A year ago, there was no thought of Comic Book Men in my head. Life was going along much as it always did, with normal highs and lows and a fair amount of predictability. A good life.
In June, 2011, that changed. Kevin Smith, filmmaker, comic book writer, author, business-owner, performance artist, loving father and husband, sincere and devoted friend and absolutely his own man, threw in with Elyse Seiden, producer for his film, Red State, and Charlie Corwin, executive at Original Media to successfully pitch (now named) Comic Book Men to AMC TV.
Holy Cow. How cool it’s been since then. I’d like to share more about how life’s been for me and my family since then-later. Right now, I want to share some feelings and impressions I have about the show’s amazing production crew.
What follows is mostly presented as first output–unedited except for grammar–observations. I had the privilege of meeting most of the crew, albeit for brief, sometimes single instances. Some of my impressions are certainly flavored with stories Michael brought home and his own feelings for the crew members.
I don’t remember having any specific expectations when I first started meeting the different professionals. Right away, I was touched by their camaraderie. They seemed to share a genuine respect and affection for one another. From Michael’s accounts, they were certainly accomplished and outstanding partners in the project.
For people who I met and actually spoke with for more than 30 seconds, I give about a paragraph. For others, I simply was not in the right place at the right time to say more than ‘hello, nice to meet you.’ However, I can tell you that Michael felt a fondness for and respected them all. I list as many names as I can remember. Hopefully, anyone I leave out will return for season 2…
This is shared simply as a way to say “thank you” to a group of professionals that agreed to take on the project, Comic Book Men, for its first season. Though by no stretch of the imagination can I claim to know them, just being around them for the short time I got was enough to open up a whole new way of looking at the world for me, and for that, and all their work, I am grateful.
Safa I met on two occasions, once in the store, very briefly and again at the wrap party where I sat with him for about two hours. Big, open smile, eyes that flash with intelligence and something harder to read—maybe the energy of a struggle. Michael went to see him do a stand up comedy routine at Red Bank’s The Dublin House and told me later Safa was by far the funniest, and could certainly have held his own on any stage. He has an entertainer’s charisma. Safa was #2 camera.
“The Sound Guy” is how Michael would refer to him, and I could tell when I met him that when Tom is in charge of sound for your show, you have nothing to worry about. It will be great. Also, I found him warm and sincerely welcoming the handful of times I ran into him coming in and out of the shop and during the wrap party. Michael enjoyed sharing stories about Tom, about his sense of humor and expansive knowledge of pop culture. Tom starred on a couple of episodes of I Sell Comics (podcast hosted by Michael and Ming Chen) and they all had a blast.
I met Ronnie once, during a rare visit (as opposed to a drive-by) to the shop while they were filming. Ronnie had just announced he was leaving the project to take on more responsibility (and hopefully exciting recognition) in his writing career. I could see immediately why Michael’s face softened and he smiled every time he mentioned Ronnie. He’s got a gentleness and a serenity that made me feel grateful I got the chance to stand across the counter from him. Ronnie worked on the set assisting Jeremy the director of photography.
Christian was the line producer, which he explained is the guy who pays for things. I also learned he’s the guy who begins the process of recruiting the production team and makes sure they have everything they need to do their jobs: permissions, supplies, a place to crash, equipment, etc. I got to meet and speak with Christian on several occasions, and liked him immediately. Typical in successful professionals whose job includes managing many levels of personalities, responsibilities and the stress of keeping a project on the leash, he was consciously polite and self-moderated in his conversation at first. However, as we would see each other throughout the ten weeks of the shoot, Christian’s bubbling sense of humor, his easygoing comfort and enthusiasm about his work and the complexity of his character, including his passion for food, his love, Melissa, and his dog, Milo, shone through.
Melissa’s warm and engaging, with a drive to make things work and for helping others (as I found out talking with her about my work serving a non-profit mental health center). This is probably why she enjoyed playing den mother to the crew. Melissa worked with Christian and Mello to keep the whole ball of wax from melting–helped give the days shape and worked out kinks. She’s an extraordinary troubleshooter, and a foodie.
I think Milo is a rat terrier or a jack russell terrier. Whatever, he’s a dynamo. Even though I scored very low points with him for not having any treats and not dropping any food on the floor, Milo greeted me warmly and even let me scratch him behind the ears for a little while. Cassie, my own canine companion, expressed curiosity regarding his scent, and after a thorough sniffing of my hands and legs, did not give me the impression she sensed any serious flaws in his character.
Mello. This is the man who was the scheduler and chief encourager. He sent out the daily schedule and made sure everyone was kept in the loop. A gentleman to his core was what I felt, sitting with him at the wrap party. He has a wealth of experience in the entertainment field and I got the impression that instead of getting jaded and cynical, it’s made him more compassionate and loving to his colleagues and everyone in his circle. That’s a hell of an accomplishment when the other option is so much easier. I certainly count sitting with him for a couple of hours one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in years.
Wow. That’s the word that lept into my mind when she turned to me and smiled. More than anyone, It was Kymberlee who opened up the circle to invite me in. Maybe I feel that way because we’re both women, but my God, what a woman she is. Beautiful, and it radiates from the inside out and spreads to everyone around her. Kymberlee transcribed everything the guys said and put it in context so the editors could use it to help them with their work. She was kind to my sons, who visited the set a few times. An enormously intelligent person, Kymberlee struck me from the first as supremely skilled and shrewd in a, ‘it wasn’t easy, but nothing stopped me and I did it better than anyone could have and I know it and am damned proud of it” way. Truly a blessing to sit with her for a few hours at the wrap party.
I’m not sure of Brian’s official title, but basically, he was the lead director. I sat beside Brian for about 15 minutes in the studio before the wrap party. Brian gives me the impression that he’s used to meeting and working with people who behave differently when the camera’s on them than they did before. His eyes glint with intelligence, competence, and–what struck me for those few minutes as– a tightly reined impulse to investigate the character underneath a person’s varnish by pushing a few buttons and observing the reaction—an impulse he probably unleashes in his work as a director, but (mostly) holds in check regarding innocent bystanders. Certainly a powerful presence and impression.
A director, and second to Brian Nashel, I remember meeting Brian two times, once during filming on location at a local flea market, and again the evening of the wrap party. From the first, I liked Brian very much. At the market, he was in control, effectively managing the several moving parts of the shoot with calm focus. He took the time to talk with me, and I walked away with the impression that he is an intense, highly principled professional who prefers to work with people he likes but is perfectly capable of making any situation work. Later, when I saw him right before the wrap party, he looked exhausted and obviously had run himself hard during the shoot. When others were packing up gear, laughing and getting ready for the party, Brian was still trying to disengage from the work. He wanted to accomplish the first rough cut of a trailer before he left that night and send it off to the execs, and no doubt that’s exactly what happened.
Jerry is the senior editor for the show. I got to sit next to Jerry while he was winding down the day of work, right before the wrap party, and he was extremely good natured about me peppering him with questions, “What do you do, how do you do it, why do you do it that way, what would happen if you did it this way, what’s your favorite color…”. Obviously wickedly talented, I get the impression he guards himself against getting too close to the personalities in a project, as he seemed to me a very high energy person who develops strong feelings about people and projects. Lucky for Comic Book Men, he’s grooving on the people and project.
I spoke with Jeremy only for about 20 seconds, but our exchange is something I hold as a gift. At the (very loud) wrap party, he grabbed my arm on the way out and pulled me close so I could hear him. “Mike’s a great guy,” he told me with intense sincerity. “I know,” I said through a smile. “No,” he insisted, pulling me closer, “Really. Mike is a GREAT, guy.” Our eyes locked and my heart pounded. I absolutely know what he was trying to convey, and am so liking him for insisting we meet eye-to-eye on that one. Jeremy could be the next Hannibal Lechter, but I will have his back forever because he sees what I see in Michael, and values it. Jeremy was the director of photography.
There are others that should be acknoweldged, though I didn’t have the chance to do more than shake their hands:
Coop, Remy, Dane, Roan, and JB.