fisher
After his panel — and it really did belong to Neil, as the audience cheered and clapped for all of the guests, but absolutely went berserk when Mr. Gaiman took the stage (you can see for yourself here) — all the participants and their guests returned to the same private gathering room, and again, Neil took time with me for that priceless photo above and to chat amiably with the horde of people who all wanted a piece of his time. I was able to meet some wonderful new friends, and once again was left to marvel at the generosity and kindness of a genuinely good man who has touched so many, many lives.
This was my POV from backstage — crazy-cool!
On top of all this, there was the thunderous, mind-blowing insanity that is Hall H, the ultra coveted venue that people literally camp overnight in line just to be a part of. It was like a full-on rock concert in a 7000 seat madhouse! Screaming fans, laser holograms projected on smoke, ear-splitting audio all fused to the kind of live-wire adrenaline that drives everyone to their feet when someone like Benedict Cumberbatch suddenly appears onstage… jaw-dropping!!!
Photo by: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
In addition to the marketing juggernaut of the Marvel panel, there were other phenomenal events to savor, like the Aliens 30th Anniversary panel with James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver — I was in heaven!
What more can I say? Only that I hope you enjoyed this offering and the spirit in which it was given, one of gratitude and pure amazement at getting a chance to be there and take part in so much geeky-goodness!
One last thing… my Comic Con experience was made possible through the tireless, behind-the-scenes efforts of the person who my wife has pointed out is the equivalent of our own personal Black Cat. Like the quiet hero of The Price, she is the resilient and positive force that brought everything together at SDCC and kept it flowing: Cat Mihos (along with her awe-inducing hubby, the giant, pony-tailed, kilt-wearing dynamo that is Drew Johnston). Her consistent encouragement and genuine desire to help others has been a source of inspiration and hope even durning times when this project was moving so slowly, it was hard to see progress. She has opened many doors for me (and others), and creates networks between those of us lucky enough to associate with her. And when I witness how deftly she coordinates the intense storm of focused attention that always threatens to engulf her beloved boss, I know she is his Black Cat as well.
A 1000 thank-yous, my friend.
A great writeup. I’m glad it was such a good experience and that you were able to (re)connect with Neil and other creators.
The new trailer is amazing. I love how you use the colours here, nice warm oranges for the days and intimidating blues for the night (and the logo).
The title reveal coming out of the tree is a really nice touch.
So glad to see this project is still on the right track!
Thank you so much, Jordi — I’m glad you like it! (Great comments too!)
Beautiful job on the trailer. It’s wonderful to see some of what you’ve been working on in motion, with music. Really feels like the real deal!
I’m glad you had such a great time. I wish I could have attended, but my ability to travel is really limited these days. I’ve still never managed to get to SDCC myself despite it not being THAT far from me. Maybe someday.
Hope things are going well with you coming off of all that excitement. Thanks for sharing the trailer, and do let us know if (when?) that panel makes it online!
Hey Michael — what are you doing up so late? Get to bed, young man!!! 😉 Yeah, I really wish you were able to come, although I’m not quite sure if we’d ever have found each other amidst the other 149,999 attendees — it was a crazy-crowded, over-stimulation fest like I’ve never seen! But that Premiere Night is coming my friend…hang in there!
I never sleep anymore. Attempting to get into a university to finish my BA, but maaan has transferring been impossible. It’s turned into a total nightmare. Between that, writing and editing work, and further language study, sleep comes when I can get it. Which is usually at my desk, involuntarily.
I do hope I can make it to the Premiere Night when it happens! Not sure if I’ll be able to as I’ve gone utterly flat broke since the Kickstarter and am saving money for university and possibly relocating to Japan. But I sure hope I can make it!
The trailer was impressive. I can’t wait to see the entire film. Well done!
American Gods fans might enjoy the video I took of Neil Gaiman riding the carousel featured in the book. This is a carousel that is never riden except for this one night with Neil for Halloween in 2010. The winners of the American Gods costume contest also got to ride it, my wife being one. Magical evening.
I was there that night, and what a night! Thanks for the reminder!
I wish they would do that event again. Too much fun.
Thanks David, for the kind words and the video — looks unbelievably magical!
I am so pleased for you that you were able to have this amazing experience. The new trailer is awesome; it gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes (I HAVE to quit watching stuff like this at work!). Kudos.
Chills & tears — sounds like a great combination to me! (Guess I could put a NSFW warning on the trailer somewhere…) 😉 Thanks Susan!
Dude, I am so jealous! You’re living the geek dream, man! Attending the SDCC is something I hope to do sometime in my life, it’s my Geek Mekka. But it’s a bit of a swim across the Atlantic. And then having to cross the US, too.
Love the new trailer, by the way. The finished movie will be something unique and gorgeous, I’m absolutely sure! Makes me proud to be a backer. And a few years from now, when you’re a rising star in the movie industry, I get to say “I helped him get where he is today, you know.” 😉
But it’s so true! You and all of the other backers are a huge part of putting things in motion (which is why I love sharing these experiences). Very glad you enjoyed the trailer!
The trailer gave me goosebump in a very positiv way, it’s amazing. Really looking forward to the full movie and proud to be a backer. And a special compliment to whoever did the music.
Also thanks for your insight into your Comic-Con experience, sounds like a really good time.
Thank you Nicoletta. Part of the score from the trailer (and the entire score for the finished film) was created by a brilliant young composer named Zain Effendi, who was mentored by Hans Zimmer.
what a beautiful Valentine to that crazy convention which is San Diego!
so happy we made this work out.
your kind words to me touched my black-cat heart. thank you, Director!
A Black-cat heart is a rare and precious thing to have my friend. Thank you for making it all happen!
I am not one to post comments very often but I wanted to let you know that I am stunned by the beauty of this latest trailer. Absolutely wonderful.
Thank you and Mr. Gaiman. I can’t wait for the final cut.
Well Jason, I sincerely thank you for taking the time to share such generous words — they keep me going!
Very happy you like it!
Amazing trailer, but an even more amazing experience! Thank you for sharing your extraordinary comic con adventure with us!
You are very welcome! It was a tremendous and surreal experience that I really wanted to share (hopefully without sounding boastful), so I’m glad you enjoyed it.
The overwhelming geekness! Holy euphoria, Chris! Loved the story, loved that you got to be immersed in the experience, and loved the trailer. The visuals were beautiful, of course, but I also have to acknowledge the kick-ass audio. Masterful. Really magnified the emotional effects of the visuals and narration.
I grinned from ear to ear this morning while reading your thoughtful comment, Trevor. I really appreciate that you noticed the audio; sound is at least 50% responsible for the emotional reaction/connection we have with film, and there is a lot of effort and thought expended on combining the right elements in order to transport the audience to the desired place.
I hope you are feeling better and continuing to fight the good fight, my friend — thoughts & prayers for you!
I “hear” you re: the audio. In one of the parallel universes, I chose to be an audio engineer / sound effects dude…
Thanks for the best wishes. I finished treatment for the more scary cancer in May, and have been recovering from that nasty experience quite well. Feel almost human. Now on to dealing with the less scary cancer… It’s been an interesting year.
Just got back from a week offilne in the woods to this GORGEOUS post. Both the words and the stunning trailer.
Congrats on all you’ve done!
Much appreciated Robyn — so pleased you liked them!
Been following your progress since Kickstarter. What a journey, what angst, what hope, faith and passion you have for this endeavor. It’s truly inspiring to witness someone sweating blood for an ideal firmly implanted in their psyche.
It’s been instructive catching up with all of the posts. The trailer looks really magical, man. As much as I loved, and still love the animatic version, you’re definitely upping your game!
You’ve certainly captured the soul and essence of felines. I should know… we currently have 20 or so under wing and roof… our “lost people” lol… including a long-haired grey lady sporting a single green eye who has that same otherworldly inscape that you have masterly rendered in the title image of your trailer. You absolutely nailed it.
You’ve got a classic brewing in your cup, sir. Godspeed in your continued adventures!
I wish I knew your real name “Tadpole” so I could do a better job of saying how very much I appreciate that you took the time to compose such kind and thoughtful words. Some days, despite our best efforts to stay in “positive mode,” we can still become mired in doubt and uncertainty; acts of genuine kindness like yours push back the gray for us to see the colors again. Thank you.
I love the cinematic.
Browsing the net right now foor this.
Thanks Alvin — I’m pleased you enjoyed it!
The trailer is, in a word, amazing. It fully captures the emotional resonance of the short story already. The Price, one of Gaiman’s famously short stories, is fabulously Neil. As it is full of strange, beautiful and wondrously thrilling intrigue. Ultimately the love and sacrifice that evolutionarily and still ultimately wild animals give to us in the small time we have here is a gift. If we are lucky we get to share an emotional bond that lasts until our and their final moments. Those moments of time they give to us is never forgotten. Those of us who have had the pleasure of sharing our lives with those few domesticated, yet always wild, souls here on this “small blue dot” are forever grateful. In this vast ever expanding cosmos the fact that we exist at all and share this planet with these unique creatures fills me with awe. We animal lovers are forever grateful for the small gifts of wonder and joy we have when getting to know an animal and it’s unique heart and spirit. Frankly, if you cannot tell already, I love animals more than people too often. Two of my animals died protecting me… But, that is another story altogether. So, this story especially felt so real as the purest wild hearts often protect, love and give the most.
As far as the project goes…
There is no “price” too small to give to lend for helping fulfill a dream. I so proud to be a part of this project. Sending everyone involved in this project warm thoughts and wishes as you work hard to complete this project.