Neon is a dying art. While red and blue “OPEN” signs may be produced until the end of time, personalized, creative signs are being passed over again and again for LED and plastic signs. Gasper & Son is a brisk look into the shop of one of the few remaining neon sign makers in New York, Artistic Neon. Owned and operated by Gasper’s son, Robbie, neon is a solitary business. In fact, the loneliness is almost palpable during some scenes. Yet, despite neon’s lack of popularity and the solitary nature of the job, it’s clear that this is Robbie’s passion.
Gasper & Son does a great job of giving you an overview of the neon business, and what it means to Robbie and his family, in a speedy 37 minutes. It quickly glosses over the neon boom in New York and how Robbie father, Gasper started the business. Most of the doc is focused on how Robbie learned how to do neon and how he’s doing these days. Some of the signs Robbie and Gasper made are absolutely beautiful, I only wish we would have gotten a better look at what Robbie was working on at the time, as well as a more in depth explanation of how Gasper got into the neon business.
Director Jen G. Pywell does a good job at making you feel close to the family. We get to watch them celebrate Mother’s Day and see Gasper reminisce about working in the shop. At one point, we even get to see Gasper’s insane woodworking projects, which include an electric cello (which he admits, might not be playable) and a huge harp. It’s incredibly touching to watch Robbie and his father take care of his mother. Everything about the short feels intimate and comfortable.
Gasper & Son is an interesting (if brisk) look at New York’s dying neon industry and a families personal relationship with the medium. While I wish it took a slightly more in depth look into the process of making neon and Gasper’s introduction to the business, it does definitely succeed in portraying the closeness of Robbie’s family and his personal passion.