When I was in High School my writing teacher got Harold Ramis to come speak to our class. He lived two towns over and had kids in our school district. During his brief talk with our class, he tried to explain the process of filmmaking, but the audience of my star-struck classmates and “visiting” classes kept asking about funny things that happened on the set of Ghostbusters and what Bill Murray was like in person.
The thirty-five minute period flew by, everyone applauded, and everyone was ushered out the door. But, on my way to the door my writing teacher pulled me over to Mr. Ramis and introduced me, explaining how I was dead-set on being a director and spent all of my free time trying to make my own movies. He shook my hand and said casually, “that’s excellent, that’s the first and only step… making movies. So, you’re on the right track.”
At which point he explained that he was running late but I could walk with him to the front of the school if I had any questions. As we walked through the winding hallways of our school I acted like I didn’t notice when we made a wrong turn because I was reveling in every extra moment I could steal of his. At the front of the school I thanked him and he encouraged me to keep going and that maybe someday we’d find ourselves working together. It was a polite and encouraging way to end a conversation with a sixteen year old, but it was also a flickering light of opportunity and challenge that got stuck in my brain.
Farfetched or otherwise, I always wanted to find a way to work with him just so I could casually tell that story to him as we sat side by side in an edit bay going over dailies of the movie we just shot together,
"You know Harold, when I was in High School you told me we might work together in the future… and… well, look at us now!"
But, unfortunately with his passing that won’t be the case. It’s a plot-line that won’t tie up nicely. I can count on my fingers the amount of minutes I spent with him, but it’s still sad— not because we were in any way friends or that I ever even knew him, but because he made stuff I enjoyed.
The same reason it’s hard when a well known artist dies is the same reason you knew them in the first place— they took the first and only step to creating things… creating them.