Thursday, June 7, 2012

R.I.P. - John Michael Riva

Mourning my first mentor in the film business, and the man who gave me my big break. Working with Mike was like a window into an Art Department of years past, when making a movie was just a shared good time and everyone was high on the joy of the creative process. Nothing since has matched the sheer fun of making Zathura, when the future of the studio wasn't riding on our shoulders and it seemed only we knew what a gem we were putting together. It felt like everyone in the Art Department was eager to be at work and reluctant to leave, even after Mike called out "Okay kids, pencils down!" promptly at 6:00. And it wasn't just because of the 20 year old scotch he'd have just cracked open to share. That energy came from Riva, a knowing grin that we weren't curing cancer, that if we didn't have a good time making the movie, no one would have a good time watching it either. It's a secret that seems to be lost to the business these days, when everything seems to get more and more squeezed.

Mike protected his crew. He knew the value of having a life and balance, and made sure we all kept ours. Mike's art department was a family, with all of the highs and lows, the love and disfunction, but one thing you knew with Mike, was that it was never just business with him. He cared. About the work, and about everyone who shared that work with him. And those that knew him knew that sometimes he cared maybe a bit too much, for good and for ill. It was always personal to Mike. But that's what I'll miss. Everything is "just business, nothing personal" these days. And it'll get just a bit more so without Mike Riva.