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Erik Sharkey on movies, art...and that NYC vibe.

I have a lot of catching up to do in writing about each interview filmed for the documentary. Some go back a number of years, and revisiting them during the editing process rekindles some strong past emotions and memories. Making the film has been a long, extraordinary journey for me, but certain times were punctuated with considerable stress and anxiety.  


Fortunately, two of the interviews I filmed more recently were comparatively stress-free, thanks to the laid-back, welcoming attitude of the subjects. That I’d gotten to know them personally also helped.


Let me start out with Erik Sharkey, whose interview I filmed last summer. Sharkey is a New York based filmmaker behind such acclaimed documentaries as Drew: The Man Behind the Poster and Floyd Norman: An Illustrated Life. He’s currently collaborating with fellow filmmaker Kevin Burke (24x36: A Movie About Movie Posters) on a documentary about artist Greg Hildebrandt, who I myself had interviewed back in 2017.

I’ve often stated how both Sharkey’s and Burke’s respective films lit the collective fire under my butt to finally get an Amsel documentary off the ground. But the friendship I established with Erik has been particularly invaluable.


I first reached out to him in the early stages of the project, back when I was facing an extremely stressful situation – one so bad I ended up in the ER with an anxiety attack. I needed some sage advice and encouragement, which Erik provided in spades.


Later, in the autumn of 2017, Erik came with me to interview Cheryl Henson in New York. Scheduled months in advance, the meeting almost didn’t happen; my father died just a few days before. I decided to continue with the Henson interview, as planned, but I honestly don’t think I would have / could have done it, had Erik not been there with me.


Last September was almost another instance of Erik to the rescue. I was taking a cross-country flight to film Amsel’s induction into The Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, and gave myself almost two days’ lead time. But, due to poor weather, the initial flight was cancelled…then the rescheduled flight was delayed…over and over again. I frantically texted Erik during my late night airport panic, asking if he would be able to cover filming for me – and dress up for the formal dinner event, no less – in case I couldn’t make it. While I was ultimately able to get to New York in the nick of time (30 hours later, and eff you, Jet Blue!), I took comfort in having Erik as a trusted back up plan.


I’d call Erik my “emotional support human”, but he’d probably punch me. (The guy’s about seven feet tall, too, so I, standing a whopping 5’10”, definitely know better.)


When Erik told me he was going to be in town for a few days last summer, only then did it occur to me to ask if he’d consider interviewing – rather, consider being an interview subject – for my film. And why not? Erik’s definitely an authority on movie poster art, is close personal friends with the Struzans, and is a New Yorker through and through. (Whereas I grew up in Connecticut and New Jersey.)


It was the latter subject where Erik’s commentary really took me by surprise. I’d gone into the interview casually thinking he’d give a few good, obligatory soundbytes about movie posters, Drew’s work, Disney animation, and the like, but in the hour that followed, Erik dove into a detailed chronicle of NYC history and culture, art and influence…and delivered it in an authentic New York accent, to boot.

My thanks to Erik and Ellen Sharkey for their time.


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