Sunday, July 22, 2012

From Harding to Hollywood

The first thing I remember about Joe Aaron was that he broke his arm in a playground accident. Joe was running up a slide and then jumped off.

I have always liked people who run up slides.


When I was in 7th grade, Harding Academy had a “big brother” and “big sister” program that paired us with the seniors who were supposed to say “Hi” to us in the hallways. You know, important stuff to junior high kids.

Joe became my “big brother.” Maybe it was because our last names began with “A.” I could see the Academy assigning partners in that way. But, I prefer to think that he chose me.

And, sometime in the spring of ‘79, Joe came up to me and said “Hi” and then, “Man, you need to try out for the play.”

I thought for a second and said, “Okay. Sure.”

Why not? That sounded super cool.

So at the play tryouts, I stood (downstage right) and looked out into the old Academy auditorium that was crammed full of creaky wooden theater seats and steel folding chairs. (The kind of auditorium that had character, but probably violated 17 different fire codes.) And I looked out at the middle-left section and saw Joe sitting there by the director, the person in charge of choosing the cast, and I thought, “He’s going to pull some strings for me. I’m going to get a part.”

It felt good to have a string-puller.

And I did get the part of Jackie (the little brother), and I had about 25 lines, most of them two-words long … like, “Wow, Dad!” And Joe got the part of my big brother Frank.

And the play, Cheaper By the Dozen, well … it was the highlight of my junior high years.


Joe went on to graduate from Harding Academy and then from Harding University, and after that I didn’t see him much anymore. He moved from Arkansas to New York to pursue acting, and I would only bump into him from time to time at the College Church, when he was in town for a visit. Then he moved on to LA, and I didn’t see him again for quite a while.

But it is difficult for “brothers” not to re-cross paths.

And I’m glad we did … at my Dad’s retirement reception in 2009 … on Facebook … via email. The normal ways of middle-aged connecting.

And in our catch-up times, I’ve learned that Joe’s been a busy guy. He helped create the Disney television series Doug, he directed a film called Crazy Jones (which has been on Showtime), and he was featured in a couple of documentaries. Plus, he became a father along the way. Not bad for a boy from Searcy, Ark.

And now Joe is up to another big thing. He’s written a feature film called Guttersnipes, which sounds absolutely terrific. It strikes me as just the kind of thing we need to hear and see more of nowadays … a story of hope.


Here’s a little bit of the scoop on Guttersnipes … from my latest conversation with Joe:

About the film …

The story is set in Little Rock, Arkansas, and centers around the relationship between Jo, a teenage homeless girl and Waverly, a 12 year-old girl with autism who's been abandoned on the street. Over time, Jo learns to communicate with Waverly and slowly begins to love and take care of her. The film becomes a story of “family” where the girls strive to leave life on the streets for a real home.

Joe: It’s the kind of movie that your mom and my mom could go see and be proud of. Now, I didn’t sugarcoat it. These girls live on the street. It’s hard and harsh. It’s definitely realistic, but it’s not an offensive story.

The film is really about Jo. It’s not so much about Waverly. It’s about the girl who learns to love. We’ve all been angry and afraid and wanting to lash out, but we all need to take the journey that Jo takes. It’s a hard journey, but I think it’s relatable to everyone. It’s never too late for redemption. No matter how far gone you are … there are a series of decisions you can make to get back.

About Joe’s daughter, Lexi …

Lexi was one of the stars of the Emmy award winning documentary, Autism The Musical. The character of Waverly is based, in part, on Lexi.

Joe: One of the big questions that I’ve had in my life, for the last several years, is trying to get my head around what would happen to my daughter if I were to die or if I were to get separated from her. She’s so vulnerable. What happens to her if I’m not around? This is a question I’ve never satisfactorily answered.

I tried to write a story about a man and his daughter, but I couldn’t write that because it was too close. So I had to try to pull myself out of the story and say, what if she were lost and a homeless girl found her on the street?

I think about Lexi and the way that she’s impacted my life and other people’s lives. She actually brings out the good in people. She’s one of these people who doesn’t accept rudeness, but she stays with you and pulls the good out of you. This is kind of what happens in Guttersnipes. It’s a story that anybody can appreciate.

How you can help make a film that people won’t forget …

Support the making of Guttersnipes by going to the web site and making a contribution (CLICK BELOW) … and share the news with a friend:

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