Billy Bob Thornton, the Academy© Award winning director, writer, actor and musician, has performed at Merrimack Hall with his band, The Boxmasters, two times in the past. Alan and I have become friends with Billy. He’s been to our home and we’ve been to his. He mentioned us in the acknowledgements section of his new book, "A Cave Full of Ghosts." One of my favorite memories from our Merrimack Hall journey is the night a large group of people gathered around the piano in my living room, with Teddy Andreadis (formerly with Guns N Roses and one of the top studio musicians in the world) playing “May the Circle Be Unbroken” while Billy sang lead and the rest of us followed along. Billy donated his artist fee back to our programs for kids with special needs the last time he performed in Huntsville and promised that the next time his schedule allows him to go on tour with his band, he will come back to Merrimack Hall and do a creative writing workshop with our students. And I plan to hold him to that promise!
|Teddy Andreadis on piano, Billy Bob on vocals|
Because of Billy, we came to the attention of some producers in Hollywood who approached us about 13 months ago, asking about our programs. After months of phone calls and discussions about doing everything from a reality series to a documentary short, they traveled to Huntsville last February to meet our students and a few of their parents. They left here committed making a full-length feature film, inspired by the students in Merrimack Hall’s programs. They told us, “We don’t just want to make a movie; we want to start a movement.” We said, “Yeah? So do we.”
Alan and I went to LA in May and the producers returned to Merrimack Hall in July. A script is being polished off, buzz is being generated and the producers are touting this film as a cross between “The Blind Side” and “Fame.” We are back in LA right now - I'm sitting in a lovely suite at The Four Seasons Hotel, getting ready for a big "dog and pony show," Hollywood style, that's being held tomorrow night at The W Hotel down the street. I feel sort of like Dorothy - I don't think I'm in Alabama anymore!