But as a boy, through elementary, middle and into high school Sean Meyer was so often present here with us that, like the other sons of this house, Bear and Brendan McCreary, his laughter and his gifts melded into ours. He is present in photos of Christmas and New Years and Thanksgivings, the Elvis parties, family celebrations and birthdays for many years. More poignantly, he was present on those days so ordinary they are mulched into memory, woven, almost unseen, into the fabric of a collective childhood
Sean Meyer and Brendan McCreary met at Parkview School, at about age eight or nine. They played together on the basketball team where both were hapless. But they discovered shared enthusiasms, music, movies, action figures, games in which they wove elaborate stories for their own ongoing delight as boys, and then as teens. They created around them a core of friendships still strong and extant to this day.
The high school equivalent of Ben Hur.
Music and movies were lifeblood to Sean Meyer. One of my favorite memories of him and Brendan and Tyler Swank was the making of “Le Maître de la Bête Sauvage” (Or roughly, The Master of the Terrible Beast.) Its origins were modest, an assignment for their high school French class. Whatever the actual assignment was, in their creative hands it became an extravagant twenty minute film, the high school equivalent of Ben Hur. The script was written by Brendan and Sean, and then translated into French by Greg Finnigan (whose study habits exceeded theirs and who was doing much better in French than either Sean or Brendan). I do not remember the story, but “Le Maître de la Bête Sauvage” required a cast of well, not thousands, but perhaps twenty people, along with extras. Sean directed. The film crew included camera personnel, security (with badges) caterer (moi), costumers, sword fight instructors, stunt people, custom-made dummies falling from trees in the park, deathless dialogue (all spoken in French even by those actors who were not in French class). In the last scene Tyler, wearing a clown wig and a woman’s dress (one of mine, I’m told) is being chased down the street by a car with a crazy driver. The French teacher, needless to say, was dumbfounded. Sean did the final edits, and to my knowledge, had the only copy.
Even after high school, Sean remained part of my immediate life. He went to LA with me to visit Bear and Brendan at USC, to have Thanksgiving at my sister’s in Riverside, California, to hang out at the Boingo Cover Band gigs in Anaheim. Here at home, he and Tyler Swank, Anna Mortimer, Phil Swenson, Shaun Johnson twice yearly performed the Geranium Exodus, bringing the potted geraniums into the house in October, taking them out in April. And for years, once a month or so, we would all get together at my house for dinner and a movie, usually an action movie or a classic Western, especially when I was researching the novel, American Cookery. He was a good friend to me, a support and a ballast in various emergencies, including, most dramatically, the basement flooding in 2010. He was one of the pallbearers at my father’s funeral in 2012. He outlived my 101year old mother by only three weeks.
For the rest of his life he shared his gifts with his hometown.
After a stint at the Evergreen State College, Sean moved to LA, studying guitar at the Musician’s Institute. There he had a number of musical adventures, including playing guitar for artists recording with Wind Up Records, and Geffen Records and touring with these labels around the US and Europe.
But his heart was always here, in Bellingham. He returned to this city where for the rest of his life he shared his gifts and enthusiasms. He played in many bands, Bowie and Queen tribute bands, country (and western) bands, punk bands, rock bands, and my personal favorite for a title, Guillotine Eyes. At one time he told me he was playing and recording with six different local bands at the same time. He taught guitar for years to students of all ages. He worked for a long time at Harris Street Music store (which was not on Harris Street) and every year on his birthday, October 30th, I brought cake and a card to the store.
But there are whole vast tracts of Sean’s life in which I had no part, no knowledge. I can only guess at his complex inner and emotional life. I believe he masked his pain. He was fortunate, late in his short life, to find Julia Skerry who brought him joy and gave him strength. These last few years, I saw him only infrequently, especially after he left the music store, Covid intervened and my mother’s heart attack in 2021.
In October 2023 Brendan called me and asked me to sit down, that he had some bad news. He said that Sean and Julia had called to say that Sean’s body was riddled with cancerous tumors. I remembered then that Sean’s own father had died of cancer when Sean was just three years old. He would have been just Sean’s age. Sobering.
He insisted we see it as a demanding moment.
With this news, like everyone else eager to help, I splashed into action, part of the bucket brigade, contributing money to a fund, signing up for Meal Train, anything that would help Sean and Julia through this demanding moment. And that was how he insisted we see it: a demanding moment, not the end. He remained steadfastly upbeat about his treatment and his chances. I last met with him and Julia delivering a lasagna dinner to them. I last heard from him personally in December when he emailed a request for my recipe for French toast. On the afternoon of January 3rd 2024 Julia set up a Facetime call from the hospital so Brendan and I could talk to him, words that seemed to me so utterly inadequate, necessary yes, not useless certainly but unequal to what we wanted him to know. He died on January 4th.
Trailer Wars! The Bellingham equivalent of Cinema Paradiso.
What I am writing here does not aspire to obituary. That takes in the whole life. I did not know his whole life. Rather, I want to laud the gifts Sean so generously gave. He ought to have been better recognized while he lived, but at least I can record here that for nearly ten years Sean Meyer gave to his hometown, Bellingham, the equivalent of the experience chronicled in that wonderful Italian film, Cinema Paradiso where the whole community comes to the theatre, not simply to watch, but to bond. He created Trailer Wars and these evenings were wildly popular, great choral, communal moments of enthusiasm, laughter, competition and camaraderie.
I was part of the very first audience who crowded our butts together, December 2008, on the couch of the place Sean was living at the time (older folks on the couch, younger ones sitting on the floor). I don’t remember the short films we watched, but it was the first of what would become a monthly civic film festival.
Trailer Wars offered community and encouraged expression.
Sean and a number of close compatriots, Chris Patton, Tyler Swank, Anna Mortimer were the core, founding group. Beginning in April 2009 They invited anyone to make five minute trailers. (Time limit was later changed to three minutes, for the sheer volume of entries.) The invitation read:
Bellingham’s Monthly Movie Competition
By and for lazy local filmmakers
Pits all comers in a steel cage–of cinema
Open to All. Come to participate or just to vote.
Don’t be shy. No trailer is too amateur.
The audience for Trailer Wars quickly outgrew the couch. Sean and the Trailer Wars core crew prevailed upon (what was then the Pickford, later the Limelight) art house cinema to show the films. Soon they reached out to local businesses for endorsements, supporting ads, product placement, engaging the town’s commercial community. Trailer Wars not only invited the participation of would-be, wannabe, or might-yet-become filmmakers, but the Trailer Wars core group lent their expertise—and their equipment—to participants, teaching the basics of film-making, basically, informal education. Trailer Wars was an inclusive, creative, civic enterprise. In short, it offered community and encouraged expression.
Winners got to keep the Trailer Wars Crown for a month
Once a month Trailer Wars brought scads of people into the theatre on otherwise dull weeknights. Admission was probably five dollars. Tee shirts were later sold for ten bucks. Trailer Wars nights were always sold out, standing room only. Sometimes the small theatre was so crowded people were sitting on the floor in the aisles. Indeed, on one occasion, if memory serves, someone called the fire department, and they intervened saying that blocked aisles were against the city’s codes.
In many ways Trailer Wars was a throwback to those long-ago, fabled days of the Saturday matinees when the main feature was preceded by a serial. Trailer Wars’ serial was Baycove Terrace, a high spirited, goofy-spoofy soap opera, filmed locally and propelled by the many talents of Sean Meyer, Chris Patton, Tyler Swank, Ryan Covington, Anna Mortimer and others. After the installment of Baycove Terrace the various trailers were shown, just as they had been submitted, without edit or censure.
Participants always brought their posses to the Pickford to cheer. These noisy supporters sometimes reminded me of the theatres in 19th century Paris where the actors and the playwright would import their own cheering sections, known, in French as claques, to the theatre to drown out the jeers of their antagonists who also brought their own heckling claques. Unlike 19th century Paris, the Pickford never erupted in fights, but there was always cheering, and muttering, occasionally shouts. After the trailers were shown, paper ballots were passed out with the names of the trailers and the audience voted for the best trailer. The group with the biggest posse often won.
The winners got to keep the Trailer Wars Crown for a whole month. They also got to choose the genre for the next month (mystery, musical, noir, Western, zombie etc). They were disqualified from winning the following month.
I Did It For Love
The trailers were, clearly, not all of equal quality. But some were little gems. In terms of narrative strength, filming, continuity, many were, honestly, superior to the many student films I saw at USC (made by filmmakers with access to high grade equipment and technology). My favorite of all the Trailer Wars films was, I Did It For Love, much of which was shot at my house in December 2009. After the holidays, I was cleaning up, and I found the shooting script in Sean’s own hand. I put it in a folder and it stayed in a file cabinet until I began to write this remembrance. I read it and wept.
I Did It For Love told the story of an Irish family, particularly a father-son conflict over music. It was directed and filmed by Sean Meyer, and written by him and Brendan, both men who had grown up without fathers present. It starred Brendan McCreary, Tyler Swank, Anna Mortimer with a supporting cast of Bear McCreary and Raya Yarbrough, Phil Swenson, all of them affecting Irish accents.
A three minute film, it was beautifully dramatically economical. It had humor and pathos. When I saw the final, finished, in the theatre, I got all misty though I had seen its various parts in bits and pieces in the making. It had a lovely, lilting theme song with whimsical lyrics written and sung by Brendan with Anna chiming in at the end. In part the lyrics to “I Did It For Love” read:
If you were lost, no matter the cost, I’d find you
And always ask what I did it for
(I did it for love)…
I would sleep for a thousand years
I would cry ten thousand tears
I would sing a million songs
(What for? What for? What for?
I did it for love)
I would climb the highest peak
I would brave the cold and heat
(What for? What for? What for?
I did it for love)
I would bring you breakfast in bed
If you were sick, I would pay for your meds
(What for? What for? What for?
I did it for love)
I’ll be with you until the end
And always ask what I did it for.
I did it for love.
Brendan and Bear and I were not there at the end with Sean. We were all three in Los Angeles. But many others were at his side; he knew he was loved. Fittingly, the Trailer Wars crown was in his hospital room.
When the call came on the morning of January 5th, I sat with the phone in my hand, staring out the hotel window watching the 405 freeway, all those automotive corpuscles speeding up and down the concrete veins, and all the little lives within, everyone on their way to destinations, none of them knowing what I—what we—had lost. A son of this house. Sinéad O’Connor’s plaintive ballad, “This is to Mother You,” played in my head.
I never dreamed I would say goodbye with no hope of hello.
I Did It For Love can be found
Other Trailer Wars can also still be found on You Tube.