Michael Neel is a friend that I lost recently that I’ve known him since middle school. Mike was in the first short film I ever made. Michael was the type of person who got along with everyone. Mike rode the bus to school with me (whenever he would wake up). We hung out at Scandia way back in the day and caused chaos on the mini golf course with our other friends. In college, Mike went into theater and I went into film. We got involved in those respective communities and made different circles of friends. We would still occasionally see each other at the occasional party and birthday bash. Listening to everybody talk at Mike’s memorial service tell stories about their college adventures made me miss my own adventures with him. Mike was always the loudest and funniest person in the room.
I shot a scene on a golf course with him and Jake Sauter. If you’ve ever seen me on set then you know that I take my work seriously (sometimes too much so!). We were on a golf course that reluctant to let us shoot there. I assured them we would behave with the utmost propriety and made our way out to the practice green… Mike was absolutely loony. He was whacking golf balls, tossing golf clubs, running on the green, screaming and shouting, trying to wrestle Jake, basically everything you shouldn’t be doing on a golf course. I was anxious as all hell and could hardly concentrate because I was so worried about getting thrown off the course. I tried calming Mike down but being around Jake, one of his best friends, he couldn’t help himself. I forget how, but Mike slipped and hurt himself. He HOWLED in pain. I couldn’t help but laugh. People driving by on their golf carts seeing an Elijah Wood look-a-like shouting profanities was too much. He was laughing through his own cries although I think he found it much less funny than the rest of us. Here is the final product of the scene if you are interested.
People spoke at his memorial service. One of the common quirks of Michael that was mentioned was Mike’s borrowing of clothes. He’d borrow clothes, without telling, and think nothing of it. One person spoke about their bewilderment after not seeing him for a month only to see him decked out in their clothes from head to toe. I went through my old texts with Mike and saw that I instructed Mike to wear a polo to the golf scene and to make sure not to wear jeans. Mike simply replied with “I may have something.” I burst out laughing after hearing all those stories. Typical Mike, still making me laugh.
If you knew Mike, I would challenge you to do one thing Mike would do. Have a laugh at an inappropriate moment, converse with someone who has vastly different opinions from yourself and get along with them, or even just smile a little bit more. Heck, read a book. It’s important to not only remember Mike, but to take what we loved about him and make it apart of ourselves. The world needs more people like Mike, not less.