Remembering Brian Gerber | The Nation

Remembering Brian Gerber | The Nation.

Remembering Brian Gerber

September 11, 2012

On the night of Tuesday August 28, I came home from a birthday party and opened my Facebook page to the shocking and dismaying news that Brian Gerber was reported missing on Monday, August 27 around 4pm. He was last seen driving a silver 2004 Toyota Prius.

I found myself thinking the most outlandish things. A father of two doesn’t just disappear. Brian’s profile picture for years had been a black and white “ABIDE” poster, not the kind, bespectacled face of this intelligent, sweet and funny man. With a witty and liberal take on current events, he regularly posted provocative and not always popular commentaries. I worried there had been some sort of confrontation or misunderstanding regarding his posts. My kids and I hoped that he would be found alive and well.

I hadn’t seen Brian in a few years, but he played an important role in my, and my son’s, life. I met him through an email introduction about five years ago. My then-10-year-old son Nikos, who struggles with learning disorders, had a chilling vision for a global warming PSA that eventually became “Save It,” a popular video warning against the impact of climate change starring Tony Goldwyn and his 9-year-old brother Dimitri which debuted on You Tube at #2 for non-profit videos and appeared on CNN and MSNBC during the 2008 presidential debates.

My friend Marshall Herskovitz who had created Thirtysomething and produced Blood Diamondoffered to help. He called his friend Leila Conners who had just co-directed the climate change-themed documentary The 11th Hour, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The next thing I knew, I received a call from her partner on the film who enthusiastically offered to help get my son’s vision translated into a full-blown short.

When I finally met Brian, he went way above and beyond. He graciously found stock footage of polluters, climate disasters and endangered species affected by oil spills, all to include in Nikos’s childhood vision of his dire future. He was generous with his time, advice and his invaluable production tips.

Brian took great joy in sharing pictures of his newborn first child and he always had a twinkle in his eye delivering an ironic comeback for any climate change naysayers. The time we spent with him was brief, but his contribution to my son’s message was significant and helped to bring my son’s nightmare of the future into a full and frightening vision for others to comprehend and hopefully halt. Nikos, now 15, remembers him as “a really nice, kind person. He helped me a lot and never asked for anything in return. I’m very sad and will always be grateful for his help.”

On August 29, Brian’s body was found in his Prius at the bottom of a ravine off the Angeles Crest Highway in the Angeles National Forest. He had apparently committed suicide. I couldn’t believe it, neither could countless other friends who posted on his Facebook page. They too had memories of how his generosity had contributed to their artistic pursuits, and as with us, how he never expected anything in return.

His modesty too was apparently legion. I did not know until after his death that he was a board member of IDA and that with his business partner, Thomas Riegler, had spearheaded the 2008 relaunch of documentary.org. I was also unaware that Brian was a founder of Digital Hollywood and had collaborated on videos with R.E.M. and Elvis Costello.

His biggest production credits included The 11th Hour, Leonardo DiCaprio’s global-warming documentary, and The Dungeon Masters, a celebrated look at the Dungeons & Dragons sub-culture. Brian also worked with numerous nonprofit organizations, producing multimedia projects for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Heal the Bay, TreePeople, Bioneers, and the Scripps Oceanographic Institute, among others.

I can only say that in my memory, Brian most closely resembled the sweet, lovable, humorous, and caring guardian angel Clarence, played by Henry Travers in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. I only wish that he had been saved by an angel of his own – an angel who could have shown up at the moment of this generous man’s deepest despair and shown him how many people had been touched by his kindness, how many lives had been changed by his generosity, and how many friends he had whose most fervent wish was to have been there to give him the support he needed.

Please join me in contributing to the Brian Gerber Memorial Fund, which will help the financial needs of Brian’s wife, Arabella Field, and their two young sons in the wake of his tragic passing.

About the Author

Nicole Hansen
Nicole Hansen is the Founder and President of Green Galaxy Enterprises (GGE), a renewable energy consulting business…

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“Save It” at Avatar Earth Day Event, Nokia Center

• Avatar Earth Day

Nikos Spiridakis was invited to present his PSA SaveIt  for an audience of 5,000
at risk kids alongside James Cameron’s Avatar.  Nikos was thrilled to have the opportunity to be congratulated by the Oscar winning director and encouraged to keep telling his visual stories to help convey messages of environmental importance. What Nikos found most fulfilling was to hear Mr. Cameron tell him that he helped the kids in the audience feel like their voices could be heard when it came to important issues such as the environment and the reaction from the kids who surrounded Nikos after he came offstage, confirmed Mr. Cameron’s words.

 

Nicole helped to organize and invite celebrities to participate in the Private Earth Day Briefing & Strategy Session with JamesCameron 

The event was held to discuss director James Cameron’s recent trips to the Amazon Rainforest to stop the Bello Monte Dam and Washington, DC, to meet with Sen. Kerry, Sen. Lindsey Graham, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and President Obama.  (April 22, 5 – 6:30 pm, JW Marriott)

The goals:

1.  To create a coordinated, high profile effort to educate the public on the critical need to support the strongest possible Kerry-Graham-Leiberman energy/climate change bill.

2.  To create a coordinated, high profile effort to educate the global community to come together to stop a dam that will, as in AVATAR, destroy the habitat of many indigenous tribes and 500 square kilometers of precious rainforest.  The project has been temporarily stayed but political pressure to build the dam is very strong in Brazil.

3.  To discuss new ways to frame and message the debate on climate change and to strategize about how to educate the public about “True Cost” economics, the real value of nature, “Silent Taxation”, the “Phantom Deficit”, “Corporate Socialism”, “Dishonest Accounting” that purposely excludes bona fide externalities and other critical concepts that the current mainstream news media refuse to discuss. 

Venue:  The new, LEED-Certified JW Marriott at LA Live, next to The Nokia Theatre

Participants:  The briefing and strategy session will be limited to 60 participants.  Those already confimed include: Suzy Cameron, AVATAR cast members Michelle Rodriquez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore plus Rosario Dawson, Billy Zane, John Salley, James Cromwell, Daryl Hannah, Frances Fisher, John Quigley, Magda Rod, climate scientist Julienne Stroeve, Stefan Weitz (Bing), Michael Martin (Music Matters), Dreaming Bear, Nicole Hanson and others from the Hollywood and environmental communities.

3.  Other Earth Day Events sponsored by Richard Greene and The Words That Shook The World Environmental Solutions “Eco Warrior” Competitions and Programs, with James Cameron andAVATAR cast members

A.  9 am – 4 pm: Screening of AVATAR for 5,000 “at risk” LA Partnership School students, “Eco Warrior” Training and “AVATAR Awards Competition and Ceremony”

B.  5 – 6:30 pm:  Invitation Only Briefing and Strategy Session

C.  6:30 – 7:30 pm:  Green Carpet (Participants in the Strategy Session may exit without being a part of the Green Carpet unless they wish to)

D.  7:30 – 10:30 pm:  VIP Party, co-sponsored by Bing, with James and Suzy Cameron and many others.  Michelle Rodriguez to DJ.  (Rumored appearance by a blue Na’vi from Pandora)

 

The placement of these organizations as part of our portfolio does not imply an endorsement by Green Galaxy Enterprises nor its partners.


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Renewable Energy Conference and Awards Gala, UN Headquarters, NY

When Nikos Spiridakis was to receive a Junior Goodwill Ambassador Award for his work on the global warming PSA Save It, Nicole Hansen was asked to organize and produce the June 2009 Renewable Energy Conference and Awards Gala at the United Nations.

Nicole produced the conference, sponsored by the Honduran Permanent Mission, which focused on Sources, Investment and the Future of Renewable Energy. Nicole utilized her network of individuals in science, engineering, finance, business, government and academia to bring in experts including keynote speaker and the evening Gala’s awardee, Dr. Arthur Nozik of National Renewable Energy Lab, panelist and awardee Dr. Daniel Nocera of MIT, billionaire and renewable energy panelist and gala awardee John Paul DeJoria as well as panelist and awardee Josh Tickell. GGE advisor served as a moderator and helped to bring in additional panelists such as Ron Smith of Verdant Power.

Nicole also brought in her media contacts such as Sarah Backhouse of Future 360 to cover the event as commentator. Producer Gianna Palminteri was hired to produce the media coverage and Lora O’Connor to production supervise the evening’s gala ceremony. Alastair Shearman, GGE’s Technology Officer served alongside Nicole as co-producer of the days events with Nicole and producer, Jason Keramidas.

For the gala awards ceremony, Nicole tapped into her contact list of celebrities to serve as presenters to the nights winners. With awardees and celebrity guests coming from Nicole’s network of acquaintances and friends including Tony Goldwyn who presented the Junior Goodwill Ambassador Award to his godson, Nikos Spiridakis. the entire event had the feeling of a family wedding celebration that spread goodwill and support for everyone involved in making the world a better place for all through the promise of renewable technologies. At the event it was announced that Nicole had been named as Deputy Secretary-General of the IREO.

The placement of these organizations as part of our portfolio does not imply an endorsement by Green Galaxy Enterprises nor its partners.


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Save It (PSA)

Save It, A Global Warming Message by a 10 Year Old

Poster with actor Dimitri Spiridakis

As 10-year-old Nikos Spiridakis watched his mom pumping gasoline, he listened to the methodical beeps that kept tempo with the gallons of fuel funneling into their sedan.  To him, the beeps resembled the sounds of a hospital EKG and he knew that every gallon burned was contributing to the death of our planet.  He shared an idea for a story, incorporating those sounds and images with his mom, and he insisted she couldn’t tell the idea to anyone unless they could help him get it shot.  She agreed, and immediately called producer Marshall Herskovitz.

Herskovitz (The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond) thought it was a great story for anyone, let alone a child, to have conceived, and he offered to executive produce. Nikos himself mentioned the idea to his godfather actor/director Tony Goldwyn (The Last Kiss, Dexter) who was so impressed, he offered to act in the spot and be his directing mentor.

Film director Gary Fleder (Runaway Jury, The Express) thought it was the kind of visual storytelling that showed Nikos was capable of directing even at age 10 and took on the role of Nikos’ directing consultant.  Nikos’ mother Nicole Hansen helped to put the entire project together and his brother Dimitri played the little boy.

Everyone from the cinematographer to the editor gave their time in the effort to help Nikos make his first “home movie,” since Nikos financed it all with a gift from his grandmother.

Nikos’ idea can have a real impact on the way people view the reality of global warming — a vision especially poignant coming from the mind of a dyslexic child, who tells his story with pictures more effectively than almost anyone could using words.

Nikos knew his future was in the hands of the older generations and believed that if the world could see his vision of our future, he could inspire us all to do our part and “Save It” for future generations. The video message Nikos envisioned soon became a 1Sky campaign and debuted as TakePart TV’s inaugural release for YouTube at #2 for non-profit videos. It ran on CNN and MSNBC during the 2008 Presidential Debates, and appears on the Weinstein Company’s 2009 DVD releases such as The Reader.

On Nikos:

“In a long career as a producer, I’ve hired over forty first-time directors, and have seen first-hand that the essence of film directing cannot be taught – a person either gets it or doesn’t, a person either understands how to think through a camera lens and understand how images will go together or doesn’t.  It was astonishing to me, though, to see that ability so fully established in someone as young as Nikos.  His ability to visualize carried him through every aspect of this process, from pre-production, to the day of filming, to the many long hours in the editing room.  He’s simply a born filmmaker.”  Marshall Herskovitz, Executive Producer, Save It  (credits include: Defiance, Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai, My So Called Life and Thirtysomething)

“The word prodigy is overused and, it seems to me, often misunderstood.  If you want a terrific example of a prodigy – a person with exceptional talents, particularly at such a young age – then take a look at Nikos.  He is a natural born filmmaker, and it’s our responsibility, I believe, to encourage him and nurture those talents. “ Gary Fleder, mentor (credits include: The Express, Runaway Jury, Life Unexpected,Kiss the Girls)


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