Remembering The “Mister Rogers & Me” Premiere (Or, Seeing Yourself Again For The First Time)

June 25th, 2010

Difficult to imagine, but it was one week ago today that “Mister Rogers & Me” finally made its way from a conversation in Madaket to a world premiere at the Nantucket Film Festival.

And I don’t know for sure, but by the time the lights dimmed in the Nantucket High School auditorium, it’s safe to say I’d watched the 82:50 documentary at least one hundred times. Still, to say this screening was different would be an understatement. This was it! This was our baby meeting the world for the first time.

Other than starting our day as guests of Nantucket Film Festival’s “Morning Coffee With…,” Chris and I spent the afternoon like any other day off. We knocked out a solid 10k run around town, and then had lunch (lobster rolls all around) with my college pal, Fish (from whom I first learned about the enchanted, little island thirty miles off the coast of Massachusetts). After reading and quickly posting Gene Mahon’s terrific endorsement of our film, I quaffed a Cisco Brewers’ Whale’s Tale Pale Ale while dry-running my dirty laundry-themed story for Late-Night Storytelling. Before I knew it, our 1929 Ford (courtesy of NFF, natch) was beckoning from The Beachsider driveway.

When we pulled up to the high school, there was a line out the door and half-way across the parking lot. We gathered our entourage, some twenty-or-so strong with parents and friends, plus Mister Rogers’ son, John (and friends) and one of the film’s “characters,” Beverly Hall (and her’s). After posing for a group photo for local journo (and “Mister Rogers & Me” advocate, Gene Mahon), we were ushered inside.

Nantucket High School’s Mary P. Walker Auditorium is state-of-the-art theater. It’s a massive space with with some 600 seats, high ceilings, wrap-around audio baffling, and top-notch audio and video (I imagine the island has a pretty solid tax base). The room was more than half-full, and — were I to characterize its tenor — grinning in anticipation. Chris and I heard a few stories and posed for a few photos, then mounted the stage. I told those assembled that we’d always wanted to world premiere at NFF (applause), thanked everyone for coming (applause), then raced back to my seat in the exact aural and optical center (natch!).

Having attended Sundance a handful of time over the years (always for work, but always doing recon for myself), I’d often envied those filmmakers whose movies took those cool, brief, festival-centric intro animations before screening. What a thrill, then, to see a flickering whale’s tale amidst a rolling seascape resolve into the NFF logo. We’d arrived!

Not one second of screen time is accidental; we chose every frame. Odd as it might sound, some of my favorite moments in our film are the credits. I’m particularly proud of our Wagner Bros. title sequence, not only because of the logo (derived of a 35-year-old photo of Chris and I climbing a tree), but because if the precise audio mix Chris created for it: crickets, wind, and children’s laughter. It gets me every time.

I sat grinning in the dark as our film unspooled but then, when Mister Rogers first appeared, found myself choked up. “I did it!” I thought. “I made good on our conversation!”

I’ll afford you no spoilers, but will say that it was fascinating, exciting, and anxiety-provoking to listen to the audience laugh and gasp in real time. I was motionless for the first few minutes, praying that the tape wouldn’t break or the audio drop out. To the contrary, the HD picture was pristine. From Brant Point to Smith’s Point, Nantucket looked gorgeous. And the audio mix — completed less than a week prior by Dan Ricci — was gorgeous; one would never know that the voice over was recorded, not in one fells swoop, but over the course of weeks.

It dawned on me only now, a week later, that I should have been anxious about seeing myself on the big screen. True, there are a few outfits I should have more carefully considered. And true, one can pretty much watch me lose my hair over the course of the film. But — maybe it’s all the music videos Chris and I have done over the years (“New York,” “The Rest Of My Life,” “Here Comes Your Man” among others), or maybe my Hope For Haiti Now cameo — it didn’t even occur to me.

Instead, I sat ticking away the segments in my head, rolling over all the context — the booking, travel, side conversations, licensing considerations and hours of unused footage — that made each interview segment unique. And as the end approached, I waited on the edge of my seat; I couldn’t wait for a real, live audience to experience our conclusion!

As the credits rolled (to Casey Shea’s inspiring “Love Is Here To Stay”) and the audience applauded (for a solid minute or so, I might add), I climbed from my seat to meet festival co-founder Jonathan Burkhart for our Q&A. Christofer was missing as I walked into the spotlight, then bound from the wings with his daughter, Ella, in his arms.

I don’t remember much of the Q&A, only that the questions were long, plentiful, and substantive. Towards the end, Mister Rogers’ son, John said, “My dad would be proud.” And before we spilled out into the half-light of dusk, the entire audience sang John “Happy Birthday,” just as his father had to me when our story began some nine years prior.

20 thoughts on “Remembering The “Mister Rogers & Me” Premiere (Or, Seeing Yourself Again For The First Time)”

  1. Chris A. says:

    Great post. I seriously can’t wait to see it. Need help planning the NYC premiere?

  2. Emil Kimmons says:

    It appears like pleasant submit, on the other hand it just a single side of the medal. Good reading anyway, I constantly appreciated excellent brain teaser and solid amount of great information.

  3. Website says:

    What’s up Dear, are you really visiting this website daily, if so afterward you will without doubt obtain pleasant know-how.

  4. mp3 says:

    I am in fact happy to read this web site posts which consists of lots of useful facts, thanks for providing such statistics.

  5. view soure says:

    A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. I think that you need to publish more on this subject, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people don’t talk about these subjects. To the next! Many thanks!!

  6. Find Out More says:

    I think this is one of the most important information for me. And i am glad reading your article. But should remark on some general things, The site style is perfect, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  7. Welcome to Studio Plazma, Visit us on:

  8. painting model figures says:

    Fantastic goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just too magnificent. I actually like what you have acquired here, really like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it wise. I cant wait to read far more from you. This is actually a wonderful site.

  9. Home Page says:

    Unquestionably believe that which you stated. Your favourite reason seemed to be on the web the simplest factor to consider of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed even as other people think about concerns that they just do not recognise about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the highest and defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thank you

  10. model railway figures says:

    Hi Dear, are you actually visiting this web page daily, if so after that you will without doubt take good know-how.

  11. Jesusa Tanna says:

    If some one needs to be updated with latest technologies afterward he must be visit this web site and be up to date everyday.|

  12. I am so happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the accidental misinformation that’s at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.

  13. I pay a visit each day some blogs and sites to read content, but this website gives feature based articles.

  14. go to this great site says:

    Wonderful site. A lot of helpful information here. I’m sending it to several pals ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you to your effort!

  15. This is the right website for everyone who would like to understand this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a topic that’s been written about for a long time. Wonderful stuff, just great!|

  16. Nelson Romas says:

    Hi my friend! I wish to say that this post is amazing, great written and come with almost all vital infos. I’d like to look more posts like this .|

  17. I’ll gear this review to 2 types of people: current Zune owners who are considering an upgrade, and people trying to decide between a Zune and an iPod. (There are other players worth considering out there, like the Sony Walkman X, but I hope this gives you enough info to make an informed decision of the Zune vs players other than the iPod line as well.)

  18. Yael Valrey says:

    Oops, the should say “The beginning of February. I signed up on the 3rd.”

  19. view site.. says:

    What a funny blog! I genuinely enjoyed watching this comic video with my relatives as well as with my colleagues.

  20. You’ll be able to definitely see your skills in the function you compose. The world hopes for a lot more passionate writers like you that are not afraid to mention how they think. At all times follow your heart.

Leave a Reply

  • About

  • Benjamin Wagner first met “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” creator and star, Fred Rogers, at Rogers’ summer home on Nantucket, Massachusetts. His mother rented the cottage next door, so Mister Rogers really was his neighbor. On the afternoon of their first meeting, “America’s Favorite Neighbor” asked the young journalist about his job as an MTV News producer.  Wagner felt exposed and a tiny-bit embarrassed, a PBS mind in a jump-cut, sound-bit MTV world. Mister Rogers said warml ...
  • More about the film
  • Watch At Home

  •  
  • Official Soundtrack

  • Search

  • Archives