My old friend David Boatwright started a production
company in Charleston, South Carolina called ‘Lucky Boy
Films’ with actor/producer O’Neal Compton, who also
had an advertising agency and amazing talents as a
performer, writer and entrepreneur. David and O’Neal
hired me to shoot a series of TV commercials they were
doing for Ford dealers and the South Carolina Credit
Union League. I had always avoided commercials and
even refused to shoot them, but working with David and
O’Neal was different: a special kind of entertaining and
lucrative work. Along with soundman Jonathan Gaynor
and gaffer Les Stringer we quickly formed a high-energy
team with unusual rapport. I was soon dubbed the
‘Human Steadicam’ by O‘Neal who loved the efficiency of
my hand held, boom-like moves which allowed us to
shoot a record number of polished commercials in a day
without a dolly. And, because the work came through
O’Neal’s agency, he made sure we never had a client on
the set, which meant there were no conflicts about
aesthetic or directing decisions. As often as we could, we
shot these spots outdoors with available light, using silks
or foliage overhead and a couple of large reflectors I had
started using in Bali. O’Neal’s character Justin Thyme
was locally famous as the droll pitchman selling Fords,
and soon expanded to dozens of markets and products
all over the Southeast from Florida to Tennessee. There
were Bojangles Chicken spots that aired all over the
country. For the award winning Credit Union series David
and O’Neal wrote clever human-foible sketches which we
then shot documentary-style and cast with great local
talent to play along with O’Neal and David. O’Neal later
went on to have a busy run of supporting roles in films
like Life, Nixon, Nell, Made in America and Primary
Colors; before long he moved to a house near the beach
in Venice, California. David returned to his career
painting murals, writing scripts and designing houses.
John to get photo permission from David