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"Roger Ebert could see the best in any film": Filmmakers Tell Indiewire Why They Loved Roger Ebert

By Indiewire Staff | Indiewire April 8, 2013 at 12:02PM

Throughout the week, Indiewire will feature remembrances of Roger Ebert from across the industry. Today, we're focusing on the filmmakers.

Robbie Pickering, director, "Natural Selection"

Roger Ebert’s opinion was about the only one that mattered to me about movies from a very early age. So when I had my first film play South by Southwest, and I heard that Ebert was going to be one of the judges, I was overcome with a strange mix of joy and abject fear. We premiered at 8:45 am on the first Sunday of the festival, and I thought surely he wouldn’t be in the audience for such an ungodly early screening.  But sure enough, there he was with Chaz. For the next hour and a half, I didn't watch the movie or monitor the audience – I watched the back of Ebert's head. And one time, around the five minute mark, I saw him start to doze off. It only lasted for a second because Chaz was there to elbow him (thank God), but my body felt like it was melting. I was finished. My stupid movie had put my hero to sleep. 

After the screening and the Q&A, I came out of the theater deflated to find Roger waiting for me. He couldn’t speak and he looked frail, most likely because I can only assume traveling wasn’t easy for him, but he gave me a thumbs up and made me stand there while he took my picture on a little camera. I was so in shock that I can't even remember the next few minutes, hanging out with him in the lobby. A few days later, Roger and the jury awarded my film six awards -- including the Grand Jury Prize. And a few weeks after that, Roger invited my film, "Natural Selection," as a last-minute addition to Ebertfest. Once again, I couldn't stop myself from watching Roger the entire time -- sitting at the back of the humongous theater in his La-Z-Boy. Thankfully, this time, he never dozed off. Not even for a second. And the thought I can't stop from running through my head is, "Who else matters now?"

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