My first try back into freelance news writing was based on somber circumstances. Actor Leslie Nielsen died at age 84 on Sunday, Nov. 28, and I happened to know the director of what is now understood to be the actor’s last film.
Director Bryan Waterman, just 26 years old, was originally from Salem, NH, where I had been a reporter for the local newspaper, The Salem Observer. That paper is owned by the New Hampshire Union Leader. I pitched a story idea there to the editor, who back in the day was the publisher of the Observer. She was interested.
My motivation was purely out of recent, ongoing plans to return to writing. I’m in the process of finding ways of doing writing on the side, in addition to my day job.
The Union Leader published the story in the Derry/Londonderry print edition on Friday, Dec. 3. It ran on the front page, above the fold, which I wasn’t expecting. They ran the full story, with ever-so-minor tweaks, and gave it a better headline than I had suggested.
The editor told me it will probably be published again on Monday, in the city and state editions of the paper. I’m not sure if they will put it on their website.
I was relieved to see they ran not just a photo by Waterman’s friend Brandon Aaskov (when they met Leslie Nielsen in October 2006), but also a photo I took of Waterman on Wednesday night — in the cold, dreary rain in front of Coolidge Corner Theatre. (You can see outtakes in the slideshow below.)
When I found out Sunday afternoon, Nov. 28, that Nielsen had died, I’m sure I was like many who paused and recalled memorable scenes in “Naked Gun” and “Airplane!” The safe sex scene with full-body condoms in “Naked Gun 2½”. And the scene with the eggs. Oh man, that used to freak me out as a child when I saw that “Airplane!” scene where a woman suddenly regurgitates whole eggs, in uncracked shells, in Nielsen’s hands.
And then I thought of Bryan Waterman. Back when I was the schools reporter for the Observer, I actually wrote a couple of stories about him. During his senior year of high school, in 2002, he staged a one-man stand-up comedy act, complete with fake interviews with Pierce Brosnan (taking real interview clips and splicing them with his off-beat questions) and, if memory serves me correctly, a live band.
Even when I left the paper and switched to web development, I would catch wind of what Waterman was up to. He created an online cartoon simply called “Waterman” and I thought it was funny (especially the Optimus Prime cameo in the pilot episode). He created more episodes over the next few years, and then he unveiled his latest secret: He had landed Leslie Nielsen to do the voice of a new character of the latest episode.
That was back in late 2006. Since then, I learned this week, the two had been in touch with each other over the phone, calling each other about twice a month. They actually met once, and he remembers driving up from Boston to Montreal, where Nielsen was working on a documentary, going up the elevator to the special floor and Nielsen opening the door. Waterman’s script was ready, and he drove up to Canada to hand-deliver it.
When I interviewed him this past Wednesday, Waterman said he wished he had more time to let it sink in that Nielsen is really gone. But earlier in the week, TMZ contacted him, as did Entertainment Weekly and many other media sites. Some had unfortunately taken outdated information from his Waterman Studios website and ran with it. He had not updated the site in a while and of course did not expect all the traffic, so the site now redirects to bryanwaterman.com.
Waterman never charged people to view the original series, so making a profit off this movie was never really part of the plan. If anything, it was meant to get his foot in the door of the animation world, to show what he and his team were capable of. But he’s been at this for several years now, and animation technology has become much better since he started. It’s also more expensive.
“I put more money into this than I have currently,” Waterman said. This past summer, he failed to meet his $35,000 Kickstarter goal, which means he lost the $13,384 in pledges.
With Nielsen’s death, it’s hard to get excited about the film, Waterman said. “I feel bad that his death may” help finish the movie, he said. “Every PR person is telling me this is my golden opportunity.”
He knows that some people will be excited to see the final Nielsen movie, and he knows that some people will hate him because they think he’s capitalizing on his death.
But the bottom line is that he’s looking for help to finish this movie, as he has been doing for the last four years. He’s 26 years old, and this is his first attempt (with major lifting done by CJC Entertainment) at a feature-length animation.
This past summer, CJC Entertainment and Waterman Studios posted the first two minutes of “The Waterman Movie” on YouTube.
“It’s a full-length movie,” Waterman said. “You can’t just make that on a Macbook.”
He knows it’s not the greatest thing Nielsen ever did, but he says there’s a lot of funny stuff that fans would love to hear.
If it were possible, he’d wish another Naked Gun movie had come out before Nielsen died. But it’s his project that Nielsen fans would have to live with as Nielsen’s last movie, and he feels a responsibility to finish it, once and for all.
Here are more photos of Bryan Waterman, taken in the cold rain in front of Coolidge Corner Theatre, on Dec. 1, 2010: