January 5, 2017

That Thing You Do

My wife Bettina, the Film Commissioner for Riverside County, and I were invited to opening night Gala of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. This Festival draws celebs equal to the actual Academy Awards; this year alone featured the likes of Amy Adams, Ryan Gosling, Nicole Kidman, Annette Bening, Casey Affleck, Janelle Monae (“Hidden Figures,” “Moonlight”) and my buddy Tom Hanks, who won the prestigious Icon Award. I say “my buddy” Tom Hanks because he gave me my start in the movie side of my career.In 1996, he was working on his first project that he wrote, directed and starred in, “That Thing You Do!” – his true labor of love. They needed a “product specialist” who could consult on music gear circa 1964 because before that, movies really didn’t worry about authenticity for music gear; they just wanted the right look (think “Buddy Holly Story” with 1980’s era instruments and colors in what was supposed to be the 1950’s). But Tom wanted to make sure everything from the music gear to radios, TVs, etc. had to be depicted as if they were the latest products in 1964. I had never really worked on a film set (I did supply the Washburn guitar for “Wayne” in “Wayne’s World”), but this covered several full sets. A friend in the biz told me it would be a cool thing to bring swag for the prop master Will Blount who invited me to the set, so I brought a Fender hat to the first day of filming. Well it tuns out that my meeting was with Tom himself (I kept thinking, “I’m hanging with Forest Gump!”). Tom saw the hat and said, “Oh you brought me swag,” and proceeded to put the hat on. Knowing I didn’t have much background in film, he walked me through the whole thing and when the film was released, Tom could not have been more gracious to me and my team, even going as far as mentioning our work on Oprah! Film studios began calling our company for the “Hollywood Guy” Tom referred to and the rest is history – Fender wanted a separate dept. to run the film side and I launched Entertainment Marketing, the first of its kind for music instrument manufacturers.

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