Beyond Fright Interview With THE WRECKING CREW Director Denny Tedasco!!

wrecking-crew-poster-billboard-500If you haven’t had a chance to check out Denny Tedesco’s THE WRECKING CREW, then you should stop everything you are doing and watch it right this minute. This film goes above and beyond what you would expect in a documentary, and contains the perfect mixture of music, interviews, and photographs to tell the story of a group of talented musicians that made musical history, and will forever be known as THE WRECKING CREW. Recently, I had a chance to sit down and talk to the Director, Denny Tedesco, as he tells us all about this must see film, his father, Tommy Tedesco, and of course, how he put this amazing documentary together.


How did the idea for THE WRECKING CREW documentary come about?
Well, I’ve always had the idea of doing something about my Dad and his friends, I was into film making, I have always been into film, and I worked as a grip. I had done some stuff in college about him, in class. But when he got diagnosed with terminal cancer in 96, I thought I better jump on this, because if I don’t…it will be the biggest regret of my life. You know, I should have. I had a lot of those in my life at the time…should haves. And I didn’t want this to be one of them.
What was the most difficult part of making the film? And what was the easiest part?

That’s a good question. I think the hardest part was anticipating the difficulty it was going to take. You know, if someone would have told me it was going to take eighteen years to complete it, there was no way I was going to do it. Because you always get to the point where it’s like, this is it so and so is going to help us. Then it goes nowhere. This went on for many, many years. I knew when I started this thing, I knew the beginning, and the end of this story. My biggest concern though, once my Dad passed, I started passing the fourteen minute teaser around on VHS. Everybody kept saying “This is great, but you’re not going to get this made cause there is too much music involved.” At that point, my wife Susie and I had kept refinancing and going on it, it felt like we did 24/7 for ten years. But you know, a couple months go by, and someone would say “Hey, I could get a hold of so and so, let me try and get an interview with them.” We just basically shot it, and put it away. We didn’t edit anything, because I just didn’t have the money. Finally, we got to the point where we thought we would never sell it. So that’s when we brought in a producer, editor, and we just started cutting and in 2006, 2007, and 2008, we got it cut and into film festivals. The hardest part emotionally, once we started seeing the film playing for audiences, and winning awards…I thought oh my god, this is great! Someone will do something. This is a good resume. It was selling out theaters. I was watching people give it standing ovations. Well, not in LA. I’m talking in faraway places. In the Midwest. Then no one would touch it because of all the music in the back of it. Basically, we just had to pay this down. That was the hardest part. The easiest part, well the easiest part is now. People wanna talk (laughs). It’s been fun. Like I said, I love showing the film. I won’t sit in a theater, but I’ll sit there for a few minutes watching the audience now.

With the audience reactions, how does it make you feel to see the audience connect with the film, whether they are crying, or smiling, and giving standing ovations?

Oh, it’s great. Actually, Don Randi the keyboard player, and I were just talking about it the other day. He said “Do you remember that time the guy came up to us?” And he was a big guy, about six foot four, and he was a mess. Not because he was six foot four, it just touched him. I’ve had so many people touched by this. And I’m not just saying this because it is my film, because of the music first. Every song is a bookmark to someone’s life. It is a musical journey we have taken on, but it’s also understanding the demographics. Well, I understand the demographics now. The loss of my father was a big thing in the film. So if you’re my age, or older you have already gone through this. And these musicians, they were all working class people. They weren’t like stars. They were starts among the stars. But they just put their kids through school just like anybody else.

One thing that I felt stood out in the film, WAS the music. I mean it’s just powerful music.

There were 110 songs. You probably recognized about 105 instantly. Every song in the film is directed back to one of those musicians. Even the underscore, underneath my father, Hal, or Carol…I always bring it back to the music they would have done on their own. Like Jazz stuff, that’s my dad’s jazz. Or someone else’s. You know what I mean? It always comes back to them. So all of those names at the end of the credits, all those names were from the contracts of those songs. Everybody gets credit.

That’s a lot of music to get in there, how did that happen?

It was weird. Just over the years, slowly some of the labels and publishers…well, no one believed I would be able to do this. The first quote from one of our publishers was $10,000 a song. It would have been a 2 million dollar film. I’m not paying $10,000 for four seconds of Danke Schoen. (Laughs) You know, how many people are out there all day long doing this stuff? She told me later “You’re the one who has ever actually done it.” So, I hung out longer. Someone told me that my dad told them, and this is something I never heard my dad say, but it made sense. He said “The person who is standing the longest, is the winner.” So I guess I could say I’m the winner now. At least I lasted.

The interviews added something special to the whole theme of the film. There were so many, and they were all great. Did any of the interviews stand out as your favorite?

Yeah. Yeah definitely. The roundtable was the first. It was based on Broadway Danny Rose. I didn’t grow up with musicians in the studios, but I did grow up with musicians talking. So they would laugh at, and tease each other. That was like Broadway Danny Rose, talking about Woody Allen in the movie. They would sit around a table like they were playing poker, that’s what they were like. I did that. And that was fun, because they just go. One of my favorite interviews was Jimmy Webb. Jimmy Webb would go from 0 to 60 on an hour tape, everything was so articulate and so wonderful. There were some interviews that didn’t make it, there were so many great interviews. I just couldn’t put everyone in. It was impossible.

One thing I noticed was how packed full of interesting content, interviews, and music. It is beautifully done. I have been telling everyone I can about THE WRECKING CREW and telling them to watch it.

I really appreciate that. There is some sweet vindication going on. For years, so many people turned this away. But I just wanted it to be blown out. I want it to go past that finish line, to where people say “Oh my god, I didn’t see this coming.” Because I want this story out there. By the end of the film, some of those people are gone. I’m glad that there are some of them still living.
I could imagine that growing up with a Father who was not only a talented musician, but who also an important part of musical history. Do you have a favorite memory related to growing up in that environment? Did you ever get to check out recording sessions with your Father?
One of the first times I remember seeing my father at work was when I was about 5 at a Green Acres sessions. It was unusual for us to ever go to work with dad but we were leaving town after dad went to work that day. But watching the great composer Vic Mizzy conduct was hilarious. Couldn’t understand what a grown man was doing throwing his arms up in the air and dancing around on the podium.

The Wrecking Crew is a well-made, and very informative film. Clearly, you have a knack for directing and creating genuine, and enjoyable films. Is there anything else lined up for you directing or producing wise? If so, is there anything you can tell us about it? Or anything you would like to get into?

In making this film, I realize that it doesn’t matter what age you are when it comes to wanting to be relevant in your life. The folks I interviewed were at the top of their world at a certain age. But later, they still had the talent but nowhere to share it. My favorite line in the movie is when Bones Howe says, it’s not trying to stay at the top but taking the ramp down as long as possible. I realize that we all want to be relevant in our lives. I would love to talk to folks in their later years to show how they stay relevant and hopefully learn how I can stay relevant in life. Meeting these musicians has given me hope.

Do you have any advice for our readers who aspire to make a documentary, or a film?

Yeah. Just do it. You could talk about it as long as you want. It’s like writing a script. You could talk about writing a script, but you gotta just do it. Especially with a documentary, you can’t waste time. Because people are just non-stop. For me, I had a certain timeframe. People were dying. You can’t waste time. There’s no rules anymore. Don’t give up. If a door is closed, go through the window. You gotta be creative in terms of finance. I was creative in terms of how I got the names. Basically, every time I went to a town, I would fine someone who had the same demographic. Music stores, hearing aids, podiatrist, dog groomers, anything with like 45 or 50+. I would go to these people and say “Listen, I’ll give you $500 to put your name up on the screen, and ten tickets to my film when it shows.” And that’s how I started traveling with the film. That money allowed me to pay off the licensing. I came up with all kinds of ideas. I did everything but a car wash, and bake sale. One of the great things that I’m proud of was the dedications of songs. I had people dedicate songs. Instead of putting their name up on the wall, they could dedicate a song. At that same time they were able to put whatever they wanted on the website or DVD. Like California Dreaming, someone paid $1,000 for that. Then there were songs that hadn’t been picked. That song, everybody loves a clown, so I thought I had to find someone for this. I called a clown school, and pitched it to them. They bought it. I was so proud! I suck at sales, but I believe in that. Pinks hotdogs…I knew there was a song called Midnight at Pinks. I asked if they would be interested in being a sponsor for this. Those I am so proud of. Those are my two favorites. The film is made, at this point. (Laughs) You gotta get it out there. So when you’re making a film, just do it.