Monday, November 19, 2007

What's the Opposite of Schadenfreude?

I must confess that there have been many occasions when I have taken pleasure in the pain of others. I hate that kind of pleasure, but when it comes, it comes. Right?

The good news is that over the past few weeks I've been feeling quite the opposite, taking great pleasure in the success of others. Three others in particular, all of whom I've known as friends and colleagues for nine years or more and who are enjoying varying degrees of public success at the same time.

It's awkward to say "I'm proud of you" to a non-relative in person, but hell, I AM feeling proud of them and what's wrong with sharing a little of that... blog-style?

This one speaks for itself.

The first is Mr. Sam Stephenson, whose excellent article "Southern Homecoming" about native North Carolinian Thelonious Monk's final string of shows in his home state is the cover story of Oxford American magazine's 2007 Music Issue. Before I first met Sam, at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1989, I'd heard tales of Sam. Sam Stephenson can drink a whole keg of beer. Sam Stephenson can throw a baseball 200 yards and hit a moving car. When I did meet him I quickly found out he was a gentle giant (and was laughed at for thinking ANYONE could drink a whole keg... hey I was 18).

Sam is a devoted aficionado, ambassador and archivist for jazz, photography, and specifically jazz photography. His 2003 book Dream Street: W. Eugene Smith's Pittsburgh Project was another highwater mark for Sam, yet I believe it'll one day go down as the prelude to an even greater work on Smith's soon-to-be-infamous Jazz Loft.

Livin La Vida Reilly

The second name I'll drop is Mr. Barry Poltermann, who co-directed (alongside Frank L. Anderson) the concert film/documentary THE LIFE OF REILLY focusing on MATCH GAME fixture (and much, much more) Charles Nelson Reilly. I've known Barry since that day in 1998 that, sight unseen, he hired me over the phone from Milwaukee to be the development guy for his new Venice, CA based film and commercial production company Spoke Film.

Spoke was the launching pad for film financing offshoot Civilian Pictures, which quickly became the focus of both our lives- mine up to the beginning of 2001 and Barry's until... well in a way it still is. Civilian offered ordinary investors the opportunity to buy shares of movies and documentaries in various stages of development, and despite the fact that we raised quite a bit of money and attracted high profile names like Diane Keaton, Keith Gordon and John Sloss, Civilian didn't achieve its ultimate goal of getting Civilian-financed films into theaters... until 2007. First the Wu-Tang Clan doc ROCK THE BELLS made it, and now LIFE OF REILLY makes it two in one year.

I just surfed to civilian.com to insert the link here and discovered that the investor-friendly homepage that's been up for years has recently been replaced by a holding page, so we'll have to see what Barry and the Civilian crew are up to next. Even though I personally had nothing to do with REILLY, I'm still chuffed to see the Civilian logo in the newspaper movie listings.

If I were a betting man, I'd lay $100 on Riley scoring an Oscar nomination (or at the very least a Golden Globe).

Exhibit #3 is Mr. Todd Eckert, who produced the Ian Curtis biopic CONTROL, which is also now in theaters (thanks to the Weinstein Company's acquisition of the film at Cannes). I met Todd in a shuttle van shuttling us from the Salt Lake airport to Park City for Sundance in January of 1999. I wish I could remember what specifically struck our initial conversation up, but I remember for certain it was music (probably Ryuichi Sakamoto, but I can't be sure). We exchanged business cards, met later in the festival for drinks, and have been friends ever since.

Todd is, without question, the most serious music fan I've ever known. He was a music journalist before transitioning into the film finance world and, lately, into film production (among other things- he's a renaissance man in the best sense of the word). Despite a daunting travel, family and work schedule, he still manages to take in (what seems to me) hundreds of shows and movies a year and always drops band names to me that mean nothing to me at the time yet have a tendency to make sense later when the bands explode onto the scene.

Todd relentlessly pursued CONTROL for years, and took quite a few gambles to get it made the way he wanted it to get made including shooting in B&W, hiring a first-time feature director (Anton Corbijn), first-time feature writer (Matt Greenhalgh) and first-time feature actor (Sam Riley) to play the lead. All this from a first time feature producer, yet the film's taken major prizes at Cannes, Edinburgh, Chicago and more and is cruising towards $1 million at the U.S. box office with far more abroad.

Too all three of you major dudes, I extend a heartfelt "I'm proud of you": I'm genuinely happy for your successes.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

David-
The story was that Sam could throw a POTATO, not a baseball, that far, and it was 30 beers, not a keg.
The 30 beers part, incidentally, was entirely true. The potato part was mostly true.

-Your fact-checkin' cuz
(Todd Moye)

Amity and Ferg said...

Nope, Trad. Wrong as usual. Coop Jobe drinks the thirty beers. For Sam, it was absolutely an entire keg.

Ferg (your eminent fact checker of the fact-checkin' cuz)

JRyan said...

Greetings old friend. It was actually a grapefruit that the gentle giant hurled the length of Big Frat Court.

Anonymous said...

amity and ferg: Coop only claimed 30 beers as his birthright. He talked the talk; Sam, in contrast, walked the walk. He drank a case, barely felt a buzz, and then drank a 6-pack. And killed a man... just for snorin' too loud.

Mr. Word Player said...

Ah, yes, I remember it well.

b morris said...

ohhhh......water

Mr. Word Player said...

b morris, I remember the exact quote as "ohhhh......shower", but apparently we all have slightly different versions of those days rattling around in our nogs.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet he could eat three turkeys too. Happy Thanksgiving Word Dude.

Anonymous said...

mr word player -

I think it actually may have been "ahhh...shower." Hope all is well my man.