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'Roger's seals of approval validated the work we were doing': The Film Festival Community Remembers Roger Ebert

By Indiewire Staff | Indiewire April 10, 2013 at 12:01PM

'Roger's seals of approval validated the work we were doing': The Film Festival Community Remembers Roger Ebert
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Sarah Eaton Sundance Film Festival:

While attending the Virginia Film Festival back in early 90s, I was lucky enough to be seated at a dinner with Roger Ebert.   As a publicist at Fine Line Features at the time I was fortunate to have worked with him on a number of films and had come to really appreciate and admire him.   In this instance, I could not resist the opportunity to ask him about the cult classic "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," a Russ Meyer film for which he wrote the screenplay.  I was fascinated that such a widely regarded  critic also had an appreciation for some really great schlock.   We spent most of the dinner talking about Russ Meyer films, which was beyond fun, and a memory I cherish.

Eugene Hernandez, Film Society of Lincoln Center:

In recent years we all discovered first hand the impact that a tweet from Roger could have on traffic. But his support was longstanding.

Roger's public and private seals of approval validated the work that we were doing even from the earliest days. He singled out Indiewire in print in an article for Yahoo Internet Life Magazine back in the 90s. It quite literally put Indiewire on the map in a major way.

Personally speaking, I was always honored to receive Roger's endorsement. At festivals around the world, he and Chaz were continually quick with a word of support and a nod of encouragement. They also teased me by calling saying I looked like George Lopez. The last time I saw Roger he offered me a trademark thumbs up.

Chris Horton, Sundance Artist Services:

When I attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, Ebert's presence at the annual Conference on World Affairs was one of the biggest events of the school year. He was, for a week, the biggest celebrity on campus. A film critic! He literally walked around with an entourage, and would stop to talk to seemingly every student who approached him. His tradition at the Conference was conducting, in the largest auditorium on campus, a shot by shot analysis of a specific film. He would start the film, and anyone could shout "STOP!" if they wanted to make a comment. It took days to get through a single movie (the ones I remember: "Fargo," "Vertigo" and "Dark City"). In the early days of DVD, the ability to quickly start and stop on a particular image was a revelation to Roger. And for a budding film geek with a gregarious streak, this was nirvana to me.

Dieter Kosslick, Berlin International Film Festival:

Thumbs up or thumbs down -- this was his trademark that became known far beyond the USA, and sparked both hope and fear. Roger Ebert was not only the most important film critic of his generation, but he also succeeded in conveying his love and passion for the cinema to us all. I was very moved when Roger topped his film list for 2011 with "A Separation," the winner of the Berlinale. Afterwards this extraordinary film won an Oscar and many other international prizes. Like always: Roger was right.

Rose Kuo, Film Society of Lincoln Center:

In the mid-eighties I landed the job as an an assistant editor on a feature film shot in Chicago. The post-production work was temporarily housed in a facility called GPI (I can't remember what the letters stood for and a search on the internet didn't uncover the mystery) located in the neighborhood called the Gold Coast. Shortly after arriving, I learned that the famous TV critic duo of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel screened new film releases at the same place. Sometimes the projectionist would let me slip into the booth to take a peek at what they were watching. One day, I was riding in the elevator when in stepped Roger and Gene. Roger turned and asked me what I did and after speaking to me for a little bit, he invited me to join them for their screenings. And just like that I found myself seated with them, the beneficiary of Roger's openness and interest in sharing the thing he loved, movies. The movie? It was "9 1/2 Weeks," which Roger liked.

Years later, after I had lost touch with him, I was attending the Telluride Film Festival.  Roger walked into a theater with Chaz and set his things down in the row of seats in front of me. He looked around the theater and paused when he saw me.  "Don't I know you?" he asked. I told him about the Chicago screenings and he launched right into talking about films we saw as if no time had passed. His willingness to share his world never diminished. 

Brian Brooks, FilmLinc:

OK, I'm really going down memory lane here… I remember some years back, my former Indiewire colleague Eugene Hernandez and I were driving down PCH in California after attending an alterna-party for "The Hurt Locker" producer Nicolas Chartier. The backdrop was that Chartier basically ran afoul of the powers-that-be at the Academy and was banned from attending the ceremony. But he scored with someone who had this fabulous (and I do mean fabulous) house in Malibu with an Oscar-viewing party. And, of course, the film won! We had an interesting little Oscar night angle to IW's coverage, but the wifi there sucked. We called it in to our co-worker Peter Knegt, who was -- and is -- a star and we managed it. It was stressful. We kind of wondered if we had messed it all up. At the time, it was never in the cards for us to go join the pack covering the Oscars backstage. No live snark, no Wireimage pics. You get the idea…

After that event, we were driving down PCH and we saw that Roger Ebert linked to our coverage. Oscar night, and Roger Ebert linked to us! That changed everything. Honestly, I had to pull over. It was so amazing. So the sob story is that we struggled for many years at Indiewire to keep it going. We didn't know at times if we would just crash or, even worse, vanish. We certainly never got rich off of it at the end of the day, but we kept it going. We were lucky we had Roger Ebert. He was a huge figure in the world of cinema, but for us his support was personal. IW wouldn't be what it is without him. Thumbs up dear soul. We owe you a debt of gratitude. 


This article is related to: Roger Ebert, Roger Ebert (1942-2013)