filmmaker

The Last Days of Edward Gorey Captured: An Interview with Chatham Filmmaker Chris Seufert

If you don’t know who Edward Gorey was, you’re missing out. The eccentric illustrator, who authored numerous books, illustrated many others, and lent his imaginative drawings to several publications, including The New Yorker, lived on the Cape for the last portion of his life. He died in 2000, the year I arrived here, also a New Yorker in exile, but thanks to the work of Chatham documentary filmmaker Christopher Seufert, I am now able to glimpse Gorey’s Cape Cod life. Seufert had been making a documentary about Gorey when we first met, but it had been put on hold. Now, after a decade-long hiatus, Seufert is back on track and he’s bringing his work-in-progress to various venues around the Cape and Islands to regain the momentum he lost in the aftermath of Gorey’s death. He took a few minutes to chat with me about this film as he prepared for his next screening/fundraiser at the Chatham Orpheum Theater on Saturday, April 26th at 10 a.m., where he will be joined by Gorey’s cousin Ken Morton.

Cape Cod Film Society: When did you begin this project?
Christopher Seufert: In the summer of 1996 in my late twenties; I’d just moved back to the Cape after living on the West Coast and then in Australia. I kept meeting people that summer who, when hearing I was a documentary maker, would mention that there was this eccentric, reclusive artist in Yarmouth who would make a great documentary [subject]. I’d never heard his name and was not familiar with his work so the idea kept falling flat with me. Finally… I went to a local book store and checked out his work. I didn’t understand it particularly, but I did see that he was a significant and prolific artist. So, I sent him a letter, thinking, if nothing else, that I’d at least to be able to put the idea to rest when he never responded.
To my surprise he responded within the week. He said he’d be open to the idea but that he had some of his plays being performed and he’d like to hire me to document them. I told him not to pay me, that we’d consider documenting the plays test footage for a possible documentary. He agreed and I shot his next plays, Wallpaper and Heads Will Roll, at Theater on the Bay in Bourne, to his specs.

CCFS: How did you come to meet Edward Gorey for the first time?
CS:I met Edward at the Theater on the Bay in Bourne in September of 1996. His collaborator Carol Verburg, introduced us. She was very enthusiastic that I was there to shoot a documentary and wanted to do anything she could to get the two of us to do this. She said, “Thank god you’re here. He has prostate cancer, heart problems, and diabetes. You need to move on this.” In April of 2000, three and a half years later, Edward died of a heart attack. I had gotten about sixty hours of footage but was really shooting to get about two hundred, a typical amount for a verite-style feature length documentary.

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