I have a couple memories of working with Ebert, beyond the countless telephone calls we had in the past 20 years -- and then email, of course, for the past few. Both are linked to Michael Apted and the "Up" series of films, which Roger is on record as saying they are "one of the most important films ever." I was instrumental in arranging for Michael to travel to Chicago to be interviewed by Roger as a bonus feature on our box set release. This turned out to be Roger's last recorded interview, before his surgery. Then a few years later, I was contacted by Michael when the DGA decided to give Roger an Honorary Lifetime Membership to the Guild. I had a lovely preliminary conversation with Roger's wife Chaz to see if Roger would be up to a trip to LA to accept in person. Of course, he was!
Jeff Lipsky, Adopt Films:
I distributed the cult sensation "My Dinner With Andre" for New Yorker Films. All cults start off with a leader and, along with Gene Siskel, Roger Ebert was that leader. Singularly, Roger and Gene plucked "Andre" from certain obscurity just when its distributor was preparing to abandon it. That just doesn't happen anymore. Roger's then PBS audience was the choir and he preached like nobody's business. In 1982, on the final day of its 51 week and six day engagement, I asked Roger and Gene to moderate a Q&A with Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory after the final performance at New York's Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. They unhesitatingly agreed. I have a poor quality audio tape of that magical discussion. Magical. That's it. That was Roger. In the coming weeks I will pluck that tape from obscurity and upload it on Indiewire so that this rare, witty, and wise bit of memorabilia will serve as what I'm sure will be many tributes to Roger Ebert in the coming days, weeks, and years. He was singular, he was a friend, he is missed.
David Magdael, David Magdael & Associates:
Sundance 2002 - MId Week Evening Screening - The Library - BETTER LUCK TOMORROW - A film by Justin Lin
As the Q&A was winding down, someone from the audience got up and chastised the director and his cast and crew for making a film that amoral and how the filmmaker did a disservice to his community (the film was about Asian American kids) with this film. And literally, Ebert stood up for this film and the filmmaker by getting up on his chair and told the audience that this film had a right to be made and how that person would not have said that to a bunch of white filmmakers -- and that Asian American characters have the right to be whatever the hell they want to be and they do not have to "represent" their people.
That moment changed a lot of lives and inspired many more Asian American filmmakers to become filmmakers. Ebert's support of the film jump started that movie and Lin's career as a filmmaker (he's now about to release "Fast & Furious 6"). Just saying.
Michele Robertson, MRC Michele Robertson Company:
My first time really meeting Mr. Ebert was many years ago at a film festival. The festival controlled the door, I was there for lack of better words to welcome the press that were there. It was a hot ticket, many key critics were there -- Mr. Ebert being there on the early side and toward the front of the line. Long story short and some mishaps later by the festival, a lot of folks who should have didn't get in -- including all critics. Mr. Ebert set the tone how others responded, no yelling, no pointing fingers, but rightly frustrated. By the time all was said and done, we ended up going to dinner while our PR team scrambled to put on another screening for the 30-plus folks that were turned away. I've been in some "challenging" situations like this before, where said publicist gets the brunt of someone's frustration. Not him. He was a gentleman and a class act throughout. Over the years, when I'd see him, he thanked me again and I him. After his operation, I would see him at festivals - going to films with the same passion and enthusiasm that was the trademark of his career. I truly found him to be a warm and gracious man.
Sophie Gluck, Gluck PR:
I met Roger for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988 or 1989 when I worked for the late Renee Furst. Renee always praised his virtues as a film critic and instructed me to read his reviews and listen to what he had to say. In the years that followed, whether in Cannes or Toronto, I could always count on seeing Roger on line to get into a press screening, and not necessarily for the most "anticipated" film, but for a subtitled, under the radar foreign film, which could possibly become a discovery. In our festival interactions, I could also count on him to be a gentle human being. He always showed curiosity and knowledge, and when seeking films off the beaten path, he shared his discoveries with generosity, enthusiasm, and grace.