IDA Board Member Brian Gerber, whose documentary producing credits include The Eleventh Hour, The Dungeon Master and Putting the River in Reverse, has died of an apparent suicide. He was 41. According to confirmations by friends and family members on his Facebook page and a report in the LA Weekly, his body was found in the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles after he drove his car off the Angeles Crest Highway.
An Atlanta native, Gerber studied screenwriting at the American Film Institute. Early on in his career, he developed features such as Bug and Briar Patch, and produced award-winning documentaries on Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Jimmy Scott and Allen Toussaint, among others (For a 2006 interview in Documentary magazine with Gerber in conjunction with the release of Putting the River in Reverse, click here.). After a period of developing features at Alphavile, a production company affiliated with Paramount Pictures, Gerber produced, with Leonardo DiCapiro, the 2007 climate change documentary The Eleventh Hour, and followed that with The Dungeon Masters, which premiered at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival.
Gerber also worked with many nonprofit organizations, producing multi-media projects for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Heal the Bay, TreePeople, Bioneers, and the Scripps Oceanographic Institute, among others. In addition, working with Norman Lear's Declare Yourself online voter drive in the 2004 and 2008 US Presidential elections, Gerber helped register over 1 million voters.
In 2009, Gerber and fellow IDA Board Member Thomas Rigler formed the production company Gerber Rigler, which put Gerber's considerable versatility in the art and business of multi-platform media on full display. Among their many activities, Gerber and Rigler oversaw the Content Summit component of the annual Digital Hollywood conference and created the Every Body Walk! educational campaign about promoting daily exercise.
As an IDA Board Member for the past six years, Gerber, along with Rigler, spearheaded the 2008 relaunch of www.documentary.org, was a key player in making the IDA Documentary Awards an annual success, and was instrumental in recruiting leaders in the documentary community to the IDA Board.
"The entire IDA family is deeply saddened by the loss of our dear colleague Brian Gerber," IDA Board President Marjan Safinia said. "The outpouring of concern and sadness that surrounded the news today is a small indication of how deeply Brian was loved and valued by the many people he touched. The IDA Board, past and present, feel like we have lost a beloved member of our own family.
"Brian was a talented filmmaker and producer, a leader in the social action movement, and an exceptional connector of people. He was always a bright light in the room, and a voice of wisdom, measure and humor. It is hard for me to picture Brian without seeing a large smile on his face, and even harder to imagine he is gone. The entire IDA family extends their deepest and most heartfelt condolences to Brian's wife, Arabella, and their children, as well as to his colleague Thomas Rigler and the Gerber-Rigler team.
"In the coming weeks we will find ways to memorialize Brian appropriately, but for now we sit with the grief of his loss, and the great memory of his presence. He leaves a large hole in our hearts."
And Safinia's predecessor as Board President, Eddie Schmidt, shared this: "Like so many of us who experienced the generosity of spirit, kindness, humor, advice and calmness of Brian Gerber, I am shocked and devastated by this news. During my tenure as Board Member and Board President, I had the good fortune of working closely with Brian and in the process, becoming good friends. Brian was the true ‘nicest guy in the business'-someone who could always get things done but never had an unkind word for or about anyone. It's important to acknowledge his talent and vision, particularly here at IDA.
"The very words and images you're reading are a direct result of the digital transformation that came from the dedication and imagination of Brian and his partner Thomas Rigler, who double-handedly brought IDA's website and Web presence into the 21st century.
"I miss Brian terribly, because he was the kind of person you could call on or turn to when things were upsetting or seemed illogical. And invariably his good humor and clear-thinking would set a path for accomplishment- as well as some much needed laughter. I wish to remember and honor his time on Earth, and offer deepest condolences to his wife and children. "
And finally, from Michael Lumpkin, IDA's Executive Director: "IDA and I are very fortunate and grateful to have had Brian as a member of our Board of Directors for the past six years. Brian played a major role in IDA's development and growth during that time, thanks to his incredible talent, experience and vision. He approached every decision, challenge or problem with common sense, patience, intelligence and that infectious smile. Working with him was always a great pleasure. The gap he leaves at the table will be hard to fill. On behalf of the IDA staff, I extend our deepest condolences to Brian's family, friends and colleagues."
Please consider a contribution to the Brian Gerber Memorial Fund, which will be used to cover the financial needs of Brian's wife, Arabella Field, and their two sons in the wake of his untimely passing.