SAN DIEGO, DAY ONE: Gaiman premiers directorial debut at CCI

Neil Gaiman explained today at Comic-Con International in San Diego that his newest venture, "A Short Film About John Bolton," is really all Dave McKean's fault.

"It looks like the Death movie is actually chugging forward, and might actually get made, with me as director," Gaiman said. "So Dave McKean, who is very practical, suggested that I direct something else first. And, well, here it is."

After that introduction, an enthusiastic audience of fans was treated to the first-ever public screening of "A Short Film About John Bolton," which purports to be a documentary about a gallery opening featuring an exhibit of Bolton's paintings. However, there's a lot more to it than that -- but you won't find any more information about it here, as Gaiman explained he would prefer not to have the surprises spoiled. Although it is billed as a documentary, it is actually fictional and the "John Bolton" character is actually a paid actor (although the real Bolton has a cameo.)

Gaiman also said that there have been several distributors wanting to put the movie on the market as a DVD and it's just a matter of working with Scar Films to finalize a deal with one. "But there's no one at Scar to answer the phone, they're all shooting a film called 'Layer Cake' in east London. As soon as that's done we can talk about the DVD."

After the screening, there was a question-and-answer session where Gaiman fielded inquiries about various other projects as well as the film.

Asked about the ongoing "Miracleman" controversy, Gaiman smiled and said, "Let's save that for Saturday, shall we? There's a panel where I'll be talking about 'Miracleman' and '1602' and give the long version then, but for now I can tell you that buying '1602' would help a great deal."

But tonight his focus was mostly on the film. "There's a really cool thing about being a director," Gaiman said. "You get to justify decisions simply by saying, 'because I say so.' And it's done the way you want it.

"The two most important things that I learned about directing is you have to have an answer. It doesn't have to be the RIGHT answer -- but when you have thirty people waiting for you to make a decision you can't just say, 'well, I can see both sides.' You need to be definite.

"The other thing I learned is that you do have to get it right. You can't fix everything in the editing room. You have to have it to start."

Asked if he was going to direct other films, Gaiman said, "Well, Death is chugging along. It's not like, you know, 'Well darling what I really want to do is direct,' it's that Death is my baby and I don't want someone else to muck it up. And there are things I am good at, like storytelling and writing novels. And there are things I'm bad at, like putting up shelves. You don't want me to put up your shelves. I'll be terribly unhappy and the shelves will just fall down and it's bad all around. So I wanted to see if directing a film was like putting up shelves for me, or if it was something I could do. And it was enormous fun."

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