Posts Tagged ‘Dirck Halstead’

“His body was battered, his whole world was shattered
And all he could do was just cry…”
Jimmy Buffett
He Went to Paris

When you think of musician Jimmy Buffett in terms of geography you probably think of the south, but did you know part of his early performing roots were in the Midwest?

Buffett was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi and raised in Mobile, Alabama, graduated from college in Hattiesburg, MS (Southern Miss ’69, journalism degree), and started performing in public in Biloxi, MS and New Orleans, Louisiana, spent time in Nashville, Tennessee and broke through while living in Key West, Florida. So where exactly does the Midwest play into his success as a singer/songwriter/storyteller? I’ll let Buffett explain:

“Chicago is where I truly cut my teeth as a performer, working as the opening at the Quiet Knight. I opened for a variety of people from Neil Sedaka to Bob Marley, and when I got frustrated with the crowds, the old one-armed clean-up man with the big German shepherd always consoled me. It took me a few days of asking to find out that Eddie was more than a janitor. He was a gifted painter and a wonderful pianist. We would stay up after the club closed, and he would sing me songs from the Spanish Civil War where he had fought as a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade against the Fascists. Eddie Balchowsky was indeed an inspiration. He was larger than life, and as Mark Twain said, ‘he’d gone out into the territory.’ This song is a tribute to his spirit.”
Jimmy Buffett
Introduction to He Went to Paris
The Parrot Head Handbook from Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads

Here’s He Went to Paris in the form of a 1973 music video:

And another reason to love You Tube— below is a clip from a 1989 documentary that actually features an interview with none other than Eddie Balchowsky (including him playing the piano one-handed) just months before he died in an accident in Chicago.

To borrow from that Pat Conroy post a couple of days ago, writers do what Buffett did, they go do work to do a job and wait for the one-armed man to show up. That’s where stories come from. That’s how you “capture the magic” (to a use phrase Buffett spoke a few years ago on a 60 Minutes interview).

By the way, back in the folk music heyday, Chicago had a steady stream of artists playing there— Jim Croce,  John Prine and Steve Goodman to name a few. One of my favorite Buffett recordings was written by the Chicago-born Goodman, Banana Republic.

And just in case you’ve never heard of Steve Goodman, here’s a video of him singing his signature song that has been covered a few times since he wrote it:

Related Post:

Screenwriting the Chicago Way  (In this 2008 post, I said if Screenwriting from Iowa …and Other Unlikely Places had a theme song that City of New Orleans would be a fitting choice.)

The Bump In Factor (Post about meeting Dirck Halstead at NAB a couple of years ago. Dirck was a combat photographer for LIFE magazine and was working for UPI during the fall of Saigon. He now heads up TheDigitalJournalist.)

P.S. The Jimmy Buffett concert tonight (April 17,2012) in Des Moines will be broadcast on Radio Margaritaville at 9PM easten time.

Update: Found this article Painter, Poet Ed Balchowsky at the Chicago Tribune website.

Scott W. Smith

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“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Emily Dickinson

So last week I was sitting down at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas waiting for the Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User Group (LAFCPUG) to start their Super Meet and started a conversation with a man next to me who turned out to be a Hemingway-like character.

Dirck Halstead started his career in photojournalism at the age of 17. He was the youngest combat photographer for LIFE magazine, a roving photographer in the U.S. Army, spent 15 years as photographer for UPI covering stories around the world including winning the Robert Capa Gold Medal for his images of  the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War. And I’m just getting warmed up.

Let me just defer to an online bio: “Halstead accepted an independent contract with TIME magazine in 1972. Covering the White House for the next 29 years, he was one of only six photographers asked to accompany Richard Nixon on his historic trip to China in that same year. His photographs have appeared on 47 TIME covers. During this period he was also a “Special Photographer” on many films, producing ad material used by major Hollywood studios.”

Have you ever heard the song The Last Mango in Paris by Jimmy Buffett?

                    He said I ate the last mango in Paris
Took the last plane out of Saigon
I took the first fast boat to China
And Jimmy there’s still so much to be done 

Halstead is that kind of guy (if not literally that guy). And after his adventures with LIFE, UPI, and TIME there was still so much to be done. Back in the early 90s he was a pioneer in helping still photojournalist make the transition into shooting video. Now in his 70s Halstead is the editor and publisher for The Digital Journalist  and a senior fellow in photojournalism at The Center for American History at the University of Texas in Austin. In 2007 he was honored by The University of Missouri with the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism.

And I bet he’d still say, “There’s still so much to be done.”

All that to say there is power in the bump in factor. While I was at NAB Show last week I also bumped into a producer friend from Michigan, a cameraman from Des Moines who owns a RED camera, and a editor friend from Orlando. How does this all apply to screenwriting?

Your talent and skill will keep you in the room once you get there but sometimes you need a little help from the bump in factor to open the door. I once landed a gig writing 12 radio dramas because I was editing a project at a post house and bumped into a producer who had an immediate need for a writer. Here’s what Melissa Mathison (who was once married to Harrison Ford) told Susan Bullington Katz in Conversations with Screenwriters:

“I was with Harrison on Raiders of the Lost Ark, and halfway through the shoot, we were all in Tunisia, and Steven Spielberg asked me if I would be interested in writing a children’s movie about a man from outer space. And I thought that sounded like a really wonderful idea.”

The screenplay she wrote was E.T.:The Extra-Terrestrial.

Granted being married to Harrison Ford improves the prospects of who you can bump into but you never know who’s next to you while you wait in line. Which leads me back to Halstead. If you’re interested in improving you visual storytelling Halstead is hosting The Platypus Workshops this year in Oregon and Maine.

Related Post: The Bump In Factor (Take 2)

Scott W. Smith

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