RectorWriter

Adventures in storytelling by Bob Rector

IMPAKTER EZINE FEATURES MY ARTICLE ON “THE JOURNEY DOWN THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD”

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10 September, 2014 at 09:32

IMPAKTER is a classy new international Ezine about culture, style, society, and philanthropy. Here is my article as it appears in Impakter.

Scene from The Long and Winding Road starring Alva Sanders (maiden name)

Scene from The Long and Winding Road starring Alva Sanders (maiden name)

My previous Impakter article ‘The Birth of Music Video TV’ tells how The Now Explosion TV show was created and how I landed my dream job of making music video-films for the show.

’The Long and Winding Road’ by The Beatles was my first assignment. And almost my last. I had exactly one day to turn it into a music video-film.

That’s right. Twenty-four hours.

This was my audition piece. I wouldn’t be paid for it and the show was under no obligation to hire me if they didn’t like what I came up with. I was provided raw stock and processing. Everything else was up to me. No problem. I was a bull pawing the ground ready to charge.

A photo of me about the time I made The Long and Winding Road in spring of 1970

A photo of me about the time I made The Long and Winding Road in spring of 1970

THIS IS A BLOW-BY-BLOW ACCOUNT OF THOSE 24 HOURS.

You might say I couldn’t I miss with a Beatles song, right? Wrong. In 1970 The Beatles were the biggest phenomenon in pop music. It would be easy for my film to get lost in their shadow.

I had to do something special, something that complimented the lyrics yet stood on its own as a narrative, something that would still be compelling even without hearing the music.

Otherwise my career would be over before it got started.

I hurried home and loaded up my 45. Not a pistol, a record player. There was only two ways to listen to pop music in 1970: radio or 45 RPM records.

I played the song over and over trying to find the heart that The Now Explosion’s young audience could identify with. To me, it was about the loss of the first true love of your life, and the devastating heartbreak when that person rejects you.

I had two things going for me. I knew the perfect location: a winding country road not far away, and I knew who I wanted to be in the film: Alva Sanders.

Tight close up of Alva Sanders as she appears in The Long and Winding Road

Tight close up of Alva Sanders as she appears in The Long and Winding Road

I had worked with Alva on a short experimental film a few months earlier. She was lanky with long black hair, pretty, and had a graceful way of moving. When I called Alva, I didn’t ask her if she wanted to be in the film; I told her she was going to be in it and that I’d pick her up at 4:30 the following morning. She was quiet for a moment then simply said, “Okay.”

We arrived at a field of wildflowers near the country road location a half-hour before sunup on Friday morning, twelve hours before my deadline. It was late March, chilly and a little misty. Alva was wearing a thin shirt and bell-bottoms, and was shivering.

The first shot was a dreamy long lens angle of her running out of the rising sun toward the camera in slow motion. I positioned her and the camera directly in line with the sun. I asked her to tie her shirt up leaving her belly bare, a popular look of the time. Good thing 16mm is not high resolution enough to show goosebumps.

This became the iconic shot from The Long and Winding Road. The morning sun and Alva did all the work. I just turned the camera on.

This became the iconic shot from The Long and Winding Road. The morning sun and Alva did all the work. I just turned the camera on.

When the sun was above the horizon, I cued Alva and she started running, her long hair flying out beautifully. We got it in one take. We continued working through the shots depending on sun position. The scenes of the road itself we shot last because I needed the sun higher.

Alva didn’t just strike a pose and look pretty. We had talked on the drive that morning about what I was trying to accomplish. She listened quietly, asked a few questions. When I started rolling film, especially for the close ups, she was clearly channeling something inside and it comes across in the footage.

By 10:30 we were finished and drove back to her house. Her mother made lunch for us then we shot the scenes of her at the window. I had no artificial lights so had to rely on the natural light coming through the window. Fine with me. I wanted her to be almost in silhouette.

I was worried whether Alva could shed real tears for the camera and was ready to use artificial ones if needed. No problem. When I started rolling film, tears streamed down her cheek, but she didn’t over-emote, just stared out the window, the pain and sadness in her eyes appearing honest and real.

I grabbed a few more shots in downtown Atlanta, took the film to the lab, and an hour later was pulling into Ch. 36 on Briarcliff Road, the Now Explosion studios. My deadline was three hours away. The producer showed me to a closet-sized editing room and within minutes, film was flying.

16mm editing station very similar to the one I used to edit The Long and Winding Road. The equipment shown is exactly the same.

16mm editing station very similar to the one I used to edit The Long and Winding Road. The equipment shown is exactly the same.

As stated before, when the show’s creator Bob Whitney saw my finished film, his response was hardly enthusiastic. I also explained why.

I was devastated. I’d had my shot at my dream and blew it. I went home very morose and consoled myself that it would be run at least once or twice over the weekend. Come Monday I’d start looking for another job.

The show was broadcast “live” at the time with audience members calling in their requests – just like Top-40 radio. The DJs chucked and jived with them while a technician cued the videotape.

An hour or so into the broadcast I heard DJ Skinny Bobby Harper say, “And here’s a new one by the Beatles, The Long and Winding Road.” There it was on TV. My film. I just stood there and watched with mouth open.

Then something remarkable happened. The Long and Winding Road started running over and over again. It became the most requested film ever shown on The Now Explosion. The producer called the following day, told me I had the job and to report to work Monday morning.

That was 44 years ago. I still get emails today from people telling me how much the film touched them and how it has lingered in their memories for decades.

Blows my mind.

Not bad for a day’s work.

Thank you Impakter and Michele Bonanno for allowing me to contribute to your fine ezine.

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Author: rectorwriter

Bob Rector has been a professional storyteller for forty years, but his background is primarily in film, video, and stage work as a writer and director. Bob was one of the pioneers of music videos, first for The Now Explosion and then for Music Connection, which were highly popular nationally syndicated shows that preceded MTV by ten years. He created over 100 films for the top musical artists of the times. Bob wrote and directed an outdoor-adventure feature film, Don't Change My World, and has won countless awards for nature and sports documentaries. His original three-act play, Letters From the Front, entertained America's troops around the world for fifteen years and was the first theatrical production to be performed at the Pentagon. This beloved show, written and directed by Rector, became known as the World's Most Decorated Play. After decades on the road (and in the air!) Bob finally settled down long enough to write his first novel, Unthinkable Consequences.

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