I would have posted something sooner regarding the recent positive movie news in my life, but that life of mine took a turn for the unspeakably horrific last week when I lost one of my best friends and one of my very biggest supporters, Josh Levine. I'm still too gobsmacked to write about Josh's passing with any real clarity, but this touching reflection by Bruce Buschel at the New York Times does a great job at summing up our feelings of loss and confusion. I still don't believe it, really. None of us do.
On Sunday afternoon of November 28th, just two days before a farm accident took his life in the Hamptons, Josh drove into the city for the sole purpose of watching my new movie, Septien. At the time, everyone was riding high with the news that our deformed little baby was going to be world premiering at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Josh was genuinely more excited about it than I was.
Aside from my devoted executive producer Andrew Krucoff, Josh was the only one who flew to Nashville to visit the set. A passionate photographer and born adventurer, Josh managed to escape his daily life for a quick jaunt in order to experience the madness for himself, but, more importantly, to preserve this special moment in time as only he could:
On a personal level, Josh really was my biggest supporter. He was the only friend or family member of mine who flew to Rotterdam in 2006 to sit next to me at the world premiere of my first feature film, Cocaine Angel. It was another quick jaunt, but his presence and enthusiasm was felt by me even when he flew out just a few days later. The only reason he didn't make it to South by Southwest for the world premiere of Silver Jew in 2007 was that he was having his first child, Willa, that very week. I let that one slide.
After we watched the film last Sunday, Josh became as enthusiastic as I'd ever seen him about anything I'd done. We split off from the crew at the Local 138 to grab dinner at Noodle Bar on Stanton and Orchard, just across the street from his old apartment, where we had lived out our early-20s glory days. I proposed San Loco for old time's sake, but Josh assured me he'd been eating so purely lately that his body would not respond well to this idea. As he had a two-plus hour drive back to Sag Harbor, he overrode the nagging 25-year-old voice in his head and stuck to his healthy guns. And it's funny. When I heard the news on Tuesday evening, an early thought flushed through my head. I was disappointed that Josh hadn't taken the plunge on his last night in the city and given in to the San Loco urge. But I quickly realized that this seemingly minor decision proved just how content Josh was with his current life. Yes, he contemplated it for a second, but he was strong enough to know that those San Loco days were over.
As we ate dinner, we reminisced about the past (none of which I'll get into here, or at least right now). But rather than pining for those lonely, drunken, meandering days, we accepted the past as the past and instead embraced the present. More than anything, we looked forward to the future. Or should I say Josh looked toward my future. In hindsight, the way he spoke about this particular film and what it would do for me was different than his typical enthusiasm. I played my warbling broken record about being too exhausted to put myself in debt again, at which point he declared with 100% conviction, as if staring into a guaranteed crystal ball, "I know that you are going to make more movies, and I know that you won't have to pay for them." I can't explain how this was different than his usual enthusiasm, but it was. I couldn't stop thinking about it the next day, to the point where I realized how important a force he was in my life and that of all the many friends I have, he was who I wanted to be my best man. Mostly because picking Josh Levine to be your best man automatically nullified any feelings of jealousy or bitterness or awkwardness between friends. Josh was everybody's best man.
Josh promised me that he was going to find a way to make it to Park City for Septien's world premiere, and I believed him. When we went back to the bar, a new wave of friends had arrived, which gave Josh the chance to say an unexpected final goodbye to more people who knew and loved him. He wanted to stay, but he had to get home. We walked outside and hugged, and then he was gone. Now he's really gone.
But he's not. I can still hear his voice as if he's sitting two feet in front of me, assuring me that this is just the beginning of something bigger and brighter and better. At the moment, I'm finding it hard to muster up the energy to care about Sundance—or anything for that matter—but I know that Josh would be mad at me if I didn't relish my good fortune and keep moving forward. He was proud of me and my movie, and I'm proud of it too.
See you in Park City, as well as my wedding, good buddy.