It's a common thing to hear after meeting a famous person - "They're great, he's just a normal guy!"
I felt this after seeing Brendan Fraser a number of months ago. He walked in dressed casually, perhaps a bit young for his age, talked about films, stuff in general, and seemed like a really cool down-to-earth guy... for a celebrity. Were he actually an actual normal guy, he'd be the really cool one, who, while cool, wouldn't really have the time of day for you since everybody would be wanting to hang with him.
Don Hertzfeldt wound up being an actual normal guy. I thought he would be a bit cocky, perhaps even a bit egotistical, because there aren't many independent animators out there who are as well-known as he is, and who have been successful enough to never need a "real" job. It wound up the exact opposite, though. He is just a dude, the type of guy I could have seen myself hanging out with, bullshitting about movies with, having a beer with. Incredibly appreciative of fans and his success, very modest, quiet, well-mannered, intelligent, and just all around really, really nice.
After the screening of "I am so proud of you" (more on that in a bit) he stayed afterwards to hang out at the table-of-three-items-for-sale to sign some stuff, and by time we got to him, it had been over an hour. This was at the Music Box, so while there were a good number of people, it wasn't an amount that would normally take so long to get through (considering the rest of the line behind us it was probably another good half hour after we left) at an event like this. Instead of rushing people through, he was stopping to talk. If somebody had something to say, he'd listen, not giving a hint of "I need to move on to the next person in line," actually holding a small conversation, and never seeming anything other than perfectly happy to stick around and make sure he got to say hi to everybody. He was just a dude with an awesome job, happy to see that people love what he has made, and who wanted to make sure he let everybody know how much he appreciates it himself.
The film itself is great. It is directly a second chapter to "Everything will be ok," and while it has similarities, they are quite different. This one has a few more comedic moments than the last, is a bit longer, and also jumps around in time a bit, to great effect. I wouldn't dare spoil any of it, but I think it's just as amazing as the first.
The crowd was an interesting mix. You had normal people, you had anime / video game nerds who were there because of Rejected, you had the film snobs, you had the arthouse snobs, emo kids, long-haired hippy looking types, everybody you can think of, even a few metal kids. The internet-fans of Rejected (of which there were many) were a bit annoying though. They screened a couple older shorts before showing Ok and Proud, including Meaning of Life, during which maybe a third of the theater was laughing uproariously. It has a few funny moments, but people seemed compelled to laugh at stuff that I find to be overtly serious, simply because of "my spoon is too big." Rejected is brilliant, don't get me wrong, but it bugs the piss out of me when people automatically take everything else Don does as comedy. During what was probably the emotional climax of Proud, a few people were laughing, while I was shrinking down in my chair a bit in a futile attempt to hide the fact that I couldn't keep from crying. I guess I just managed to hit the nerd crowd. In line to meet Don the 40-something nerds behind me (dressed as late teens, one wearing 3d glasses) were having a heated, almost scholarly-sounding discussion on "AHnime," FFVI vs FFVII, and other stuff before I tuned them out.
Protip - If you ever want me to shove my fist into your mouth and tear your tongue out, raising your voice slightly so people around you can hear that you are pronouncing the term "anime" as "AHH-knee-may" is a quite effective way to do so
So anyway, it was a great experience. I hope he comes back to Chicago if he does Chapter 3. The night ended on two strange notes, though. One was this rush of creative inspiration that always comes with a night like this, but even moreso tonight when I was seeing an independent filmmaker who has found moderate success and has not gone corporate, only doing his own thing. The film got so many things flying around in my head, and talking to him briefly on being a film student interested in animation god many more things flying around - so many things I want to write, things I want to try to animate, music I want to record to write/animate to... but I can't really focus on any of this, since right now, focusing on work, stressful goingson at home, and especially the black hole of stress and anger that is finishing school in a program that is worthless and that I owe $100k to, really is too much to handle at once to have any free energy for creative drive. I literally don't have the time or energy for anything creative. Work is fine, but school and the health of my family is too draining. If I could somehow finish school tomorrow, I would be so excited about having time to dedicate to putting together something great- but that's not an option.
The second weird thing was that during the screening I got a voicemail from one of my two coworkers saying they're leaving the Genius Squad. He is a great guy, both to work with and to hang out with, and it'll suck not having him around. He always kept a good level of humor and joking sarcasm with people around the desk that made it much easier to get through the tough days, of which there have been many.