To watch Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously is to fall in love with Neil Gaiman, be it for the first time, for the eleventh, or for the fortieth. Mostly because to know Neil Gaiman is to love him, but also because you can tell, from the first minute, that this is a film made by a fan, for the fans.
That is, an intimate, drawn out conversation with your hero that takes you through the lows and the highs, in his very own words.
What more could we ask for?
An actual meeting, of course, but this comes a very close second.
Documentaries are strange and wonderful beasts in that you go into them with the desire to learn more about something, be it history, a specific period in time, or in this case, a person. By that standard alone this is a marvelous film, because even I, a hardcore Neil Gaiman fan for years got something new from it, a connection with the man who’s inspired me and my writing.
But, even by more formal standards that have nothing to do with the sentimental, this is a well-crafted, masterfully directed and particularly well edited view at a moment in time, Gaiman’s last signing tour, that leaves you with the vague sense that you were there, that you were a part of it. It’s not an amateur film, not an endless ramble without direction or purpose. It’s a story of a man who wanted to be a writer and not a public figure, and, in the end, went back to doing just that.
It’s also a nice change of pace. Especially for someone like me, who owns every book the man has ever written. Authors can become these mythical figures to their fans after a while, can-do-no-wrong individuals who inspire us with their words and not necessarily with their experiences.
Neil Gaiman, however, is the type that does both, and this documentary captures that in a brilliant and yet subtle way, as it moves between the day-to-day minutia of the tour and what’s going on to these surprisingly deep and quotable moments with Gaiman that make you want to pull out a notebook and write all that wisdom down.
Because, there’s no mistake about it – Gaiman is a quotable guy. It might have a lot to do with the fact that, even on camera, he looks half like a kid that can’t believe he’s getting paid to do what he always dreamed of and half like he’s getting away with something, but he’s the kind of guy you want to hear advice from, the kind that lends itself to a documentary like this.
Also, the kind you want to become one day.
I had a joke when I was fifteen or so, a joke I told to absolutely everyone who would listen. What do you want to be when you grow up? they’d ask and I’d inevitably answer: Neil Gaiman. And yet, even then, I didn’t want to be him – I was perfectly fine with being myself. I just wanted a window into his mind, a sense of how he did what he did, and how I could replicate it.
Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously gives us that and more. It gives an answer, but it raises more questions. It piques the interest, and then leaves you wanting more.
Just like all good films.
Patrick Meaney is behind the camera, we never see him, and yet he’s not just the director, but also the producer and editor of this love letter to one of the most beloved writers of his generation. It’s easy to see that he’s one of us, a fan that just got the chance to follow someone he admires around months and tell the story of what makes him the man and the writer people aspire to be when they’re fifteen.
I’m not fifteen anymore, but after watching this documentary, I’m struck with the sense that I still want more, still, in a way, want to be Neil Gaiman.
And that’s as much a testament to Meaney and the team behind this film as it is to the author himself. They had an easy job, one could say. They didn’t need to convince me of anything. And yet I get the sense they would have convinced the casual readers, the people who didn’t know who Neil Gaiman was, maybe even the people who thought he was overrated, if those people exist.
Storytelling brings us together as people. Neil Gaiman said that, almost at the end of the documentary, and it stuck with me the way his phrases tend to do. This documentary is as much an example of good storytelling as any of Neil Gaiman’s books are.
If you love Neil Gaiman, you should watch it. And if you don’t – you should probably watch it too. You’re bound to come out of it a fan.
Make good art, Gaiman said once, in that commencement speech that has now become famous. Make good art. That’s what he’s been doing – what he continues to do. That’s what Patrick Money did. And that’s what we should do, to honor them.
Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously premieres on Vimeo on July 8th.