Willy Bearden keeps busy. In the next week, the author, filmmaker, and regional historian will address a book club at Elmwood Cemetery and share tips for would-be documentarians in Collierville. He discusses these two events while putting finishing touches on a new book about Elmwood Cemetery. "The new book focuses a lot on the scoundrels and weirdness," he says. "Like Elvis' cook who perfected the peanut butter and 'nanner sandwich. And there are a lot of musicians buried at Elmwood too: Sid Selvidge, Jimmie Lunceford, one of the guys in the Mad Lads, and Herman Frank Arnold who wrote the music for 'Dixie.'"
Bearden's given many tours at Elmwood, and Wednesday, February 3rd, he'll share excerpts from Cotton: From Southern Fields to the Memphis Market with the cemetery's Read in Peace Book Club. Before that, on Thursday, Jan. 28th, he'll visit Collierville's Morton Museum for a Lunch n' Learn.
"Lots of people want to know where I've found the stuff I use in my films and how I pull it all together," Bearden says. "But I also tell folks, 'You can do this.' It's very easy to pull your own story together, especially with everybody having a camera in their pockets.
"I always show a photograph that was taken of Main Street in 1892," Bearden says. "The thing that gets me: Whoever took this photograph had to lug this big camera around. He had to put it on a tripod. It was expensive to make a photograph back then and very difficult to get the exposure right. And I know, whoever that guy was, he had a buddy who was standing right there by him saying, 'Man, why in the world are you taking this picture of something anybody can see?' Well, on that day, anybody could see it. But 100 years later — because some dude dragged his camera down to Main Street, we're like, 'Oh my God, look at that!'"