NOBODY is an intimate, animated documentary feature
in development that recounts the final weeks of a little known jazz musician, handy-man and alcoholic named Garry Newman. It is also my first-person, heart-in-hand search to find out what, if anything, my friend's life might have meant, ten years beyond his death. Our friendship was brief and unlikely, a forty-year difference in age between us. But in this short period I bore witness to an end-of-life spiritual awakening and managed to capture it with startling access to his inmost thoughts and reflections.
Garry died in 2007; he left his rent-controlled apartment to his fractured family, his body to science, and his artistic legacy to no one. Consumed for the past ten years with my own questions about Garry’s seeming irrelevance, I began seeking out and interviewing people who knew him at pivotal moments in his life. This includes an estranged wife, a frustrated son, a long lost lover, and countless aging jazz musicians. In parallel with my own mid-life crisis, I am seeking answers to an elusive and fundamental question, one that quietly propels the film and creates a resonance that is larger than this one man and his particular story: what remains of the ordinary schmoes like us when we are gone? Can the value of our time and contributions be measured? I don't expect success wrestling with high-minded questions about the nature of existence; but my intention is to find some resolution and perhaps a measure of grace, reconciling something nearer at hand: what could possibly be the meaning of this particular life we are struggling through?
The film is marked by two very different timespaces: the claustrophobic interior of his apartment ten years ago as he makes his last stand and my obsessive and expansive present-day journey to find those who knew him and examine his life in the context of universal questions of mortality and meaning. The functional arc of the primary story, Garry's illness, documents the progression of esophageal cancer in his final months while simultaneously documenting his journey into consciousness. Each visit to Garry’s apartment fosters a growing expectation, ultimately fulfilled, that he might transcend his disease if not actually survive it.
The narrative promise of the second timespace is to better understand our protagonist in a broader context through the perspectives of the people who knew him best. What people loved and hated about him is fair game, including excruciating details of his alcoholism, the pleasures and failures of his open marriage, his complicated fatherhood and the rise and fall of a once promising artistic career. This broader story both contextualizes Garry's life and work, but seeks to capture something more mystical than a portrait of an unknown person might otherwise accomplish. The intention is to create a powerful and unique meditation on life and death, meaning and meaninglessness, hope and fear and perhaps redemption: for Garry, maybe for us all.