On Monday, February 1st, 2016 at approximately 9:30am EST, we at CharltonMovie lost a brother, a partner, a friend, an inspiration, a selfless and giving person...a true genius in every sense of the word to the ravages of ALS.
Charlton Comics: The Movie is the production it is today--and will be--in scope and scale because of the insistence of one man, our producing partner, Dennis Peters. You see, as you've all heard or read by now, when I got the idea for this project and went to Jackie with it, we were thinking that this was a perfect vehicle for the Connecticut PBS affiliate, CPTV. Why not? It's a true homespun original Connecticut story and a lot of the people who can tell enough of the tale are in the region. I figured we'd spend a year to a year-and-a-half cranking out a good little show and call it a day. Then I told Dennis Peters about it. Before we get into what happened next, a little about Dennis the man first...
To encapsulate my 16-year relationship with Dennis Peters would take...well...about 16-years of your time. In life, there are times when serendipitous intervention plays a major role in defining who you are not only as a professional person, but as a human being. Dennis was cool. Dennis had charisma. Dennis had amazing talent. Dennis had vision. But most of all Dennis was kind and selfless with a smile that stopped time. He had a zen calm about him that everyone would kill to have and also envy at the same time. He had a way with people that very few could ever match. He was quirky in such a unique way as well. In times of stress or agitation, he'd go cook a package of bacon and eat it all in one sitting, proclaiming "bacon was the great equalizer". Dennis and his bacon...
Dennis Peters was also a master storyteller and was always ahead of the curve. He was telling me in 2002 that we needed to think about providing compelling video and gaming for cell phones. He said that we'd be doing restaurant reviews and ordering off menus on our phones 5 to 6 years before the first iPhone appeared. Keep in mind that cell phones had 8-bit monochrome screens at that time. He was marketing products and services via social media many years before most of America even knew what social networking even was. I was even privy to being able to be part of a team that got to work on one of the first ever streaming episodic programs in HD back in 2004. Who pushed that envelope? Dennis Peters. Always pushing against the creative and technological status quo.
So, when I was chatting away with Dennis on the phone about something...most likely his ongoing struggle with Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro (I was Dennis' personal help desk forever), I told him about this goofy idea for a CPTV show. After one of his pensive Dennis pauses, he asked if I had created a pitch deck for the project. I had, in fact done that, and offered to let him review it. A day or two later, I got another call from Den. He told me that he had read my pitch deck and followed by asking, "are you crazy with this?" I was a bit stunned. Dennis was rarely a Debbie Downer and for him to be even the slightest bit pessimistic was so alien that I was a bit taken aback. "You...think this is a bad idea Dennis?" I asked. "NO!" He responded. "You're thinking TOO SMALL! This is a national sized project. This is a movie that can potentially get limited theatrical release, say nothing about selling it to Netflix or some kind of movie outlet." I was suddenly energized. "So...you like the idea? You think we can sell this thing on a bigger stage?" And then, the Dennis Peters I admire got that gleam in his eye (I couldn't see him from across the country, but I knew it was there) and said, "Look. I don't know jack squat about comic books. I don't think I've ever even read one, but I read this pitch deck and said 'I wanna see this movie!'"
At this point, I offered him a spot as our 3rd producer. Our social media expert, crowd-funding consultant and ultimately the shaman of getting the final product sold. Of course, I wanted his amazing sense of story involved throughout, but Dennis is also the kind of guy who wants you to take your own journey and evolve as an artist and person. He was never about the glory of having his name on top. He was just excited to be telling stories and learning about new things. He told me that he would be honored to be part of Charlton Comics: The Movie. Of course, Dennis would be laughing over our 8-month struggle to NAME THE MOVIE before settling on the title we have by accident. Dennis was talking about forming an LLC entity for this single production and said, "just call it CharltonMovie, LLC or something along those lines...it doesn't have to reflect the actual movie title." We all paused on our Skype call and started laughing at how silly we are. There's the title right there Den! HAHAHA. It would ultimately prove to be Dennis' unwavering belief in Jackie & I (and the movie overall) that pushed us to new heights.
Today I sit here typing through tears and reflect back on a mutual friend getting Dennis and I together way back in 1999. "You need to work with Dennis Peters", she told me. "You guys are peas in a pod." Well, Bette Allen...you certainly nailed it. Sleep well my brother. Your friendship, encouragement, inspiration, creativity, steady hand and humor have helped to shape me into the person that I am today. Charlton Comics: The Movie will be the last film that Dennis worked on, even in a limited capacity as his illness overtook his ability to contribute this past autumn and into winter. I am honored to share this credit with him and we dedicate this movie to Dennis Peters. Thank you Dennis. I love you.
I think I need some bacon...
Dennis Peters Links: