“Music Heals” for Stand Down on the Delta to be held Sept. 10-13 at Contra Costa Event Park
By Allen Payton
Director and producer Joey Travolta brought one of his unique film crews to Antioch on Saturday, May 15 to shoot a promotional video for this year’s Stand Down on the Delta, the biennial event for veterans. The video, entitled “Music Heals” focuses on the bands that will be playing at this year’s four-day event, Sept. 10-13 at the Contra Costa Event Park (fairgrounds) in Antioch, according to J.R. Wilson, president of both Delta Veterans Group (DVG) and Stand Down on the Delta.
The filming took place on the deck of Smith’s Landing Seafood Restaurant overlooking the Antioch Marina. Owners Randy and Lynn Tei are big supporters of the veterans, sponsoring the Veterans Day and Memorial Day events in Antioch, and the Veteran of the Year, Wilson shared. He was joined by Pat Jeremy, V.P. of DVG and Delta Director of Stand Down, to watch the filming. (See videos here, here, and here)
The music director for the Stand Down, Darlyn Phillips, had the idea for the video and invited Travolta and his crew to shoot it. The older brother of actor John Travolta, who recently moved to San Francisco so he and his wife could be near their daughter and grandson, Jonah who will turn one, next month, agreed.
The Film Crew
Crews from his Inclusion Films company consist mainly of youth and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities from his six dedicated production studios throughout California, including Livermore, Stockton and the largest one in Sacramento, as well as Bakersfield, San Bernardino and San Diego.
“He teaches them to be in the film industry and then helps get them jobs,” Phillips shared.
“We bring in a pro camera guy and sound guy in. The rest of the crew are students,” Travolta said. He serves as the director and producer.
“The workshops that we have, seven around the state, Bakersfield was the first in 2008, then Livermore in 2013. We partnered with Futures Explored and we have their students,” Travolta explained. “We also have students from Options for All. We use the pros but always have the students work to hone their craft.”
The crew in Antioch on Saturday was from both Options for All program in San Jose, and Futures Explored programs in Livermore and Sacramento, under the leadership of Film & Media Director, Hester Wagner. It included two professionals from Sacramento, Austin Blank on sound and Michael Thygesen on camera. The other five crew members were students.
“They’re funded through the state of California. They’re Regional Center clients,” said Travolta. “Students can be from other places. I have students from San Diego in Bakersfield. We have campers from back east.”
His career in which he started as a singer then actor, includes work as a movie director of 18 films. That and Travolta’s degree and experience teaching in special education brought him to this venture which he started in 2007.
“We offer a twenty-week program at a time. The students take camera, lighting, acting, writing, building sets, everything,” Travolta continued. “While they’re doing that, they develop scripts for a 25-minute film. They break it down, they schedule it and go through the post production process of editing and sound mix.”
“I liken it to the minor leagues of baseball. They cut their teeth and can make their mistakes,” he stated. “They’re getting good, final, solid product and the experience to hone their craft.”
“We’ll do five or six camps each year,” Travolta added.
“I did a film camp in the Fairfield Vacaville area for the Solano school district about a year ago. Darlyn went to the screening of it and told me about the Stand Down and wanted to do this video,” he said, explaining the connection.
Futures Explored through their Futures Films provides crews for Northern California shoots, while Options for All provides them in both Northern and Southern California.
“Most of my crew is mainly in Bakersfield,” he said. “If you want to do something in Nor Cal or the desert, we have crews.”
While Travolta’s company is for profit, “Futures and Options are non-profits.”
First Feature Film
“Last year we did our first feature film, Carol of the Bells,” said Travolta. Some known actors are in it, including Diana Mills and Lee Purcell.
“Each of the studios sent two pros and four students who came and stayed for two weeks. We did it through SAG (Screen Actors Guild),” he stated. “I wanted to prove we could do this. 70% of the crews were students.”
That was a world-wide first.
“We won Audience Choice for feature film in San Diego” Travolta continued. (See related article) “Then in Bentonville, Arkansas, it debuted there. The film festival there was started as a women film makers event by Gina Davis. Then they added in disabilities and that’s when I came in.”
“Unfortunately, we released right at the start of COVID,” he said. “We did a documentary (about the film) that played on PBS. So, the word got out there.”
Set during Christmas time, Carol of the Bells is described on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) as “a young man with a troubled past searches for his biological mother and discovers that she is developmentally disabled.” The movie can be viewed on Amazon Prime. (This reporter watched it Saturday night and gives it a thumbs up. But be sure to have a box of tissues handy!)
“Then also we have Inclusion Networks, a subscription-based company, with all the films we do, all the camps we do, and the funds are used to pay for jobs and development of employment,” Travolta shared. “We put new content on every few weeks.”
The one-of-a-kind channel features TV series, documentaries, short films, and special features created and produced by his film crews. According to the website, with each subscription, a majority of the proceeds will go to the employment of individuals with disabilities, helping provide more jobs in the film industry for those with disabilities.
Asked if his brother John has been part of his venture, Travolta responded, “he is really supportive of us. A friend was doing a film. I sent five of our folks down to Georgia and worked for a month. John ended up being the star of it. He was down there and said, ‘these guys are unbelievable.’”
“We’re bringing awareness about music healing,” Phillips said about the promotional video. “In this instance for the Delta Veterans Group’s Stand Down on the Delta, these are some of the bands that perform for the veterans each time.”
“The idea of it is to show how music heals,” she continued. “Many of the band members are veterans. One guy, Tony Archimedes played for 10 hours straight, playing multiple instruments when others couldn’t make it. The band members are from all over the Bay Area and Northern California.”
They say, ‘anything for the veterans,’” Phillips added.
Future Films crew was on site doing the filming Hester Wagner, Director of Film and Media Programs said they partner with Travolta’s company and do the same thing in the Bay Area.
“We interviewed six band members and now we will get them playing,” Travolta said before the start of filming. “This will be a seven- or eight-minute promotional video for the Stand Down and what you’re doing, here. Then hopefully, they’ll have photos from the event that we can cut in.”
The first band to play and be filmed was The Illusions, led by drummer Richard Rivas and included Archimedes on saxophone. The other band members are Billy Thompson on bass, Joe Martinez on trumpet, Mitch McCarrie on the guitar and L.A. Ramirez also on guitar.
They were followed by Gig and Friends, named for Greg “Gig” Edwards, and included drummer Evan Carr (whose son, Austin, plays wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints), bassist Michael Fourie with his unique, upright electric bass, and Archimedes on the keyboard. They performed an original song written for veterans by Edwards and Phillips.
The third and final band to be filmed, Darlyn & The Groove Room, with Phillips as lead singer, performed original songs and included jazz guitarist Steve Krohn and drummer Barry Hutcherson (son of legendary jazz artist Bobby Hutcherson), plus Fourie and Archimedes repeating on bass and keyboard.
“The final video should be ready in a couple weeks,” sound man Blank shared.
Stand Down on the Delta is held every two years, alternating between Antioch in odd years and the East Bay Stand Down in Pleasanton in even years. This year’s event will be held the weekend of the 20th anniversary of 9-11, event organizer Wilson shared. They serve military veterans, many of whom are homeless, who come and stay, are provided free meals, free medical and dental care, clothing and enjoy the live music throughout the weekend.
“The bands will be playing from 10 am to 10 pm each day,” Phillips added.
The Contra Costa Event Park is located at 1201 W. 10th Street in Antioch.