The Ojai Film Society’s 25th Anniversary Celebration in Libbey Bowl on Sept. 28 will feature the screening of the music documentary, “20 Feet from Stardom.” This look at the unsung heroes of the music business is truly remarkable. The director of the film, Morgan Neville, will participate in a Q&A after the movie along with backup singer Merry Clayton. Neville, who attended Thacher School in Ojai from 1981 to 1985, has been making music documentaries for nearly 20 years now.
Tickets are available at Film Society Screenings, Ojai Farmers Market, and BrownPaperTickets.com (enter Ojai Film Society in the search window). For more information call 805-646-8946 or visit www.ojaifilmsociety.org.
Here are just a few of the numerous documentaries that Neville has been involved with as producer, director and/or a screenwriter: “The Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane” (2012), “Pearl Jam Twenty” (2011), “Ray Charles America” (2010) and “Johnny Cash’s America” (2008). He also directed docs for PBS’ American Masters about Hank Williams, Muddy Waters and the film featuring Carole King and James Taylor called “The Troubadours.”
Morgan Neville recently related to the Ojai Film Society how he developed a love for music. “Music was a big part of my Ojai experience. As a freshman at Thacher I learned to play guitar late at night in the dorm. I played in bands for the rest of my time there and loved it. I also remember the weekly pilgrimages to the [Blue Sky Music] store in the Arcade to find new music.
Bill Fellows, Neville’s friend from Thacher, told OFS that as Thacher students they also made trips to Salzers in Ventura. He said Neville’s high school band was called “The Front,” and that a friend of Neville’s mom had made Morgan a coat from a British ‘Union Jack’ flag.
Neville goes on to describe his interest in film. “I always loved movies and was involved with scheduling Friday night movie nights at Thacher. Fred Lamb, a veteran Thacher teacher taught a film class at Thacher that I took. I also remember him driving us to L.A. for the night to see a De Sica double feature—“The Bicycle Thief” and “Umberto D.””
“But journalism was really my thing then,” Neville continues. “I worked on the school paper at Thacher, then the paper at my college, the University of Pennsylvania. I worked as a journalist for several years after college in N.Y. and San Francisco, before deciding to start my first documentary with one of my Thacher classmates, Harry Pallenberg. That documentary was “Shotgun Freeway” and we filmed some of it in Ojai, since it looks much like Los Angeles did in the 1940s. You can still find the orange groves.”
Fellows said that Neville grew up in Montecito and went to Vassar in New York State before attending the University of Pennsylvania. He related that Neville’s college job at Vassar was to dress up as Paddington Bear at a department store. About 10 years ago Bill played in a band with Morgan and his wife called “The Acres.”
A remarkable note, according to Fellows, is that some time ago Neville set a goal for himself to be mentioned in the “New York Times” by the time he was 30, and he did it! Bill is very proud of Morgan’s achievements and thinks the success that the movie has brought the backup singers is terrific. He looks forward to seeing Neville at Libbey Bowl on the 28th.
Join us Sept. 28 for dinner, dancing, a movie and Q&A—topped off by a song from Merry Clayton. Tickets are $35 and may be purchased at Film Society screenings, Sundays across from the Ojai Farmers Market and at BrownPaperTickets.com (enter Ojai Film Society in the search window). For more information call 805-646-8946 or visit www.ojaifilmsociety.org.