Posts Tagged ‘The Beatles’

“Elvis Presley kicked off my love of music. That was the dream I followed.”
Tom Petty

Just two days ago Tom Petty helped me solve a mystery that I’d been curious about for several decades.  It had to do with the day when Petty was 11-years-old and introduced to Elvis Presley by his Uncle Earl.

Earl Jernigan was a very interesting guy. He wasn’t a southerner. He was the only northerner in the family. And his love was film, motion pictures. And he had the only business in town that was a film business. He had the only place where you could develop film or buy it.

And anytime there was a shoot, probably within a hundred miles, he would go…He had done Return of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and he actually had one of the cool rubber suits of the creature in his house, and we thought that was so cool.”
Tom Petty (as told to Paul Zollo)
Homegrown in Florida (Edited by William McKeen)

Jernigan also worked on the Tv show Sea Hunt (1958-61) which was shot at Silver Springs —near Gainesville, Florida where Tom and Earl lived. And Jernigan also shot and developed film for the University of Florida football team.

Reading Petty’s account of his uncle reminded me of a question I’d had since I was a teenager. Back in 1981 when I was 19-year-old photojournalist for the Sanford Herald in Central Florida I went back to Lake Howell High School to cover a spring training football game. I ended up being given 16mm films from two of my best high school football games.

I remember when I was given the films I thought it odd that the label said Gainesville rather than the bigger cities of Miami, Tampa or Orlando. Why Gainesville? That was the mystery. So after reading Petty’s words I walked into my home office and quickly found the old 16mm films and sure enough the name on the label read Jernigan’s Motion Picture Service.  


Mystery solved. Tom Petty’s uncle developed that film—or at least his company did. That also may explain why Petty talks about growing up poor but had 8mm family films and of his first bands that were featured in the documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream. (I grew up in a plain cement block house in Florida—without air-conditioning— and nobody that lived around me had a fancy 8mm camera.)

When Petty was 11-years-old Petty’s his uncle was working on the set of Follow that Dream (1962) starring Elvis Presley, and Petty’s aunt took him to a filming one day in Ocala, Florida (about half an hour from Gainesville) and the future rock star Tom Petty was introduced to the King.

“He stepped out, radiant as an angel. He seemed to glow and walk above the ground. It was like nothing I’d ever seen in my life. At fifty yards, we were stunned by what this guy looked like. And he came walking right toward us. And his hair was so black, I remember that it shined blue when the sunlight hit it. And he walked over and we were speechless. My uncle said, ‘These are my nieces and nephews, Elvis.’ And he smiled and nodded at us. I don’t know what he said because I was just too dumbfounded.”
Tom Petty
Homegrown in Florida

That first brush of fame marked Petty for life. He also took notice of the crowd of girls behind a chain link fence trying to get an autograph of Elvis and thought at the time, “That is one hell of a job to have. That’s a great gig—Elvis.” Petty went home and traded a Wham-O slingshot for a box of 45 records that included Elvis, Ricky Nelson, and Jerry Lee songs. He said he wasn’t thinking about being a musician then, just being a fan of music.

If Elvis kicked off his love for music it was the Beatles performance on The Ed Sullivan show in 1964 that gave Tom Petty the idea that he could actually learn to play the guitar and start a band.

So there you have it, a kid from Gainesville inspired by a kid from Tupelo and some kids from Liverpool going on to have a 40 year musical career until his death last week. Here’s what it looked like in 2006 when Petty returned to Gainesville.

P.S. That Lake Howell v. Lyman football game that I got the films from was the first high school football my father ever saw me play. My mom and dad got divorced when I was seven and for whatever reason he didn’t come to a high school game until the two he attended my senior year. I scored a total of four touchdowns in those two games and that Christmas he bought me my first 35mm camera. That was by far the most expensive gift he’d ever given me and it helped set me on the creative path that I’ve been on ever since. In fact, that Konica TC was the camera I used when I worked for the Sanford Herald.

Related post:
Tom Petty’s Gainesville Roots

Scott W. Smith



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“There is no way I’d be doing what I do now if it wasn’t for The Beatles. I was watching the Ed Sullivan show and I saw them. Those skinny little boys, kind of androgynous, with long hair like girls. It blew me away that these four boys in the middle of nowhere could make that music.”
Gene Simmons of KISS
Gene Simmons Talks Liverpool, The Beatles 


Just after 3AM this morning I arrived back home in Florida after a road trip that lasted 22 days and covered 4099 miles. I worked on a variety of projects performing a variety of roles (producing, directing, shooting–stills and video–and editing).

Worked on everything from a long form multimedia symphony project that was performed live, to a one minute corporate web video. In fact as my trip came to a close I thought of the eclectic week I had just this week. Over the weekend I shot a reality auction TV show that I will also be editing. On Sunday, while at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott I saw a travel infomercial I shot and edited in Central Florida last month airing on TV.

On Monday a short film I was DP on years ago had a screening in Decorah, Iowa. On Monday a four camera production I produced, shot, and edited in Orlando launched online Monday. A commercial I edited Monday will air regionally in the Midwest next week. Another video I shot and edited (partly in a Starbucks in Atlanta yesterday) will be apart of an award show at the end of the month. And a feature film shot in Iowa last year will its a debut tonight. I shot some footage for extras part of the DVD that I’m told they are selling tonight at the screening. And I supplied some rental production equipment to a documentary that will be shown in Algeria.

All that to say, if your desire is to work in feature films or TV and you’re not doing so there are 1,000s of other opportunities out there for you to gain valuable production experience—and to make money to pay your bills. And you get the bonus to meet and work with plenty of production people who have like-minded goals that you do. (Go back and read the ’09 post Beatles, Cody, King and 10,000 Hours.)

And if you’re a writer you also get tons of material to file away in your idea bank. Here’s one example I picked up over the weekend. At the auction in Des Moines was a 11 or 12-year-old boy who had traveled from California with his father to bid on some antique billiard racks. (They won the main rack they wanted with a bid of more than $10,000.) Bu the auction also had some rock-n-roll memorabilia—including a KISS Pinball machine, a Bo Diddley outfit, and the Beatles Butcher album–so when I interviewed the 11/12-year-old I asked him if he knew who the Beatles were and he said he did.

Then I asked him if he could name them. He jumped right in with “John, Paul, George and…” then there was a paused, he thought for a few seconds and said, “Rambo.”  I bet even Ringo Starr would laugh at being excluded from the fab four. It was a fresh line and I’m not sure I’ll never think of the Beatles again without thinking of John, Paul, George and Rambo. (Perhaps I can start a rumor that Rambo was the sixth Beatle. Pete Best, of course, being the fifth Beatle.)

Speaking of the Beatles I did miss an opportunity to hear Paul McCarney’s son James McCartney and his band who were playing in Des Moines at Vaudeville Mews last Saturday night just a few blocks from my hotel. And speaking of KISS that Pinball machine I pictured with above went for $2,300. Made me think of their song Beth which was a favorite of mine back in the day. Looked it up on You Tube and found this unusual version performed with a small symphony in Melbourne, Australia—with orchestra members wearing KISS painted faces. (Like that Rambo line, I’m not making this stuff up.)

From Pat Conroy to KISS is one day—that’s how we roll here at Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places.

Scott W. Smith

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Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play.
Now I need a place to hide away.
Yesterday (Written by Lennon/McCartney, performed by The Beatles)

So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been
It’s all been a pack of lies
In the Air Tonight
Phil Collins

This week I’ve been touching on Oscar-nominated screenwriters leading up to the Academy Awards Sunday. And while (500) Days of Summer didn’t get an Oscar nomination I wanted to give it a special mention. Last night it did win the best screenplay at Independent Spirit Awards. (Only films made for $20 million or less are eligible.) Congrats to screenwriter Scott Neustader and Michael Weber for the win.

I wasn’t one of the people who saw (500) Days of Summer multiple times, but I did enjoy the fresh angle on the romantic comedy genre. I remember someone telling me when I was a teenager that when some people break up with someone they’re dating they turn to drinking and waste away, and some people write a hit song about the break up. No one told me I could write a screenplay about it.

That would have come in handy when I was a senior in college and my girlfriend of a several years told me (after three margaritas) that she had been seeing someone else. But when Scott Nuestader was frustrated with the dating relationships in his life he did write a screenplay about it. Less as a calling card and more as therapy. And Michael Weber was there as his friend to help him through that time–and to help him write what would become their first produced screenplay, (500) Days of Summer.

“The truth is this: the script wasn’t written to be made. It was barely written to be read. We wrote this thing because I was downhearted and needed somewhere to channel my exasperation with relationships. Months later, when I finally decided to let it be seen, I expected to be mocked, jeered, taken by the shoulders and violently shook while someone screamed ‘snap out of it, man’ in my face. I never thought people would relate to it. I never thought someone would buy it, and I certainly never thought it would be filmed. so, yeah, I’m pretty darn surprised.
Scott Nuestader
Interview with A.D. Amorsi

“At the time I was trying to be there for him as a friend, first and foremost, but then soon after I was like, ‘You know, we should be writing that down. I think that’s happened to a lot of people.’ It’s interesting for me in that I feel like I felt for him, what he was going through at the time and have since personally gone through some of that afterwards. So my relationship to it has changed in that way which has been interesting. We always like when people come up to us and they can sort of relate to it or some girl messed them up. We feel for them but it’s also kind of awesome because we know that they’re going to get it.”
Michael Weber
Interview with Dave Gonzales

You may not write a hit song or an award-winning screenplay if you write about your big break-up…but it doesn’t hurt to try. I think the message at the end of the movie (500) Days of Summer is these things have a way of working themselves out in time. That’s certainly true in my case. Three months after my big college break-up I met the women who would become my wife.

But love relationships in general are ripe for screenwriters because they have built-in conflict. Perhaps down the road I’ll look at great break-up scenes. That scene between Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt near the end of Cast Away jumps to mind. What are some of your favorite movie break-up scenes?

Scott W. Smith

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