Documentary

I woke from a fitful sleep to the sound of grinding metal. A mere 150 feet across the street at precisely the elevation of my bedroom window, workmen are cutting, hammering, welding and power-sanding the immense iron structure supporting the huge wooden barrel that supplies water to the Interboro Continuing Education center. It’s an agonizing sound, coupled with the din of traffic, the LaGuardia landing pattern, and my upstairs neighbor practicing his French horn.

And so I set out running towards Central Park through the cold spring drizzle. Once inside the park, the city slipped away. I ran along The Lake, twisting, turning and climbing over the empty wooded path. I heard only the rain on the leaves, the patter of my feet on the pavement, and the sound of my breath. I saw flowers of every color, birds of every stripe. There, in the small sliver of the city, all was well with the world.

Back home now, the workers seem to be on break. Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkle, Nick Drake, Van Morrison, and Bob Dylan are on shuffle in the living room. I’m drinking coffee, and scanning movie listings to idle away this rainy Saturday. I’m going to catch a documentary downtown, “A Decade Under the Influence,” Ted Demme’s portait of 70’s Hollywood.

Next week, the Tribeca Film Festival has its second run, and I’m planning on taking in some panels, especially the one on documentary filmmaking with D.A. Pennybaker (who shot Dylan’s “Don’t Look Back”), Chris Hegedus (“Startup.com”), and — oddly enough — Steve Rosenbaum, my brother’s former boss, and thusly, the man partly responsible for my being here in New York City.

Both of which, hopefully, will inform my aspiration to follow through with my Mister Rogers documentary, “Mister Rogers & Me.” I had given up on it after his death, but have recently been considering how to make it happen without him, how to portray him, to ‘spread his message,’ without him addressing the camera. I’m sending a letter to his wife Joanne this week, and am hopeful. I hope to get to Nantucket for a weekend in early summer, prior to my annual Labor Day sojourn, to shoot some footage for a trailer. In my mind, the film begins just as the stoy ends, that is, I’m imagining the narrative structure of “Mister Rogers & Me” to follow the essay I wrote the day he passed away (read “Mr. Rogers: Deep & Simple” to see what I mean). I want to do it, to make it, for me, my family and friends. For him. And if it gets bigger, and is seen by more people, terrific. But I want to do it for the right reasons, for deep and simple motivations.

Stay tuned…

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