I woke up this morning to find one of the nicest people I’ve known, Gerald Wright, had passed away. I am crushed. I was looking forward to seeing him next week when the press screenings started for the New York Film Festival.
Most of you don’t know Gerald, though if you were a film writer in New York you knew him as he was a fixture at press screenings and festivals in New York. Also if you went to any of the Tribeca Film Festivals over the last two decades you probably ran into him as he ran his theater during the festival.
Gerald was one of the old guard. He was one of the older writers who had been around for years. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. Everyone delighted in talking to him. When I started writing on film twelve plus years ago he was there. Not only was he there, he actually said hello. Film writers can be a snobby lot and they don’t always acknowledge that other writers exist until they see them fifteen or twenty times. Gerald wasn’t like that- I passed him as a real newbie and he said hello. We kept talking (once I got the nerve to say hello back) ever since. When we came back to NYFF last year I got a big smile and greeting from him outside the Walter Reade Theater as we both realized that friends were okay. There was delight as more of the regulars came in and saw Gerald and we knew that all was right with the world.
I was not a friend of Gerald’s where we hung out outside of films or festivals, but we always took the time to say hi and talk to each other between screenings sharing information or just shooting the breeze. I don’t know what he got from me but I got invaluable lessons about films and film festivals. He told me so much I could never have ever have hoped to find out through any other means.
I last spent time with him at Tribeca. We met at the badge pick up and we talked as we walked to the subway about the changes in the festival since the Murdochs bought it. He was not happy. To him the festival was less about the films and more about making money as the new masters were driving anyone who knew anything away by refusing to pay anyone what they were worth. He said that he was originally not going to work the festival but they made him and offer he couldn’t refuse. He said he was going to end his relationship with the fest on his terms and not on anyone else’s. While he was unhappy with the festival management he didn’t want to leave the volunteers and the people he worked with on the ground in the lurch. He said he would teach them everything he could before he moved on. It was this desire to help his friends and co-workers that made him so special- and was why everyone knew him and always said hello.
I saw him everyday during the festival and we exchanged notes about good movies and gossip it was blast. I think I talked to him more during this Tribeca than at any other festival. I looked forward to seeing him in September at NYFF when we could talk some more.
But now that’s not going to happen and the world is a little less bright.
I don’t know what to say other than I will miss him greatly. I think everyone who knew him will. We are all lessened by his passing- on the other hand we were made so much greater by having him in our lives that we we are still a head of the game.
Rest well my friend.