Jon is a native San Franciscan, baseball fan and filmmaker living in exile in Los Angeles. A graduate of Loyola Marymount University’s Film and TV program, Jon’s 30+ years in the entertainment field has covered projects across a wide spectrum, from the crazy days of early 80s MTV music videos, to TV commercials, documentaries, corporate branding, and unique attractions and exhibits for museums (Harrah’s Automobile Musuem and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame) and theme parks worldwide (Disneyland, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios/Hollywood).
In 2007, Jon had an epiphany. He’d spent five years working on the internationally acclaimed documentary, The Wrecking Crew, about the elite group of uncredited studio musicians that were the band on every hit record to come out of Los Angeles from 1958-1972. When he attended the film’s screening at the Nashville Film Festival, his badge said “filmmaker”. A switch was flipped, and he realized it was time to return to his roots, a love of filmmaking. Documentaries, in particular.
His first major project that he financed and produced was Not Exactly Cooperstown (2012), a look at the left-coast alternative to baseball’s Hall of Fame, the Baseball Reliquary. The feature-length project took two years in between paying gigs and takes in perspectives from the likes of Jim Bouton, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Arnold Hano, book critic David Kipen, filmmaker Ron Shelton and the world-famous San Diego Chicken. The film was screened at the Baseball Film Festival in Cooperstown and is in the permanent collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and UCLA Film & TV Archives. Quirky, funny and poignant, the film is a bold stew of Americana, folklore, sex, religion, scandal, fandom, poetry, sport and art. It has become a cult favorite within the baseball community.
Jon followed up with a very personal project, The Day the World Series Stopped (2014). He was at Candlestick Park on October 17, 1989, when the earth shook, taking lives and wreaking havoc on the San Francisco Bay area. Jon happened to be toting along a VHS camcorder to record his first World Series experience and started taping interviews in the parking lot before the game. At 5:04 p.m., everything changed. He stayed in the city the intervening ten days, continuing shooting and recording local and national news broadcasts, returning for the resumption of the World Series on October 27. This 25th anniversary retrospective binds together one fan’s fifty year love affair with a team, a city, his family and friends.
The Arnold Hano documentary is his first foray into a biographical effort. “After I met and interviewed Arnold for Not Exactly Cooperstown, I learned more about him. He’s amazing! It started to bother me that no one had done an on-camera interview with him about his life and achievements. Oral histories are very important to me and our culture. I wasn’t going to let him leave this earth without doing that interview. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, I just knew it was important to get him on camera. We did one three-hour interview that was remarkable. His memory was razor sharp and he was a gifted storyteller. A few months passed, and we did another three hours, this time with his wife, Bonnie. I continued to discover more about him and became convinced his story would make for one hell of a documentary. Arnold, by the way, told me this project was going to be a waste of time, that nobody would be interested. One of us is going to be wrong and it’s not going to be me,” said Jon.
You can learn more about Jon and his background and experience in the entertainment industry here: http://jonleonoudakis.com
Shakedown Mambo is an LA-based, original roots rockin’ duo with a whole lot of New Orleans R&B, Boogie Woogie and assorted Americana influences, stirred into an inspired musical gumbo.
At the heart of the “Mambo” are Rick Solem and Phil Bloch. Their music lives and breathes rich American roots, goin’ back to New Orleans, the Mississippi Delta and on up the river, looking to the left and looking to the right.
Rick has a dynamic and inventive keyboard style all his own, vital and filled with electricity yet steeped in the styles of the great American Roots piano masters. His influences extend far and wide, as evidenced by the scope of music already written for Jon Leonoudakis’ last two films. He is also a world class songwriter.
Phil is one of the premier American Roots drummers and producers in Los Angeles, with an ongoing schedule of studio and live work, producing and songwriting. His playing also simultaneously reflects far-reaching knowledge of the classic American Roots drummers and the ability to create new rhythmic and sonic confabulations.
Together, they wrote and performed a fine introductory album as the band Shakedown Mambo. Rave reviews ensued, as the many quoted accolades on their website indicate. New songs are percolating as the “Mambo” continues their journey.
WORKING ON JON’S FILMS
A while ago, our friend and fine Film Producer/Director, Jon Leonoudakis, approached us about composing a film score for a documentary he was making. The subject was baseball and he wanted all new and original music. The film turned out to be Not Exactly Cooperstown, a film about the Baseball Reliquary, “… a grass-roots, anti-establishment complement to the Hall of Fame, built around the human side of baseball.” The Project turned out beautifully, is now in permanent residence at the Baseball Hall of Fame and we all had a blast working together.
Jon called us again to work with him on a second project, a film about the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that literally stopped the third game of the World Series. Entitled The Day The World Series Stopped, he envisioned a score that incorporated visceral sonic tensions, warm moments of friendship and love, joyous celebration of the game, an earthquake of epic proportions and the subsequent inexplicable mixture of feelings present from witnessing such death and destruction, yet now attending the happy re-opening of game three of the World Series. We eagerly tackled the emotionally varied score and the results were effective, critically well received and most satisfying to us.
THE NEW FILM: HANO! A Century In The Bleachers
This is a film about a truly extraordinary man. He is, at the most basic level, a writer. At a deeper level, he is a man who has chronicled almost a century of the American experience, from sports to entertainment, from environmental issues to social issues to just plain human interest. He wrote A Day In The Bleachers, a seminal baseball fan book, written in such a way that you actually feel as though you’re there, seeing the sights, smelling the smells and living the game. He has written 26 books, 500 magazine articles, poetry, librettos, novels and newspaper columns. He has a 67-year-and-counting marriage to a great woman. He and his wife joined the Peace Corps and helped re-build a schoolhouse in Costa Rica…in their seventies. Several times, he has helped tackle and address social injustices. He is now 93 and still throwing screwballs.
This film presented a different challenge for our musical contributions. Arnold Hano speaks very consisely and effectively. So do his many friends in the film. They don’t really need much music to help make their points. Our main concern was to stay out of his (and their) way, yet offer flavor and enhancements where germane and helpful to the storytelling. This resulted in less music than typical for Jon’s films. It also resulted in the formation of the click-clack orchestra.
Arnold Hano is a musician, although he never knew it. His instrument is the typewriter and he is a master. What he never thought about is that the click clack of his instrument is not only musical, but it hearkens back to one of the foundations of human communication, rhythm. So we decided to create our own small orchestra of click clack sounds with which to help tell his story.
And as always, our unique feeling combination of piano and drums helps to tell the story.
For this film, we enlisted the help of our friend and superb musician, David Green. David is master of all things stringed — guitars, mandolins and the like. Also a talented songwriter, he brings a beautiful and highly musical feeling to everything he plays. He really gets inside the intent of each musical piece. His river of talent runs wide and deep, and it’s a thrill to have him participate with us in making this music.
We also once again called on Andrew Bush, our favorite Engineer/Producer, to participate. As with the other two films, he co-Produced the music with Phil. His talents as a Recording and Mixing Engineer are intuitive and stellar. In addition, he is a fine musician, whether playing guitar, piano or electric bass. In Andrew’s capable hands, Grandma’s Warehouse studio provides the perfect sound for us. He is an invaluable part of our music making process and we are indeed fortunate to have him on our team.
And for the third time, working with Jon has been a joyous experience and has resulted in a winning film score to help tell another fascinating tale.