On the night of Tuesday August 28, I came home from a birthday party and opened my Facebook page to the shocking and dismaying news that Brian Gerber was reported missing on Monday, August 27 around 4pm. He was last seen driving a silver 2004 Toyota Prius.
I found myself thinking the most outlandish things. A father of two doesn’t just disappear. Brian’s profile picture for years had been a black and white “ABIDE” poster, not the kind, bespectacled face of this intelligent, sweet and funny man. With a witty and liberal take on current events, he regularly posted provocative and not always popular commentaries. I worried there had been some sort of confrontation or misunderstanding regarding his posts. My kids and I hoped that he would be found alive and well.
I hadn’t seen Brian in a few years, but he played an important role in my, and my son’s, life. I met him through an email introduction about five years ago. My then-10-year-old son Nikos, who struggles with learning disorders, had a chilling vision for a global warming PSA that eventually became “Save It,” a popular video warning against the impact of climate change starring Tony Goldwyn and his 9-year-old brother Dimitri which debuted on You Tube at #2 for non-profit videos and appeared on CNN and MSNBC during the 2008 presidential debates.
My friend Marshall Herskovitz who had created Thirtysomething and produced Blood Diamond offered to help. He called his friend Leila Conners who had just co-directed the climate change-themed documentary The 11th Hour, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The next thing I knew, I received a call from her partner on the film who enthusiastically offered to help get my son’s vision translated into a full-blown short.
When I finally met Brian, he went way above and beyond. He graciously found stock footage of polluters, climate disasters and endangered species affected by oil spills, all to include in Nikos’s childhood vision of his dire future. He was generous with his time, advice and his invaluable production tips.
Brian also took great joy in sharing with us the pictures of his newborn first child and he always had a twinkle in his eye delivering an ironic comeback for any climate change naysayers. The time we spent with him was brief, but his contribution to my son’s message was significant and helped to bring my son’s nightmare of the future into a full and frightening vision for others to comprehend and hopefully halt. Nikos, now 15, remembers him as “a really nice, kind person. He helped me a lot and never asked for anything in return. I’m very sad and will always be grateful for his help.”
On August 29, Brian’s body was found in his Prius at the bottom of a ravine off the Angeles Crest Highway in the Angeles National Forest. He had apparently committed suicide. I couldn’t believe it, neither could countless other friends who posted on his Facebook page. They too had memories of how his generosity had contributed to their artistic pursuits, and as with us, how he never expected anything in return.
His modesty too was apparently legion. I did not know until after his death that he was a board member of IDA and that with his business partner, Thomas Riegler, had spearheaded the 2008 relaunch of documentary.org. I was also unaware that Brian was a founder of Digital Hollywood and had collaborated on videos with R.E.M. and Elvis Costello.
His biggest production credits included The 11th Hour, Leonardo DiCaprio’s global-warming documentary, and The Dungeon Masters, a celebrated look at the Dungeons & Dragons sub-culture. Brian also worked with numerous nonprofit organizations, producing multimedia projects for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Heal the Bay, TreePeople, Bioneers, and the Scripps Oceanographic Institute, among others.
I can only say that in my memory, Brian most closely resembled the sweet, lovable, humorous, and caring guardian angel Clarence, played by Henry Travers in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. I only wish that he had been saved by an angel of his own – an angel who could have shown up at the moment of this generous man’s deepest despair and shown him how many people had been touched by his kindness, how many lives had been changed by his generosity, and how many friends he had whose most fervent wish was to have been there to give him the support he needed.
Please join me in contributing to the Brian Gerber Memorial Fund, which will help the financial needs of Brian’s wife, Arabella Field, and their two young sons in the wake of his tragic passing.