Climate Storytelling & The Day The Music Died with Spencer Proffer, Georgia Wright and Kenia Hale
Media and Music Producer Spencer Proffer joins us to talk about his Paramount + doc, The Day The Music Died which beautifully tells the story of the song that lives on, Don McLean’s American Pie.
Plus, Audio Content Creators Georgia Wright and Kenia Hale are using storytelling to share the important narrative of how climate change is impacting the lives of young people throughout the world. Their New York Times recommended podcast, Inherited creatively embraces the youth climate movement.
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Louise Palanker (00:00:04):
Welcome to Media Path. I am Louise Palanker
Fritz Coleman (00:00:06):
And I'm Fritz Coleman.
Louise Palanker (00:00:08):
Today's show is especially potent, so you may wanna pace yourselves, pace your listening, or at least stretch first and take some deep breaths. Fritz and I are going to share what we've been watching, and that excitement will be rapidly followed by back-to-back content creators for you. We have Georgia Wright and Kenia Hale. They're here to talk about their groundbreaking podcast, inherited a climate storytelling show for and about young people. And then media and music producer Spencer Proffer will join us to discuss his brilliant new documentary about the song American Pie called The Date The Music Died. Fritz, what have you
Fritz Coleman (00:00:43):
Got for us? Well, in deference to our talented second guest, Spencer Proffer, I'm gonna recommend one of his earlier works that I've watched a couple of times. It's called Chasing Train. This is a documentary of maybe the most celebrated jazz artist of all time, John Coltrane. He was a jazz sex player whose talent and creativity has achieved mythical status among jazz players and fans, the world over. It starts with his youth and the pain he suffered in losing several loved ones all at one time, which ultimately led him to bury his feelings in music. And then through relentless determination, he worked his way into the musical stratosphere. At a fairly young age, he began to prove he was special and apart. By working with giants like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie along the way, he fell into the dark groove of drug addiction. He had a bad heroin habit that he had to kick.
That was in a period of time in the fifties and sixties and early seventies when musicians thought the drugs made them more creative, which was a huge mistake. The film takes you through his struggles with life and love. It all builds toward the high point of his career, and that is the creation of his magnum opus, an album called The Love Supreme. This music was as train admitted, his way of communicating with God. In other words, thanking God and showing the miracle of love in the universe. Coltrane was a profoundly spiritual man, and like the artistic masters of the Renaissance proved some of the world's greatest works of art are born from men analyzing their relationship with God. And as I say, our guest in a few minutes, Spencer Proffer, who did the documentary about Don McClean's epic song, American Pie, called The Day the Music Died, was a co-producer on this film as well. Even if you're not a jazz fan, even if you're like me and you can't get your head completely wrapped around all of Coltrane's intricate and complicated music, you'll be inspired by this man's devotion to his art. It's called Chasing Train.
Louise Palanker (00:02:49):
So yes, Fritz, as, as you said, so eloquently also with me as well, my ear does not speak the language of this music. He starts at Be Bob, which already has me stumped, and then he turns even further left. I'm very lost in that neighborhood, but through the film, I got to know John Coltrain, and that was a gift. I do love listening to the words of those who are so moved by his work and this piece. You know, we have so many brilliant people who their language is jazz. Winton Marsalis. Bill Clinton, when he is talking about the arts, is a, is a jazz
Fritz Coleman (00:03:23):
Musician. <laugh>. In another interview, bill Clinton said that there is a religion around John Coltrane. There are people that think he has a almost a spiritual, a spiritual, you know, he's somewhere between God and man. That could be, it's really fascinating.
Louise Palanker (00:03:38):
And so, uh, it was a gift to, to be able to spend some time with him through this film. So, especially when the film reaches Japan and the reverence that they have for him in that country is just beautiful. It's a gorgeous piece of work which really introduces you to the man, John Coltrane, who is so remarkably loving, brilliant and warm. I watched something a little bit different. Fritz. I've been watching Severance. It comes to us on Apple TV from producer Ben Stiller. It's a psychological, philosophical thriller, which presents a dystopian solution to the pull of our work life divide. What if the person you are at work has no memory of the person you are at home? And vice versa? Adam Scott plays Mark a man and mourning who agrees to have his mind severed into separate work and home consciousnesses. At Lumen Industries, mark leads a team of employees who have been similarly altered, but of course, this surgically manipulated contrivance is not built to last, much like in Jurassic Park, Frankenstein, and the cat in the hat, science and nature and humanity will insist on spoiling the best laid ill-advised cat, doctor or corporate plans.
Thus, the Grippingly compelling storyline. As a recently dismissed, well-loved coworker named Pete, appears to mark in his outside life with a dire warning of the truth about what lies within lumen, severance, lavishly, and hilariously lamb based cult psychology, self-help and corporate culture, while raising intriguing questions about consciousness, memory, morality, reality, mindfulness and purpose. It features beautifully written roles from Patricia Arquette, Christopher Walkin, and John Touro. You will find severance on Apple Plus.
Fritz Coleman (00:05:22):
I love the idea of being able to separate your work life from your home life, cuz you probably sleep a lot better if that were possible.
Louise Palanker (00:05:27):
Well, it's like a good idea on paper. <laugh>,
Fritz Coleman (00:05:30):
Louise Palanker (00:05:30):
Again. Yes. Oh, okay. Do not unleash the mans. Okay. So I wanna welcome our guest. We have Georgia Wright and we have Kenia Hale. Georgia Wright is a former theater kid who uses her storytelling instincts to bring us imaginative and carefully created audio programming that pulls us into important narratives. She is working with Kaia Hale, who is a Yale grad and a researcher at Princeton University. Georgia is the co-creator of Inherited a New York Times recommended podcast about the youth climate movement. Tell us more about that, Georgia.
Georgia Wright (00:06:02):
Yeah, so inherited, uh, as you mentioned, is a storytelling podcast by four and about young people who are coming to terms with the existential threat of our time, which is to say climate change. Um, you know, and the trajectory of the show has changed a lot from season one to season two. We are currently, uh, releasing our second season with YR Media and our ed critical Frequency. And so YR Media, which is an Oakland based nonprofit, um, that supports young storytellers and media creators and journalists nationwide, um, has helped us, uh, expand our programming. And so essentially we have a cohort of nine storytellers. Kaia is one of our amazing storytellers who have made this season possible. And so, uh, yeah, the first season was a little bit more traditional narrative podcasting, but this season, uh, each episode has, uh, different stories from different storytellers around the world talking about in some way, shape or form how climate is impacting their lives. So, uh, yeah, so, so I'd love for Kenia, maybe you can, uh, also like introduce your specific story a little bit because it's a great example of the type of work that we're trying to do here, and it's also coming out tomorrow, which is very exciting. Oh,
Kenia Hale (00:07:10):
Fritz Coleman (00:07:11):
Kenia Hale (00:07:12):
Yeah, no, I'm super, super excited about this and just really excited to have this opportunity with inherited as well. Um, so as, um, Georgia said, I submitted a story a few months ago, basically about an experience of climate change that I experienced. Um, I'm from Ohio originally, and so, um, my family and I just kind of went through a few different, um, really intense, uh, bouts of like windstorms and stuff. And we've just been like noticing the ways that the climate has been changing, um, like literally just from what we've been witnessing in our time in Ohio. Um, so I got to write up this script and also, um, interview, like go back to Ohio and interview my family, um, about their experiences as well. And so it's like part, I think, I don't know, like part ethnography part like very intimate, um, like land-based, uh, interview as well. So it was just a really, uh, fun experience and I, I'm really grateful that I got to, uh, engage with it. This
Fritz Coleman (00:08:15):
Is really cool because you, you said there were nine selections and either of you can answer this question in the new season. This is season in the new season, right? Uh, but you had 75 submissions from 20 different countries. That's a pretty wide scope. That's that's very inspirational.
Georgia Wright (00:08:31):
Yeah, it was amazing. I mean, we weren't expecting, you know, we knew our, our first season did fairly well in terms of like the, the people who did listen liked it, but we didn't think that we really even had the listenership to get such a response to our pitch form. But I think that if, there's one thing that I learned from that, it's that, um, young people everywhere are really eager to have a space and a platform to tell climate stories. And every single young person has a different way that climate intersects in their life. Whether it's, you know, like Mia it's coming into their literal backyard and affecting the shape and the trajectory of their yard. Or it's something a little bit more nebulous where, you know, maybe it's, it's, uh, something about the, the way that they're engaging with activism or, uh, we have a couple more experimental segments as well. In fact, uh, we have like one fiction segment that aired under the first episode. So
Fritz Coleman (00:09:23):
This, this is all under the umbrella of the youth climate movement, right? That's sort of the general, uh, yeah. Body that you find yourself within. What does that mean?
Georgia Wright (00:09:33):
Well, you know, the first season was a little bit more geared towards the youth climate movement in as much as it was, you know, thinking specifically about young people who are lobbying for political activism. Um, but we decided that we wanted to kind of like, expand what that looked like because activism and storytelling, um, can look like a lot of different things. And so we really describe ourselves now more as storytelling podcast, um, about young people in climate change because the reality is that some people are able to be activists, some people, you know, go to the streets and bring their bullhorns and stuff. I used to do that type of work. Um, but it's not sustainable for everyone. It's also not financially available to everybody. Uh, you know, cl climate activism requires a lot of, a lot of time. And so, uh, so there are many people out there who, uh, have a connection to climate change and want to tell a story about climate change, which in my opinion is itself a form of activism.
Um, but we don't wanna pin it necessarily just to people who are like very deeply involved in like political lobbying. Um, which isn't to say that they're not wonderful and important and they still have a role in this season as well. But I think that part of our outlook this season is that, um, we are all, we all have a reason to want to talk about climate change by virtue of being young right now. You know, like, there's nobody, there's nobody in our generation who should be excluded from this conversation because we are all being impacted by it. So
Louise Palanker (00:10:55):
What you're saying is the people with the largest story have the smallest platform and you're offering that to them.
Georgia Wright (00:11:03):
I mean, you know, I, I would like to think that <laugh> in, in theory, that's great. I don't, you know, I think that we could, we could work on sort of our, our practice of that, but that's, that's what we're hoping to do. I think that there are a lot of people out there, um, who are, for example, one of the stories that's coming up is, um, a bunch of, uh, one of our storytellers is from, from Lagos, Nigeria. And so she's interviewing a lot of young climate activists who are in different places around, um, Africa. Some of them are also in Nigeria, like her. Um, and part of the reason why I think there was such an eagerness for, for this pitch call is because there are a lot of folks who aren't getting recognized in the same way that like Greta TK is getting recognized. You know, we love Greta, nothing against Greta, she's great, but like she's one kid when there's actually like millions of young people who each have their own design and own way of interpreting, uh, what is happening to our earth. And they all, you know, from different geographic locations in the world, all get to see these different effects and different sides of sort of the massive, you know, cube that is climate change.
Fritz Coleman (00:12:14):
Our our timing of this interview is pretty, um, pretty auspicious. Uh, when you look at what happened in southwestern Florida last week, do you have any thoughts about, um, the destruction and is that a harbinger of things to come and they're only gonna get worse? And is this making the point you're trying to make? It's time to do something?
Georgia Wright (00:12:36):
I mean, it's horrible. What, what happened with hurricane is horrible. Um, it is definitely not uncommon. It is happening more and more frequently. And I think one of the things that I'm interested in is like seeing how now that people are reporting on this as what they, as what it is, which is like a climate fuel disaster, maybe that'll have some impacts on the way that we funnel like federal funding into like climate change, um, mitigation, you know, policies. But yeah, I, I can, I don't know if you have any, anything you wanna add?
Kenia Hale (00:13:13):
No, yeah, I just wanted to say like, it's actually interesting, um, that this would happen last week cuz my, my oldest brother, well my older brother, he lives in Florida. Um, so like last week I was kind of texting him, making sure he was okay, he's all good. Um, but I think it's interesting that like all summer I spent like interviewing my family in Ohio about how climate change has affected them there. And now, just last week, I'm also talking to my older brother about how climate change is affecting him across the country. So it's like this thing that's just so pervasive across like literally no matter where you are at any time. Um, yeah.
Louise Palanker (00:13:48):
Right. Well, I, our audience is, is maybe consist of a lot of boomers Help us understand the term bipo, B I P O C and, uh, help us underst understand how climate change is specifically, uh, impacted by those who experienced historically colonialism. Some of the terms that are in your literature are really some really profound and important terms that that, that force us to take a large look at what we're doing to our planet and why.
Georgia Wright (00:14:22):
Yeah. Um, well, uh, bipo stands for Black Indigenous People of Color, which is a, you know, very broad term to describe people who are not white essentially. Um, and one of our stories, uh, in the second episode, um, is by Jasmine Hardy, a young black storyteller in Oakland, and she reports on environmental racism. So I definitely urge anybody who's interested in learning more about the intersection of climate and race to listen to her story, it's called Oakland's Invisible War. Um, yeah, I, I think that, I mean, I'll give my answer and then, you know, Kenny, I wanna hear your answer for sure. But, um, climate is, you know, it's an issue that manifests in so many different ways, but as with a lot of issues in the world, like the healthcare system or the prison industrial complex, you know, primarily impacts people who are already sort of like at the margins and already being neglected by society.
And because of the, you know, colonial and white supremacist, uh, origins of our country, there's a lot of folks who are, uh, built into the system as like not having the same amount of resources and not getting the same, uh, sort of attention, uh, as folks like, you know, who are already white well off and can afford to sort of be in, uh, in the, the public eye, I suppose. And so, um, yeah, I, I think as with anything, it's sort of climate change kicks people who are already down and a lot of the communities that are on the front lines are, have been historically neglected for, for centuries. So, yeah, I, I don't know.
Louise Palanker (00:16:03):
I mean, if you just look at the metaphor of like trailer parks and tornadoes, that's,
Georgia Wright (00:16:10):
I'm not sure I'm familiar with that, with
Louise Palanker (00:16:12):
That. Well, when I was a kid there'd always be after a tornado footage of a trailer park. And, you know, because those homes aren't like, don't have a foundation, they're just like strewn about. And, you know, people like us that had a house would look at that and say, why don't those people move into a house? Which is, you know, of course the height of arrogance, but that's the, the least rooted people are in the most danger when climate, uh, roars through or climate change, let's say roars through.
Georgia Wright (00:16:39):
Yeah. I wanna make sure Kaia has an opportunity to answer that question as well. Cuz obviously I'm also the white person at this interview. Yeah, yeah. So I don't think that my voice should be prioritized here.
Kenia Hale (00:16:48):
No, yeah. I mean, I was gonna say, I agree with everything that George has said. Like, I can speak from my own kind of lived experience in Ohio, um, like the ways that, um, whether it be like industry or, um, highways or distributed because of redlining that go through like communities of color mm-hmm. Or poor communities that then lead to intergenerational asthma like my family has. Um, whether it be the fact that like, I mean, we look at Hurricane Katrina, we look at hurricane Ida and we see like these communities that are on the coast that as these like ocean waters are rising, like who can afford to evacuate and who just like exactly
Fritz Coleman (00:17:28):
Can't, you took the words right out of my mouth. That's the topic of discussion all week, that the poverty stricken people, not necessarily people of color, but lower, uh, indus uh, lower, uh, economic strata are the people that suffer the most. Cuz we'd love to evacuate. We can't, we have nowhere to go. We have no transportation. That's been the really sad part of this whole thing, I think. So it's a a good point you bring up.
Kenia Hale (00:17:50):
Exactly. And oftentimes like, because as Georgia mentioned, the like discriminatory history of this country, like, you'll have people of lower socioeconomic statuses also intersecting with people who, because of their race or immigration status or what have you, have also been further marginalized. And it just kind of, these things pile on top of each other to lead to people. Um, yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> being forced to go through the brunt of climate change when often it's people who have the most money, who are the ones that are creating the most climate impact.
Fritz Coleman (00:18:22):
All right. So, uh, before we go, tell us how season two differs from season one. I know that you made a comment, Georgia, either in one of your podcasts or in your writing, that you guys are going to take more of a backseat and not not be the driving force in each podcast. You're gonna let each one stand on its own. So how, how is two different from one?
Georgia Wright (00:18:44):
Yeah. Um, well I think you, you put it into words right there is that, you know, because we are in this extremely fortunate position of having the, uh, you know, we're, we're connected to wire media, um, which has a lot more funding than we have had as an independent podcast, um, we're able to really like, kind of live the dream that we had initially of having inherited be more of a community focused project rather than a like, host driven show. I think there's a lot of like, traditional podcasts that are very much like about the personalities and experiences of the hosts. But in this instance, Jules and I don't necessarily have the most interesting lived experience about climate change. We don't necessarily have the most interesting things to say. We have, you know, our two stories, but there are so many other stories and it's like, how do you represent such a global problem?
Probably not through just two people. Um, so I think that this new format where we are able to, uh, sort of like pass the proverbial microphone from storyteller to storyteller means that the sort of final product is going to be a lot more representative of the actual scope of the climate crisis, which is to say it's global, it's huge. Um, and it also means that we get way more of a sort of like, like stylistic diversity where different stories are gonna sound different. Some are more journalism, some are personal essays, some are experimental, some are fiction. You know, I think it, it makes the show more rich and interesting and varied. Um, and the first season I think is a really good primer on like, sort of the youth climate movement, particularly the more like political activist side of things. But I do think that it, uh, continues to be, you know, I I I think that we are very intent on continuing with this format because I think that's sort of was always the dream was to have it be a project that was a little bit more, uh, yeah, a a little bit bigger than, than just two of us.
Louise Palanker (00:20:32):
So can talk
Georgia Wright (00:20:33):
About it's been really exciting.
Louise Palanker (00:20:34):
Yeah, it really is. Can you, I wanna hear about your submission process and what it meant to you and, uh, how you went about putting your story forward?
Kenia Hale (00:20:44):
Yeah, so my friend forwarded me the, um, the pitch call and basically I, you know, it, it was basically like if you have a story about climate change, it doesn't have to be rooted in journalism or anything, but just like, what is a story that you have about climate change that you want to share? And when the, um, like windstorms happen to my family back in 2020, I just remember being like, I wanna tell someone about this. But I didn't know, like, you know, I didn't know that there was even a platform like this. So when my friend sent this to me, I was like, wow, this is like, there y'all suspicious, like very perfect that I can, um, share this in this very specific space. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I submitted and yeah, I've just been working with Georgia and Jules, um, basically for the past few months, um, drafting up my story, interviewing my family, like figuring out how to interview, like how to ask questions and how to invite people to share their authentic selves with you. Um, how to honor the things that people share with you. And also, you know, like even like Georgia, tell me a little bit of sound design stuff too, and thinking about like how different sounds and background noise and stuff. Like, I, um, wasn't able to get into like an official studio, so I literally had to like, sit in my closet, close the door and make like a sound studio like in my house <laugh>, which is like a very kind of like intimate, very di iy scene. That's the
Fritz Coleman (00:22:07):
Way podcasting starts too, in somebody's closet.
Kenia Hale (00:22:09):
<laugh>. Yes, exactly. Um, but yeah, just, I, I really enjoyed my time, um, involved with, uh, inherited.
Louise Palanker (00:22:16):
So yeah. And are you gonna remain with inherited moving forward on season three?
Kenia Hale (00:22:21):
Um, I think the podcast call was solely for this season. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but I definitely love inherited in Georgia and Jules and like, if an opportunity ever presented itself, I would love to continue working with them. So I'll
Georgia Wright (00:22:35):
Put it this way, we don't even have a confirmed season three yet. Like, probably it's gonna happen, but like we haven't, we're we're just trying to get through season two right now. So the future is a little bit to be determined, but I think, uh, to, to respond to you Kenia, like we, I I think have already talked about like, how are some ways that we could have some sort of like storyteller alums be involved in like future seasons and like, if there are opportunities or workshops or things going forward, like making sure that everybody gets an invite. Because I think the dream is also just to like, have cool storytelling friends who like wanna think and talk about this stuff, which is, you know, kind of how this season has felt is like, whoa, we have the opportunity to like learn from so many people and hear so many different stories and like, how do we, you know, preserve that and like make sure that those connections don't just like vanish it to the earth after this is over.
Louise Palanker (00:23:24):
Tell us more about that. Have they all had a chance to get to know one another?
Georgia Wright (00:23:29):
Well, there was a goal of having the cohort be more like a workshop, you know, where we would all get together at the same time. But I think that we sorely underestimated how difficult it is to get nine young people's schedules to align. Particularly when some people are like starting college and like in different countries and, you know, what have you. So we're, we're definitely, uh, going forward that is something I would really like to improve upon is maybe like setting some designated times a ahead of the season that's like, you have to be here at this time on this day, like, make time for it. Um, because I do think that the value there is like a, a value in that. But we have had some people like Khia I think you you connected with with um, Muta, right? Or who, who were you able to talk to?
Kenia Hale (00:24:14):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Me and Muta, we had a good conversation and it was very sweet cuz like, she was about to go off to college and I had just, and in college it was like a nice little mentorship moment, but
Georgia Wright (00:24:24):
Oh yeah, Luke's our youngest storyteller. She's uh, I believe still 17. So
Louise Palanker (00:24:29):
Still 17. Oh my gosh. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. All right. Well, tell us where folks can find it.
Georgia Wright (00:24:34):
Uh, you can find inherited, well you can read more about inherited at yr.media/inherited or you can find inherited wherever you get your podcast, which includes Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, uh, all, all of that good stuff. So, uh, just Google inherited podcast, it'll pop up, but, um, it is on a wide variety of platforms and listening is super encouraged. If you can leave us an Apple, uh, podcast, uh, rating and review, that's even better. Absolutely.
Fritz Coleman (00:25:00):
And the new season drops tomorrow.
Georgia Wright (00:25:02):
Well, Kane's story drops tomorrow. The new season is already, we've already had two episodes come up.
Fritz Coleman (00:25:06):
Louise Palanker (00:25:07):
Okay. Well, so we are gonna have links in our show notes. Uh, just if you're listening in the car and you don't wanna do anything dangerous, just go home and it'll be right there in your show notes. And, or you can just put if inherited podcast into Google and I promise Google will take you there. I want to thank both of you for being with us.
Georgia Wright (00:25:24):
What, enjoy. Thank you so much.
Fritz Coleman (00:25:25):
You know, George, I have a daughter your age and at least once a week I say, please hurry up and grow up cuz you have to save us from ourselves. I think your generation is gonna do it. Yes.
Georgia Wright (00:25:35):
That's, that's what they say. That's what they say nobody else has. So we got, we gotta <laugh> we're
Louise Palanker (00:25:41):
Gonna do our part too. Thank you so much. You're both wonderful. Thank you.
Georgia Wright (00:25:45):
All right, take care. Bye.
Louise Palanker (00:25:46):
Care. Bye-bye. Hello?
Fritz Coleman (00:25:48):
Hey Spencer. How are you?
Spencer Proffer (00:25:49):
I am on the media path.
Fritz Coleman (00:25:51):
Louise Palanker (00:25:52):
Spencer Proffer is a media and record producer who brought us the multi-platinum come on field, the Noise from Quiet Riot and their metal health album. He is the CEO, E O of Media 17, a convergence media production company. His newest, brilliant creation offers us a deep examination of the iconic song American Pie. The film is called The Day the Music Died, and it is streaming on Paramount Plus. Welcome Spencer. You've well, thank you. You've made a film about a song that ends darkly The girl who sings the Blues offers no Happy news. God moves to California, the music is dead, the singer is about to die. But defiantly American pie is music that continues to be relentlessly and joyfully sung. Is that defiance part of our traction to the song?
Spencer Proffer (00:26:38):
Well, let me give you a clue that will light you up. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> <affirmative>, it doesn't end. It might end darkly literally, but figuratively and emotionally, it personifies hope. And the song is 51 years old. And of course we look at an examination how divided America was then, how it is now, but there's hope for a better day. What Don McClean did in his infinite wisdom and poetry and insight was he sensed that this song would have application to many people of many levels. My job was to take that instinct, bring it forward, past, present, and future generations. Which is why we have a cover from Jay Bird, who's 24 years old, grew up in England, why we have a Spanish language cover that's gonna hit 20 Latin markets that the song may have been familiar to in English, but now with the reggae Spanish approach brilliantly done by Mao and Jen Carlo. Now this is about hope for the future.
Fritz Coleman (00:27:43):
I gotta tell you this, this connects back to an earlier discussion before you got here that Weezy had about your other beautiful piece of work chasing train. I thought there was a similarity between John Coltrane and Don McClean, and that is, there seems to be divine visitation in the creation of both of their works. I mean, Don sort of suggests that the words just came and it poured out of him. And he wrote parts of it in a short period of time. And Cole Train was absolutely connected to a higher power. So I I I feel like there was divine intervention in the creation of both of their works. Would you agree with that?
Spencer Proffer (00:28:18):
Not only do I agree with that Pritz, and that's fantastic insight, but the next four docs that I have in queue are all from people who feel that too. Steve Bender, who brought the Elvis back after Colonel Parker flushed him, and I'm making the comeback special documentary with Bender for Paramount and Viacom, Eddie Kramer engineered, I don't know, five albums for Zeppelin the Stones, two for the Beatles, two, uh, all you need is love. Maybe you're a rich man. And every Jimi Hendrix record, he got it early, but he was behind the curtain. Every one of these people, Lamont Dozier, who wrote All the Big Supremes for top, um, Arthur Nav,
Fritz Coleman (00:29:03):
He just passed away, didn't he? Or some one of the Lamont Dozier Holland or Holland Dozier Holland just passed. Somebody passed.
Spencer Proffer (00:29:08):
Yes. He, no, Lamont passed. His wife passed a year ago. He's very dear to me. But before he passed, we had been sculpting cuz I've known Lamont for about 30 years. I knew Lamont very dear to me as a human being. Our kids went to school together. Um, when he wrote Standing in the Shadows, when he wrote heatwave, when he wrote Quicksand with the Hollands, he actually was thinking of a higher power two. Cuz it wasn't just the pop application, it was pretty deep. Think of America, were we in a heat wave? Have we been standing in the shadows? Are we hearing the same old song? Of course you put that in musical terms, but it's deeper than that. The higher power exists there too.
Fritz Coleman (00:29:54):
That's really interesting.
Louise Palanker (00:29:55):
I wanna talk for a moment about lyric interpretation. And I know that, you know, you wait till the end of the film and then you get McClean's take on it. But this is probably the stuff of college courses, right? Yes. That we just love to go in and it, it doesn't it. Do you think that when McClain wrote the lyrics, it didn't matter whether or not we interpreted them accurately? It was almost better that we didn't
Spencer Proffer (00:30:24):
Well ask John <laugh>, John Lennon about Lucy in the Sky. Ask the Beatles, ask Elton Bernie Toppin the thing that's beautiful about music. Look at Paul Simon with his poetry. Everybody can interpret what they hear as it relates to them. For Don, he wrote the song from his heart, not thinking what it means to you or Fritz or anybody else, what it meant to him. And if it touched the world, fantastic. It did. And it touched me as a student at U C A when I heard it. And boy, it ring my bell. But the point is, and it's wrong people's bells for the last 51 years, but I think the beauty and poetry, if you read a tennis and a Keith Shelly, a a Shakespeare poem, you might mean it might mean something different to you then a Wadsworth poem means to Fritz. You know? So it's all interpretive with the art form. And I think music and songs are the greatest art form in my lifetime.
Fritz Coleman (00:31:27):
Beautifully said. I also think that sometimes, um, and you mentioned Paul Simon, uh, uh, and I agree with that completely. He has very cryptic lyrics that people have questions over time. And sometimes the more cryptic they are, the more they draw people in and it draws analysis a little bit more. So if you don't understand it completely, it's like any great work of art, it's e it's even more profound if you don't understand it at first.
Louise Palanker (00:31:51):
Spencer Proffer (00:31:52):
I think it's great. The first time I heard Bridgeable Troubled Water, the first time I heard Parsley, Sage, what it meant to me the first time, the first time I heard old prints or Homeward Bound. Sure. It has its literal application, literal applications. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But you go deep, it's deeper. And I think Paul Simon is the one of the deepest poets in my lifetime. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think Don McClean with Vincent Pretty Deep
Fritz Coleman (00:32:18):
Too. That song brings me to tears to this day. It's such a beautiful song because
Louise Palanker (00:32:22):
Spencer Proffer (00:32:23):
Just wait, see?
Louise Palanker (00:32:23):
Yeah. No, I was gonna say it. I know he's singing about Vincent, but he's singing about every person in our lives who's genius but too delicate for the world. And we all
Fritz Coleman (00:32:33):
Louise Palanker (00:32:34):
And Yeah. And we all know the, we all have loved ones. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I, I wanted to to ask you, um, about the reason maybe humans are drawn to these metaphors might be that our dreams are metaphors. Our dreams are, you wake up and you're like, what was that? My teacher was at the supermarket with my, you know, football coach and I, there was a band playing. It's, it's a metaphor that represents our fears and our desires. I think that's what dreams are. And so when we hear that in the lyrics of the music that, that we love, I think we're drawn to wanna know more. We wanna understand more
Spencer Proffer (00:33:10):
All day. Well, we've done, I have a book division that's run by my wife Judy, and we have an illustrated children's book. Yeah. Called On Don McLean's American Pie. It's right here. And it's about hopes. It's about, you can go on Amazon and you can see it. There's a good holiday item to give to kids and all. Yeah. It's for children, but it's not, it's for all of us. Because it speaks to dreams, it speaks to the prequel, to American Pie. When we all could have hope when we all know what it is to experience loss. Of course we lost Buddy Holly, but we've lost a lot more. One of the docs that I'm making next year is called, all I Have to Do is Dream What Is At. That was not only the Everly hit and partnered with Del Bryant, whose parents wrote that, as well as Love Hurts and Bye by Love and some other great songs. They were kind of the pioneers of Nashville. But we're doing a dream book that my illustrator and art director, who's been with me for 38 years, Hugh Simon is putting together now. And it's all about dreams, interpretive dreams, not only what that song made you think of, but other images that cause you to dream. So I'm using every doc that I produce to extend into the thing that moves me the most hope and dreams.
Fritz Coleman (00:34:33):
I love that. I, I'll tell you one, there, there are lots of interesting facts, uh, in this thing. And one that really, uh, gave me pause was the story of the crash site in Iowa, clear Lake, Iowa. When the song came out, the owners of the farm in Iowa, which incidentally are very respectful to the, to the history of that now, and have, you know, very tasteful memorials there, but the owners of the Iowa Farm had no idea the song was talking about their farm.
Spencer Proffer (00:35:05):
Fritz Coleman (00:35:06):
Somebody had that. That's so that's astonishing to me.
Spencer Proffer (00:35:09):
But it happened. And having the guy who owned the aircraft, the private plane that crashed Ooh, do a dive to find out why did it crash? Was it weather? Was it Pilot Air? Was it an ancestor of the guy who crashed Kobe Bryant's plane? We don't know. Oh my. What we do know is what it is. What it was. And my job as the producer was to bring it forward so that you and d and everybody who can see this and watch Paramount Plus who believed in the vision all along, I give them huge shout out props. Bruce Gilmer, Bob Bakish ties Edgar, the guys who truly understand music, which is why they had MTV and VH1 and C M T, the real music people. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which is why this project partnered with them versus X, Y, or Z. It wasn't a pitching exercise, it was me sharing it. Thank God I have some good relationships. I shared the vision, which was embodied into the doc that you saw. I mean it was sketched in my mind. And then we made it reality.
Fritz Coleman (00:36:20):
And it's particularly, uh, Spencer touching to those of us in Southern California. Cuz we all have a proprietary interest in Richie Valen. He's a, he's an LA guy. He was a Pacoima born and raised. And I thought one of the most touching parts was you, uh, including her, uh, his sister in the dock and then having her meet Don at the end. Honest to God, it was like somebody going to lords to be healed. She was so overtaken with emotion at the chance to meet Don McClain and thank him for writing this song because it kept the memory of her brother alive as well. That was very moving.
Spencer Proffer (00:36:52):
Absolutely. The Lab Bamba movie was kind of a anchor. But Don being a student of pop culture, being a student of music, it was really Don's idea to embrace Connie Valance. And she was surprised she was moved. That was real genuine. It's not a reality show, but that was reality.
Fritz Coleman (00:37:13):
No, she was quite beautiful then I thought.
Louise Palanker (00:37:15):
And then where, where you did it, where the, where the Oh man. The finale of
Spencer Proffer (00:37:19):
Your Well that was the context. Yeah. Because if we did it in a parking lot, that's one thing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but to do it actually at the site mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which was the last concert before the plane took off, that was pretty poignant. There's no accidents. The accident was their interaction, the purity of the emotion, the hug. I didn't stage that I was in LA mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's Covid time. I wasn't allowed to go there. Yeah. But the point is, the vision of them connecting is one thing, but what happened when they connected is another
Fritz Coleman (00:37:52):
Louise Palanker (00:37:52):
It's like they've been connected this whole time since the moment he wrote the
Fritz Coleman (00:37:56):
Song. And there's so many revelations in this. And the other one is that there are people that know every, I, I don't even know every lyric in this song. I, I, I go along a long, long time ago then I got Har and then do that and then you pick it up later. But, but there are people in other languages that speak not a word of English, but know every single word of that song and sing it in English and it's the only English they know. That's how it's impacted other cultures.
Spencer Proffer (00:38:21):
Well, one reason I wanted to do, and this is my idea, I wanted to at least pick a language and I thought Spanish travels very well. Especially cuz MTB International has a very big initiative in Latin markets. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I was fortunate to secure a couple of young, you know, Maio is 36, Jen Carlo is 24 with huge socials, or I think he's 26, but it's the Next Gen and how the song permeated their souls and to be able to do a version that they decorate in Spanish. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> Pretty cool. Very cool. And that, but the chorus, if you note Brits is in English and the Chorus, bye by Miss American Pie drove my Chevy Levy. Don is singing that chorus with them. So that's kind of cool too. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So you actually get the bonding of both cultures and application of music with Don and these 20 year old guy.
Fritz Coleman (00:39:20):
These, yeah. The younger country band that did the Beautiful Harmony that was quite beautiful. I don't know what the name what, what was the name of that group? Home
Spencer Proffer (00:39:27):
Fritz Coleman (00:39:28):
Free Humphrey. Really Beautiful guys. And then that guy Ruben, I think is was his name. He was a Puerto Rican or a Cuban kid who said, I learned this song in my country when I was young cuz my mom played it. I mean, I had no idea of the intercultural significance of that song until I watched this thing. It's pretty amazing.
Spencer Proffer (00:39:45):
Well, that was Purpose of This Home Free actually was a brainchild. That Duet with Don was a brainchild of Don's manager Cured Webster. And that was put together, um, yeah. In the context not only of this doc, they did it to do it because it was the right thing to do to bring the song forward. But clearly when I heard it, when I felt it, when I talked to Kurt about it, I talked to the band, they were very gracious about saying it should be part of the film. They'd be glad to be interviewed, talk about it, how it touched them. And it became a very important part of talk about
Louise Palanker (00:40:21):
This. Yeah. Finish that, finish that sentence.
Spencer Proffer (00:40:24):
Well, I was just gonna say, it became an important part of the journey of the song. This isn't the journey of an artist like Most docs. This is the journey of a piece of poetry. Mm-hmm.
Louise Palanker (00:40:35):
<affirmative>. So your wishlist was, I would guess pretty much fulfilled in terms of, you have Brian Wilson, you have Garth Brooks, you have Weird Al <laugh>. Talk about when you conceived of this project who you'd want and who, maybe you had to turn some folks away who wanted to speak about the song.
Spencer Proffer (00:40:51):
No, Garth Brooks was Don McClean's idea. And that's his idea for two reasons. One, they're dear to one another. And two, all the words that Garth laid out in the doc were pure. He heard it as a
Fritz Coleman (00:41:05):
Kid. He's so articulate. He's, he's a communicator. He's so beautiful. He really, really is. And even the way he set it up and how, he's the one that said he thought it was maybe the greatest song ever written. And then that whole thing where he brought Don out by surprise in Central Park was, I had tears in my eyes. It was quite beautiful,
Spencer Proffer (00:41:22):
Fritz. It was real. Yeah. See, the thing about this doc that I believe is the blessing to those who get the chance to see it and appreciate it. It is, it's real, it is not a stage thing. The Central Park thing, of course, um, Garth called on and asked him to fly in, but he did it because Garth Brooks is a brilliant talent. You don't sell a hundred million records by not being the real deal. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But it was him. I didn't script it. Nobody scripted it. Those were guards words as far as, um, who the other, the, the Latin people. Those were their words. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, those were their feelings. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I didn't script it. I just felt that they should have the platform by which to say what they felt. Rudy Perez is the guy. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, who was, he's probably the leading Latin producer who has done Spanish language versions of songs for Beyonce, for Christina Aguigui. He's an old friend of mine and he didn't have the time to actually produce a track, but he sure made the time to speak about it. Those don't tell
Fritz Coleman (00:42:28):
Him I called him Ruben, I apologize.
Spencer Proffer (00:42:29):
His name is Ruben. It's okay. Rudy is fine. I call him Ruben. Just call him <laugh>. But
Louise Palanker (00:42:33):
The Point <laugh>,
Spencer Proffer (00:42:36):
You know, but the bottom line is these are all real people. So my wishlist of who to speak to, it was pure people. You didn't have to be famous. Garth happened to be, coincidentally a superstar and have a great point of view. But some of these other people, they're new Jade Bird, the young girl from England, she's 24 years old. Wow. Not a, she's not a superstar. That was beautiful. But Lady Gagas producer felt it. And he had produced Brandy Carlisle as well as Jade. He produced it in Nashville. Um, the whole idea was purity is the answer. Too many docs and too much media happens to be staged. And this is probably one of those few docs, I hope it goes to where it, we just found out we can't qualify for a Grammy because we would've won hands down, other than I think Peter Jackson did a great job with the Beatles, let it be then. But because their rule is 51% performance, our doc isn't a performance doc, it's a cinematic doc. That's why we went to Clear Lake. That's why we shot the poignant scenes we shot. It wasn't just regurgitating video after video. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And the bottom line is, I'm so proud of it. It's it's good. It's a legacy project for me too. For
Louise Palanker (00:43:54):
Sure. Really beautiful. And it's, it's, I mean the, the tone and the purpose is, is reverence. Like everyone brings that to the project because I think what, you know, we're talking about a pop song that is, that is sung joyfully at bars and it's a song that's celebrated. But what it's about is something really tragic. And then to pull that kind of joy out of that tragedy is, is what humans do to put one foot in front of the other and, and have meaning in, in their lives. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, and bring that to their children. And
Fritz Coleman (00:44:29):
As you and Spencer both said at the beginning, the, it, it's this spectacular piece of poetry, but it also is a great description of that moment on the planet. The war, the civil unrest, the assassinations, the tectonic shift in music. It described the world that we were in at that moment as well.
Spencer Proffer (00:44:50):
Absolutely. Boy, you're good. That's absolutely correct. That is the essence of what has permeated its longevity. And I think Don is very intuitive in that he knew that, he felt that, but he let it roll, like you said, because he was living it. And for us to get the benefit of that 51 years later, I think it's a blessing for all that gets a chance to see it. So for those of you listening to Media Path in this podcast, I urge you, cuz you can get a subscription to Paramount Plus and see it. It's, it's gonna be on there for a long time. I hope. As long as the song is so, 50 years from now when I'm not around, I'll still be watching it from upstairs.
Fritz Coleman (00:45:36):
Anybody that's, you know, our Asians slightly younger, it's a piece of your history. You need to watch this because it, it will, it will resurrect feelings you haven't had in a long time. How
Louise Palanker (00:45:46):
Do you think that, that Don looks at the song differently through the lens of time than he did in, in 1972? Does is he kind of astounded at how prescient he was?
Spencer Proffer (00:45:57):
Well do you look at things differently today than you did when you were growing up? I do. You know what, it's an evolving experience called life. Right. And we all see things. I look at things differently today than I did 10 years ago. Being a father has touched my soul. Coaching their teams. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> being on the board of their schools meant a lot to me. I wasn't planning that when I was in my twenties. So, you know, you just pivot. You deal with it. I didn't know I'd be producing music anchor documentaries as this chapter of my life. But now that I've embraced it, I'm all in. And um, yeah, I did media stuff way back to my Billy Thorpe Laser Light show days where I wrote a song, produced a record, and put it in planetariums and started laser light shows in my twenties. That was cool. But I didn't think I'd make a living doing that. I'm making a living doing what I'm doing, but I'm loving every minute of it.
Fritz Coleman (00:46:51):
Well then you're the winner. You know, uh, this thing, uh, broke Glass Ceilings. This was the first record on Top 40 Radio at eight and a half minutes long. Usually it was two and a half, three, three and a half minutes to be a top 40 song. And Correct programmers rejected it. The mu the the uh, record company thought nobody's gonna play this. And, and Don had to stick to his guns. And then after the first time they played it on Top 40 Radio, the audience rose up in defiance and said, no, we want you to play that song all the time. <laugh>. So it, I think it, I I think it was the first time a record of that length had ever been played. And then you had Stairway to Heaven led Zeppelin and, and Knights and White Satin with the Moody Blues. But this was the first one.
Spencer Proffer (00:47:37):
Yeah. Free Bird by Skynyrd. Right. Um, yeah, if you look at any homework as to my own career path, not to pat myself on the back, but everything I've done that's been massively successful has gone against the grain for the institutions. But it's connected to the public Quiet riot when, come on Field, Illinois and Bang Your Head got on the radio. Boy the record company hated it. Every, all the gatekeepers hated it, but the kids loved it. So when it went to number one phones, all of a sudden, there you go. It blew up. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I'm used to that. Godsend Monsters a movie I was a producer on. Nobody wanted to know about that movie. We won an Academy award. So the point is, Don McClean, I give him lots of props for sticking to his guns and learning how to take a No, he didn't know what no meant cuz it, it just was what it was. I know what no means cuz I get rejected a lot cuz I'm way outside the box. But being outside the box is really in the box if you connect with the kids.
Louise Palanker (00:48:38):
Tell us about your, your childhood. Did you always have good instincts?
Spencer Proffer (00:48:43):
I had poor instincts. <laugh>. I was, I was poor. I'm an immigrant. I came to America when I was six years old and we lived in a place in America that not too many people would come from Germany or Poland too, which is Albuquerque. And I got beat up and I was chastised for being a long-haired German speaking young Jewish kid, <laugh>. And that's okay because I learned to fight back. How did I fight back? You have no choice. So my instincts were always to turn the other cheek. And in the words of Michelle Obama, which I admire beyond words itself mm-hmm. <affirmative>, when they go low, you go high. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And I've managed to accept that precept way back when I heard another song for its, that was a long song like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, and there was a great line in that song when you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose. Perfect. And that's kind of how I grew up. Dina. I didn't have very much a, you know, a hot plate as a kid coming up I did. Okay. I graduated college UCLA at 20, got my law degree at 23 and I was just an overachiever cause I was so poor. There was the only way to go. But that was up.
Louise Palanker (00:49:59):
Wow. So talk, let's go back to the laser light shows because I'm interested in, you know, your instinct for, uh, entertaining folks and what drew you to that?
Spencer Proffer (00:50:10):
Well my friend Billy Thorpe, God rested his soul was like the Springsteen esque superstar in Australia. He'd come to America, long story, not for this podcast on how we met, but we together wrote a song called Children of the Son, which is still the, the number two big recurrent on Deep tracks, serious xm. And that song for its was seven minutes. It wasn't as long as American Pie, but it was seven minutes and five seconds. And it dealt with aliens from another galaxy watching the earth self-destruct and offering everybody a dream a better life. I developed that. I, I made it I s shock that I couldn't get arrested. Small label out Macon, Georgia Capricorn Records picked it up, it got on a few radio stations that like Quiet Riot, like American Pie went to number one cuz it connected to the street. And we developed the computer animated laser choreography of the words to the album, which I was part of. And I granted a Griffith Park planetarium here and this is when I was 27 years old. <laugh>. Oh my God. So, you know, you get a buck off on the album to go to the laser show Griffith Park where Adele just did a great concert and uh, you get a buck off on the planetarium show if you by the record <laugh>. So that was cross promotion before
Fritz Coleman (00:51:30):
School. You're one of the great marketers of all time <laugh>. That's great.
Spencer Proffer (00:51:34):
D dude. That was 1977 <laugh>. Anyway, the point is that, um, once it caught on, because again it connected with the public, we then took that same later light show I premiered at, at a major radio convention in San Diego called the Ruben Fleet Space Theater. Uh, hosted by Lee Abrams who is the leading American radio programmer. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, I'm now making a doc on America's fascination with radio through the decades with Lee as a partner. And I premiered it there. I was a guest speaker 1979. That took off so well that not only did it take the record everywhere, but planetariums everywhere copped what we did. That became the beginning of the laser light shows.
Louise Palanker (00:52:20):
Tell us about your radio doc cuz I also have a, a history in radio. We have Mutual colleague and Radio de la Garza. So I wanna hear more about that cuz I've obviously have a deep love for radio.
Spencer Proffer (00:52:33):
Well what I can do to tell you much more about it is you'll email me your email address. I'll send you the deck. But the essence of it is Lee Abrams before Ray, when Ray was in high school, I love Ray Ray's one of my dearest buddies. Yeah. Um, Lee was programming rock radio across America. Sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties. One of the founders of XM Radio. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So he reached out to me three years ago and said, I have an idea. I said, great, everybody's got ideas. Tell me your idea, <laugh>. And he said blah, blah blah. And he wanted to do a Sonic Messengers film. Sonic Messengers is really about the message that radio would talk to the people at sixties rock and roll, seventies singer songwriter, eighties metal nineties alternative. I understand this stuff cuz I, I come from the music. Right. So I said, Lee, you're under something.
Why don't we think about how it also permeated other cultures? So let's see if we can galvanize a teammate. And we did. Cuz I'm a big fan of Monty Python and I'm very friendly with the people at ca a who represent John Cleese mm-hmm. <affirmative>, who is kind of the visionary behind that. We now have, this is a sneak peek. We're not making this until next year, but John Cleese is our executive producer. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And we're gonna learn from his perspective as an Englishman through Monty Python, through that whole period, how um, American Radio impacted the world. But that's what it is. And I'll send you the deck and you'll see what it speaks to. It's really good. It's really smart. That sounds amazing.
Fritz Coleman (00:54:13):
Spencer Proffer (00:54:14):
We haven't picked our directory yet. We haven't put the team together yet because I'm busy finishing my Elvis comeback documentary for Biocom with Stephen, who was Steve Bender, who was the Visionary Pirate, who told Colonel Parker where to go look at the Bas Lerman movie. And Steve is my partner on that. Yeah,
Fritz Coleman (00:54:32):
I, I, I, listen, I, we, we've, wy and I have both read books about Elvis, cuz we've had authors on here that Delve Inder was life. But I had no idea that darkness of Colonel Parker, what a negative influence he was on and how controlling he was. That looks fantastic.
Spencer Proffer (00:54:49):
Um, oh, and
Fritz Coleman (00:54:49):
Bass Lemon did the forward for you. Good for you.
Spencer Proffer (00:54:52):
No kidding. You think there's an accident here? <laugh> consultant, binder consultant on the movie. I own the book with Steve. We put it forward. We're the number one bestseller on all music books at Amazon. And we have been for a while, but we're also a bestseller at Barnes. Not, uh, not Barnes and Novo, um, Walmart, Costco, um, uh, Sam's Club, et cetera. Because it speaks to stuff that the public didn't really know. Where I'm going to do with this doc, like I did with the McLean Dock, is lift the curtain on information. Best touched on it in the movie when Elvis says to the character playing Bender, Hey, so you know, Steve, what do you think of my career? And Steve goes, it's in the toilet. It's the first time they,
Fritz Coleman (00:55:36):
They did that right up at the Hollywood sign. I love that conversation. Yeah, that was
Spencer Proffer (00:55:39):
Great. Yeah. Yeah. But it didn't happen at the Hollywood sign. But Bass Lerman is such a great filmmaker. Yeah. He wanted to draw you in. It happened in Colonel Parker's MGM office. Ah. And Parker was embarrassed, but then he's a criminal, but he, I'm sorry he's not alive. But what we're gonna do is our doc is, is called, and you can go under my site, billboard and broke the story about a month ago. It's called Elvis and Steve, and it's a buddy story. Butch Cassidy. And Sundance was being made at the same time. You get a lot of buddy stories and then you have poignant, like films that were made at the time. Like, uh, what was it? Um, cool. Hand Luke mm-hmm. <affirmative> Rebellion Against Society. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, guess who's coming to dinner? And then you have Elvis making clam Bank for Paramount. Cuz Colonel Parker needed a big commission. Oh sure. So what what we are going to do is lift the curtain on all that.
Fritz Coleman (00:56:32):
When's this gonna drop?
Spencer Proffer (00:56:34):
Fritz Coleman (00:56:35):
That? When's this movie gonna drop
Spencer Proffer (00:56:36):
Fritz Coleman (00:56:37):
Will it be theatrical or streaming or both?
Spencer Proffer (00:56:39):
No, no, it's Paramount Plus. Oh, okay. And I love the fact you love chasing train because my director for that, John Scheinfeld, is making this doc right
Fritz Coleman (00:56:48):
Now. I'll tell you another beautiful aspect of chasing train was the visual aspect. The animation and the transitions between sections. What was very interpretive, it was kind of like train's music, you know, the colors just evolved on screen and it was, uh, it was cartooned like, not cartoon like that cuz that underplays it. But it, it was beautiful. Conventional. Yes. It was very, uh, it was very impactful.
Louise Palanker (00:57:10):
And, and also, and, and the way that the home movies were incorporated, uh, it was mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you just really
Spencer Proffer (00:57:17):
Felt like he, I'm gonna give, I'm gonna give one of my directors, Dave Harding, who, um, he knew I was into celestial stuff. Remember I just talked about Billy Thor? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And if you look at the opening of chasing Train, it's very celestial. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And you see the images of a saxophone, you hear the music and it's from another planet. Then you dissolve into real life. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So there's some correlation there. But I give Harding a lot of credit for overseeing it, putting it together. My job is to build great teams, take my visions, and take it way further than I ever could. And that's what we did. That's what I do on all my docs. Is it good or bad? I don't know, but it's what gets me off. Very
Fritz Coleman (00:57:58):
Good doing, uh, I mean the, the, the proof is in the pudding. And the pudding is that, as I freely admitted at the end of my little discussion of it, and wheezy sort of substantiated my opinion. And that is I'm not enough of a, a, a music, uh, aficionado to understand all of his music. Uh, it was very interpretive and it was very, it was on another level. But I appreciated the art. I appreciated the devotion. I dev, I appreciated his connection to spirituality and Yep. Uh, it was so what I, uh, what I ended up saying was, this is worth your while to look at. Even if you're not a huge fan of that particular format of jazz. It's a beautiful Me too. It's a beautiful, um, it's a beautiful look at a devoted pure artist.
Spencer Proffer (00:58:48):
A hundred percent the reason I did this mm-hmm. <affirmative> because in my soul, I'm a Zeppelin, Bowie, Beatles fan. Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and a singer songwriter fan. Mm-hmm. Graham Nash, Carol King, Elton Bernie, these are my favorite. Yeah. Same. Kent Stevens. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. They're poets. But I had to do this when I got the opportunity, not because I'm a big fan of jazz, although I ran Blue Note when I was running an artist, creative when I was a kid. But, and, and I understand it a little bit, not as much though as the true aficionados, but I do understand humanity and spirituality. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and hope and dreams and all that. And I am gravitating toward Artis that are hope, that permeate hope and are full of being dreams. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that's who I am. I'm a big dreamer. Right.
Louise Palanker (00:59:38):
And, and they're seeking connection.
Fritz Coleman (00:59:40):
They are. And, and, and Trane was all about love, his love for God, his love for the universe. And there's such a beautiful purity in that. And uh, it drove him to the heights of his creation, which was the love Supreme.
Spencer Proffer (00:59:55):
Yep. Yep. But that's, I love that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, everybody I'm working with today, and I hope it's tomorrow and it's forever, is coming from that place. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, be it Lamont Doja, be it Eddie Kramer, be it, you know, even Lee Abrams is a radio programmer, be it Steven Schwartz who wrote Pip and Godspell Pippen. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> in Wicked. I'm making Stevens documentary. He's an artist. And why would he have me be that guy when he is the Andrew Lloyd Weber of America? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Well, maybe because I go deep between the weeds, I go into the weeds and between the lines. And that's what I hope distinguishes stuff that my company puts out to the world. And
Fritz Coleman (01:00:36):
I, I met, I met Steven in Starbucks in Toluca Lake when he was there with Winnie, the person that wrote the book for Wicked
Spencer Proffer (01:00:43):
Fritz Coleman (01:00:43):
Holtzman. Yeah. Winnie Holtzman, who is a Taluka Lake resident, as am I. And I got to meet him there. And I was so excited. And this was just at the peak of Wicked's Power when, uh, you know, it was, it was the hottest thing on Broadway.
Louise Palanker (01:00:56):
I think you have the gift of, in inclusion and collaboration, I think that people wanna work with you because you're about celebrating, you know, each of their gifts and putting teams together that are better than the sum, uh, uh, their parts. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and that's one of your geniuses.
Spencer Proffer (01:01:12):
Hundred percent. And I think it harkens back to my high school college days when I played football. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and being a quarterback has two great virtues. One quarterback, it's a girl always first <laugh>. And number two, there's 11 guys on the team. What does that mean? That means everybody plays a different position. I like calling the place and getting out of the way. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> let the team win. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> let, everybody gets a Super Bowl ring, not just the quarterback. So I've kind of lived my life with the precepts I learned as a 16 year old. And it works for me. I don't know how many other call them leaders or mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, quarterbacks will let other people have a little bit of the limelight. I don't care. I can go to the back of the bus. What I care about is that the team wins and the team I wanna play for is the artist. And that's why the artist will gravitate toward me. Cuz my, my mission will be to put the halo on them. I'll get a halo for doing it, but fine, I don't care. I've never been that big a halo guy, but my projects have actually done. Okay. And they're usually about people that aren't the most famous, but they're probably as good as it gets.
Louise Palanker (01:02:24):
Well I think that's what what leadership is, is letting everybody shine and having, you know, having you, you know, your ego in, in a spot where you're, you're you're, you are going to shine when the project shines. You don't need to shine individually cuz you inherently understand that this project only shines when we all shine. And like in knowing, right. And, and letting people play to their strengths and knowing what lane to put folks in. So that, and putting people on your team that aren't going to try to, you know, maneuver and, and box anybody out. They're all gonna wanna have everybody shining. Those are, those are leaders. That's what a leader is.
Spencer Proffer (01:03:01):
Well, I have a lady who's my GM named Bethany Claypool, who's a very big visionary marketing PR person. And everybody on my team from Bethany on through, if you go onto my website and look at my team, they're all a, my friends be they have families. They care about their families first. And none of them are so ego out that they won't collaborate with each other. And they've all been next to me for at least a decade, if not longer. My art director, Hughes Simon told me yesterday, he's clocking his 38th year next to me. It doesn't mean that David Geffen couldn't use him to do stuff for him. It doesn't mean that all my people can't do other things. But when it comes to my projects, I don't force them to work on 'em. They wanna,
Fritz Coleman (01:03:48):
I I want to, uh, bring, uh, this all back to the beautiful piece of work that Spencer Proffer produced called the Day the Music Died, the Story of American Pie, the, uh, the master work of Don McClain. And I just wanted to read some quotes. These are sound bites from various stars and non stars and various people in the music industry and people who were touched by Don's music that made these comments. During your documentary, uh, Don put into words what everybody was feeling. Here's another one. The song is woven into the fabric of American culture. Here's another one. The song means a million different things to a million different people. We talked about that. Here's one. And this was said by Garth Brooks. It is probably the greatest song ever written. And the one that really touched me, although it's on the darker side, it was a eulogy for the Death of a Generation. All very profound comments about this great song. He said that last quote, I'm not sure
Louise Palanker (01:04:50):
Wow. With Death is Rebirth, so mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. It's as Don the moment he wrote that song, he was feeling that type of way. But as he's seen by planting the song in the consciousness of, of the globe, it sprung all kinds of new life.
Spencer Proffer (01:05:07):
Fritz Coleman (01:05:08):
Is he still working? Does he do concerts?
Spencer Proffer (01:05:10):
Yeah. Yeah. He's in Europe now. He just sent me an email from Ireland, from Belfast. Oh wow. And he, he sent me a interview that he just did. Yeah. Kurt has been doing a good job managing him. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> Don is probably doing three months of dates now in Europe. Wow. Coming back to do more. The guy's 76 years old and he's still going because he doesn't know anything else. Graham Nash is 79 from Crosby Stills crazy. And Graham's very, very dear to me. We just did a book on our house where we had Carol King write the dedication. Oh, nice. And I mean, Graham is a poet, Don is a poet. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, Brian Wilson is a poet. You know, Bernie Toppin is a poet. There's, these are all people that I think the golden agent Renaissance music in America mm-hmm. <affirmative> was when these guys 69 through 74. And what I'm really proud to do with Eddie Kramer, who I brought up earlier, he engineered a lot of this music, Zeppelin, the Stones, Beatles, et cetera. So for me, bringing the pass forward, I've worked with Brian May from Queen, he was very much behind Bohemian Rhapsody, which only made 1,000,000,002 at the box office. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I mean, it's okay to bring classic stuff forward as long as we should make it relatable. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> to the next gen mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that's kind of, that's what I'm trying to do. Mm-hmm.
Louise Palanker (01:06:29):
<affirmative>, I think it is because it's just the human condition. So if it was relatable, then we're still humans. We still are trying to figure out, you know, young people are trying to figure out who am I? Where do I fit in? What is my life gonna be about? And those themes are universal and they're consistent. So, and that's what you're identifying and, and showcasing is beautiful.
Spencer Proffer (01:06:46):
Well, I'm trying to use media Yeah. By what I know how to do to make a difference in pop culture. Some people do it with medicine, some people do it with art, you know, everybody has their own lane. And the lane that I'm in, I'm gonna double down on, which is how to produce docks more than features, features take four years. I could do a dock in 18 months and have a little more control is a lot less, uh, less moving parts to making a dock 90 minute documentary than it is making a to our
Louise Palanker (01:07:21):
Film. You know, what else Spencer? We have access to docs now. So 20 years ago we didn't have so much access to docs. They weren't even being show on TV that often. Now we doc fans are finding their docs and it's like if you go on any platform and they know that you like docs, they show you more docs that you're gonna like mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so they're, they're available.
Spencer Proffer (01:07:40):
Well, what I'm trying to do is permeate the distinction from the docs that I make. One reason I love working with the people at Viacom Paramount plus MTV is they get it. Mm-hmm. They get it because they come from the music. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they happen to be executives with a tremendous platform. But Bruce Gilmer, who's a president of music, is a music fan through and through it, it goes to his soul. Mm-hmm. When he was at vh1, when he was running the music for other international companies, these are, Bob Backish was the president of, of MTV International. He, he's a guitar player, I mean mm-hmm. <affirmative>, sometimes he and I talk about what guitar he's gonna jam on at night when he's done running his 20 billion company. <laugh>. Wow. But, but, but the point is those are real people. That's why I've aligned. They've got money, they've got a machine. True. But there's a lot of people with a lot of money that don't get in anywhere cause they don't have vision.
Louise Palanker (01:08:36):
Oh. So well said. All right. We wanna thank you for joining us. I'm gonna read our, our closing credits once again. Spencer, where can folks find, uh, your most recent piece of work?
Spencer Proffer (01:08:47):
Well, you can find American Pie, the thing that Fritz went back to on Paramount Plus, that's one of the streamers competing with the other guys. That's okay. My goal is to make them even more visible. Um, the Elvis dock that's coming next year will be on Paramount Plus
Fritz Coleman (01:09:08):
Maybe you'll come back and talk about that Elvis dock. I would love to talk to you about that when it comes out.
Spencer Proffer (01:09:12):
Shun to Elliot, Kendall, El Elliot's a good guy. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> met him 12 years ago when he worked at Universal. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I think he's much more effective now working for the Elliot Kendall business. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, he's a great guy. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And he's the one that said to me, do you want to go on the media path Doc? And I checked it out. I talked to some people, I saw who you've talked to and I said, count me in. Plus I know you're a local guy, Fritz. And so I, I grew up, I went to Fairfax High, I went to ucla <laugh>. So I'm a local boy too. I live in Encino, so There you go.
Louise Palanker (01:09:43):
Well, we'd love to have you in the studio for our next conversation. We'll, we'll have you back with somebody that maybe you wanna bring to us to talk about what, what you, what you guys are working on together. You
Spencer Proffer (01:09:52):
Know, what I might do is I might actually invite Steve
Fritz Coleman (01:09:55):
Binner, bring Steve. That would be, that'd be be beyond. Cool. If you can
Spencer Proffer (01:09:58):
Do that. And that's the next thing. And I don't know if we have the physicality. Steve lives in Ard. He's a little older than us Spritz. But we can zoom it. Oh, sure. Oh yeah. And the point, the, the point is once we get a little further along and once Paramount announces it in a big way mm-hmm. <affirmative>, then of course I'll tell Steve I want him to do this. Actually, I'd like that idea because you guys do your homework. That's good.
Fritz Coleman (01:10:24):
And you guys would get into some great conversations about your history in the music business. I would look forward to that. You could be here. And we're,
Louise Palanker (01:10:31):
We're in Sherman Oaks, so you can come over. No, we can, we can have you here and we'll put out
Spencer Proffer (01:10:35):
Well, Sherman Oaks is down the block. Exactly. Hey, listen, you guys should go into Amazon. Yeah. And look for the Bas Lerman forward on the Steve Bender book. Okay. And I am making a documentary based on that book. Wow. And my partner is the guy who wrote the book. Okay. Steve Bender. Yeah. And it, it's a big feature in the Bas Lerman movie, as Should Ritz. He told Elvis where it was at. It wasn't under the Hollywood sign, but he did tell Elvis those exact
Fritz Coleman (01:11:04):
Words. It was the first person that had been honest with him in his whole career, was in that conversation.
Spencer Proffer (01:11:09):
And then Colonel Parker made it a point to blacklist Steve from Vegas. Of course. So there you go. Yeah.
Louise Palanker (01:11:15):
All right. Here come your closing credits. Fritz and I have created a web hub to help you shop for gifts and save democracy in one fun move. Gift of democracy.com curates great swaggy merch from candidates and causes committed to protecting and defending our democracy. Fritz and I make no money here. We don't need it. We are not running for office this year. Our site is like a mall directory sign that points you towards the merchandise pages of worthy candidates and causes. It's the donation that counts. Democracy makes a great gift. Thank you so much for joining us. We would love to continue this conversation with you on Instagram and Twitter where we are at Media Path Pod and on Facebook where our show page is, media Path Podcast. And our Facebook group is Media Path with Fritz and Weezy podcast community. You can find full video podcast episodes loaded with bonus visual content on our YouTube channel Media Path podcast. You can write to us at Media Path firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoy this show, please give us a nice rating and Apple Podcast and talk about us nicely on your social medias. You can sign up for our fun and Dishy email@example.com. We want thank our guest, Spencer Proffer, Georgia Wright and Kenia Hale. Our team includes Dina Friedman, John Madox, Sharon Beo, bill Lip, Thomas Hubble, Mason Brown, and you, our theme music's by me and John Madox. I am Louise Blanker here with Fritz Coleman, and we'll see you along the media path.
Speaker 6 (01:12:37):
Speaker 7 (01:12:37):
You, Chris. Talk for hours. You've had such astonishing
Louise Palanker (01:12:41):
Experience. Yeah. It's almost painful to only talk about one project.