I grew up with Roger Ebert. And though he’s white and we’re not blood related, I always likened him to that fun uncle that came over every Sunday at 4:30 in the afternoon via the tele (vision). There I would sit, chugging a gallon of milk and stuffing my face with Twinkies, excited and laughing with Uncle Ebert and Auntie Siskel as they yelled at and berated each other on what movies were worth an up thumb or a down one. Little did I know that Uncle Ebert would play such an important role in my (our) life so many years later at the Sundance Film Festival. Were it not for Uncle Ebert hoisting his large frame atop a theatre seat to loudly exclaim his opinions on the double standard imposed upon “ethnic” cinema and race expectations sprouting from it, I wonder if I’d even be working in Hollywood today. I wonder if BLT would have had enough juice to stand above the larger, more well-funded, highly star-studded competition films. We owe Roger Ebert a lot. Perhaps more than he’ll ever know. We are entwined in so many unexpected ways…
Flash forward to 2007. Justin, Sung, & I were on the road doing yet another “grassroots/hobo publicity tour” for our new movie, FINISHING THE GAME, when we found ourselves in Chicago. Ironically, one of our first TV interviews just happened to be in the same building as where “At The Movies with Siskel & Ebert” was filmed (the show’s title has changed a bit over time). Even crazier, the producer who handled our publicity interview just happened to be the life-long friend and producer of Roger Ebert’s show. In her black cowboy hat and smoker’s voice she asked us, “do you want to see where Roger’s show is shot?” The three of us just looked at each other and said, “Hell yeah!”. So she led us into the studio and there it was… the balcony and the two seats where, for years, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel sat debating their varying degrees of love and hate for movies. It was pretty darn cool. So much so that we asked to take a picture sitting in their actual seats. OK, Justin and Sung did. I had to kneel in between the two so I guess that kinda makes me the servant. Nonetheless, it was pretty cool being able to sit in the chair of the guy who inspired me/us as a child and had a direct hand in some of the most amazing experiences of my/our lives. Thanks Uncle Ebert!
The Studio where our FTG interviews took place
Sign outside “At The Movies” show. Roger’s show.
Justin doing an interview. Uncle Ebert looking over him.
Walking into “The Balcony”. Black, cowboy hat wearing producer on left. Nice lady.
Keeping the seats warm for Roger Ebert and company.
If you’re wondering about the “Ebert Moment” at Sundance, just drag the playhead to 3:00. Enjoy.