Respect Films co-producer Jordan Rennert and I are spending two weeks traveling around England and Scotland, chronicling Neil Gaiman’s book tour and other events for our documentary on him. It all began at noon in Portsmouth, when Neil was dropped off by his driver Andy at the Clarence Pier. After a quick fish and chips lunch, we began filming as Neil reminisced about childhood days spent at the pier. Though he lived nearby for a time, Clarence was still an exotic, exciting place, home of a menacing Laughing Sailor, who was immortalized in Sandman #74. We looked for the Laughing Sailor, but didn’t find him, though we did encounter a hovercraft, and a carousel that Neil rode as a child.
From there, we went off to Neil’s grandparents home, which Neil hadn’t visited in 35 years. We spoke with Neil about his childhood, and how this period influenced Ocean at the End of the Lane. And by that time, he was off to do some local media interviews before the unveiling of the new Ocean at the End of the Lane street in Portsmouth.
The street naming ceremony was well attended, and included a speech from the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth. Lord Mayor definitely sounds cooler than the American way of address local government officials. Sadly, Lord Mayor was not dressed in a fancy medieval outfit, but instead just normal clothes. Still, it was great to see the street sign unveiled, and see a lot of people getting their own picture taken there.
After that, we filmed some b-roll around the local area, including a strange rock covered beach. After a lunch break, it was time to head over to Portsmouth Guildhall for Neil’s reading and signing. The event was attended by a Dalek, as well as 1,000 humans. We filmed most of the event from the back, then picked up footage throughout of Neil signing. The crowd was massive, and they entertained themselves by telling jokes on the microphone while waiting. Most jokes were not that well received, and those whose jokes were particularly bad were moved to the back of the queue.
The signing lasted until 1:30 AM or so, at which point Neil shoved his hand in a bucket of ice while receiving a backrub from one of the bookstore employees. I was exhausted from just being there all this time, it’s hard to believe Neil was able to sign all those books and talk to all those people. But, as he said, he’s seeing hundreds of people, but they’re all there to see him, so each interaction needs to be special, and judging from the people leaving the room, everyone left pleased to have met one of their favorite authors.
After arriving at the hotel at 2:40 AM, we had to be up by 10 AM to check out by 10:30. As the prickly hotel proprietor told us, “You need to leave right now.” So, we got out of there and on the road to our next destination, the real pond that inspired the Ocean at the End of the Lane. Along the way, we saw a strange sight, a goat that had just been hit by a car, and a man reaching out to slit its throat. Very disturbing stuff.
But, we made it to the Ocean, unsure what to expect. When we got there, it turned out to be part of a farm, and a kindly family offered us biscuits and tea, and showed us all around. We shot the pond in question, and some cool stuff at the house. They had received one previous visitor for the book, and wanted more info, so we told them all about Neil and his work.
From there, we went to our hotel, where we’re now getting ready for a very British buffet dinner, with a roast. Tomorrow, it’s back on the road to Cambridgeshire for another signing event.