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HISTORY

       The film begins with the title cards “True Stories,” and, “A film about a bunch of people in Texas.” Sections of the film are divided with title cards: “Shopping is a Feeling,” “Puzzling Evidence,” and “Architecture.” All credits appear at the end of the picture.
       The narrative begins with the following voice-over and onscreen narration by writer-director David Byrne, transposed over documentary and motion picture film footage: “This is where the town begins. This part of the country has been through a lot of changes. Not all small ones, either. I think they’re in the process of going through another one. You know, there’s bound to be at least one person who remembers when everything was just open land, like it is right here. And some people can just look at the land, just look at it, until you know what happened there. This whole area was once underwater. Almost still looks like it. After that, there was a period when dinosaurs roamed all over the place. I used to be fascinated by dinosaurs when I was a kid. A lot of kids were. Recently, the bones of a woman who lived twenty thousand years ago were found here. They nicknamed her “Midland Minnie.” The first inhabitants here refer to themselves simply as “The People.” Other groups they came in contact with were referred to as “Friends.” Texas comes from the Caddoan word, “Friend.” However, the Caddo were the first to be wiped out by the early white settlers. A group of Spanish settlers offered the Indians ... More Less

       The film begins with the title cards “True Stories,” and, “A film about a bunch of people in Texas.” Sections of the film are divided with title cards: “Shopping is a Feeling,” “Puzzling Evidence,” and “Architecture.” All credits appear at the end of the picture.
       The narrative begins with the following voice-over and onscreen narration by writer-director David Byrne, transposed over documentary and motion picture film footage: “This is where the town begins. This part of the country has been through a lot of changes. Not all small ones, either. I think they’re in the process of going through another one. You know, there’s bound to be at least one person who remembers when everything was just open land, like it is right here. And some people can just look at the land, just look at it, until you know what happened there. This whole area was once underwater. Almost still looks like it. After that, there was a period when dinosaurs roamed all over the place. I used to be fascinated by dinosaurs when I was a kid. A lot of kids were. Recently, the bones of a woman who lived twenty thousand years ago were found here. They nicknamed her “Midland Minnie.” The first inhabitants here refer to themselves simply as “The People.” Other groups they came in contact with were referred to as “Friends.” Texas comes from the Caddoan word, “Friend.” However, the Caddo were the first to be wiped out by the early white settlers. A group of Spanish settlers offered the Indians a chance to become slaves. Indians thought about it and decided it was not a good idea and killed the Spaniards. The Spaniards were fighting the Mexicans, the Mexicans fought the Americans, the Americans were fighting the Wichitas, the Wichitas were fighting the Tonkawa, the Tonkawa fought the Comanches, the Comanches fought everyone. Meanwhile, most of the people who now lived here spoke Spanish. Covert military operations to seize Texas for the U.S. of A. were begun in 1835. Eventually, they did get Texas. Land-grabbers, railroad companies moved in. The economy boomed. Some people got rich. First on cotton, then cattle, then oil, and now, microelectronics. The silicon-based transistor was first proposed here, in 1949. In 1958, Mr. Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit. He was working for Texas Instruments then. He doesn’t work there anymore. This is the 150th anniversary of the state of Texas. Prince Charlie, Duke of Windsor, Prince of Wales -- even he came here for the Sesquicentennial opening ceremonies. This, out here, this is Virgil, Texas. Their celebration is going to happen this Friday. They’re going to have a parade that runs down the main street in the morning, and then, outside of town, that night, they’re going to have a talent show. You know, in a couple of years, this will probably be all built up. Radio reception is great here. Although the center of town is pretty old, around the outside, there’s been a lot of people moving in. A lot of construction. This is where the stage for the performances is going to be built. It will only take a couple of days ‘cause its all pre-fab. They’ll get it done just in time, I hope. You think there’ll be enough parking, huh? Be there soon. Many of Virgil’s fesivities are sponsored by Vericorp. It’s a major public relations effort. They’re calling it a “Celebration of Specialness.” But this place is completely normal. Anyway, this is the Vericorp building just outside Virgil. It’s cool. It’s a multipurpose shape, a box. You have no idea what’s inside there.”
       Byrne’s narration continues throughout the picture, as he drives a red Chrysler convertible around Virgil and meets its residents. He concludes the film with: “This is not a rental car. This is privately owned. Well, I really enjoyed forgetting. When I first come to a place, I notice all the little details. I notice the way the sky looks, the color of white paper, the way people walk, doorknobs, everything. Then I get used to the place and I don’t notice those things anymore. So only by forgetting can I see the place again, as it really is.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Byrne, who was best known at the time for fronting the rock ‘n’ roll band Talking Heads, derived the narrative of True Stories from his clippings collection of “human interest stories culled from tabloid newspapers.” For example, the character performed by Swoosie Kurtz, “The lazy woman,” was inspired by an article in Weekly World News and “The cute girl” segment with Alix Elias was based on various personalities Byrne noticed on television, including a show host who painted pictures of puppies. Byrne noted that he was fascinated by the characters because “they had their own eccentricities, but they weren’t ashamed of them.”
       On 31 Aug 1984, Var announced that director Jonathan Demme’s documentary of Talking Heads’ concerts, Stop Making Sense (1984, see entry), was set to open behind schedule in Oct 1984, to coincide with the release of the band’s album of the same name. At that time, Byrne was already composing music for True Stories and writing the script with Stephen Tobolowsky and Beth Henley, whose 1978 play, Crimes of the Heart, won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1981. A 5 Sep 1984 DV brief stated that the writers were still at work on the screenplay, and the project had yet to be financed. Byrne, who was then thirty-four years old, planned to make his directorial debut with the film, as well as perform a starring role. He noted that the other members of the Talking Heads would be featured in the picture, but would not be cast in character roles.
       Over four months later, the 27 Mar 1985 DV announced that principal photography was scheduled to begin Sep 1985, and the Talking Heads were currently recording the soundtrack. The band’s manager, Gary Kurfirst, was set to produce True Stories, after performing the same duties on Stop Making Sense. A 17 Oct 1985 DV news item explained that executive producer Edward R. Pressman was so impressed by Byrne’s art, and by his efforts on Stop Making Sense, that he sent a letter inquiring about Byrne’s future film projects, and Kurfirst set up a meeting between the two men.
       Casting occurred in summer 1985, in New York City and Los Angeles, CA, as stated in production notes.
       On 30 Oct 1985, DV confirmed that True Stories began principal photography mid-Sep 1985 in McKinney, TX, on a closed set; however, McKinney is not acknowledged as a location in onscreen credits. The film had a six-week production schedule. According to production notes, Byrne began scouting TX locations in 1984 after completing a first draft of the script, and selected flat, “austere” environments to draw greater attention to the houses and characters in the film, so they appeared “more iconographic, like a child’s drawing.” Although other TX towns are acknowledged in the end credits, production notes stated that most of the location filming took place in and around Dallas. There, the filmmakers held an additional casting call for the picture’s climactic “Celebration of Specialness” scene and viewed over 130 “unusual talent acts.” Byrne stated in production notes that the script included a “town celebration” sequence before he discovered that TX was preparing celebrations for its 1986 Sesquicentennial festivities, and that such events provided ideal locations in which to shoot the film’s festival. The “Celebration of Specialness” parade scenes were created with film and video documentary footage of actual parades in the Dallas/Fort Worth-area, as well as nearby small towns. In addition, actors were filmed in character as they joined an actual Mexican Independence Parade.
       Although True Stories’ town of Virgil, TX, is a fictional place, Byrne emphasized that it was meant to provide a metaphor for “contemporary life in general.” Similarly, director of photography Ed Lachman used the 1977 book of consumer photography, American Snapshots, with selections by Ken Graves and Mitchell Payne, as the foundation for his “cinematic approach,” according to production notes. Referring to his technique as “snap-shot reality,” Lachman stated that True Stories was visually designed to evoke common experiences and the informal ways in which people capture them, such as they would with Polaroid cameras.
       Audio post-production was conducted at Russian Hill Studios in San Francisco, CA, over the span of two months, in preparation for the release of two soundtrack albums: “True Stories” featured the Talking Heads exclusively while “Sounds From True Stories” included work by additional artists, David Byrne solo pieces, and one additional Talking Heads song.
       On 18 Aug 1986, HR announced that Warner Bros. Pictures had acquired domestic and international distribution rights, and a release was planned for Oct 1986.

      End credits include: "With thanks to Assistance League of Dallas, Arlington High School Drama Department, Annie Waldrop, Yves St. Laurent Tuxedoes, Reebok, Chorus Line, Blue Bonnet, Natural Foods Grocery"; and, “Filmed on location in Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, and Tarrant Counties in Texas.” In addition, “Special Thanks” acknowledgements are credited to: Warner Bros. Records, Texas Film Commission, Jonathan Demme, Joan Tewkesbury, Elliott Hoffman, Willard Watson’s Yard, Colin County 4-H Council, City of McKinney, Jack Kilby, L. T. Felty, Panasonic Industrial, Showco. End credits conclude with the quote: “If you can think of it, it exists somewhere.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Jan 1987.
---
Daily Variety
5 Sep 1984.
---
Daily Variety
27 Mar 1985.
---
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1985.
---
Daily Variety
30 Oct 1985.
---
Daily Variety
3 Oct 1986
p. 3, 26.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Oct 1986
p. 3, 8.
Los Angeles Times
23 Oct 1986
p. 1.
New York Times
4 Oct 1986
p. 7.
Variety
31 Aug 1984.
---
Variety
27 Mar 1985.
---
Variety
8 Oct 1986
p. 21.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Narrated by
Also starring:
as
Lip-synchers:
"Hey Now" kids:
Talent show participants:
Parade participants:
Shadow Dancers act:
Louis Fyne's Country Bachelors:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation and Gary Kurfirst Pictures Presentation
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Video dir, Wild Wild Life
Video dir, Love for Sale
Video dir, Love for Sale
2d 2d asst dir, Texas prod
PRODUCERS
Prod and ed, Louis Fyne TV commercial
Video prod, Love for Sale
Exec prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit cam, Texas prod
2d unit cam, Texas prod
2d unit cam, Texas prod
2d unit cam, Texas prod
2d unit cam, Texas prod
Cam, Louis Fyne TV commercial
Cam asst, Texas prod
2d asst cam, Texas prod
2d unit asst cam, Texas prod
2d unit asst cam, Texas prod
Gaffer, Texas prod
Best boy, Texas prod
Elec, Texas prod
Elec, Texas prod
Key grip, Texas prod
Best boy, Texas prod
Dolly grip, Texas prod
Grip, Texas prod
Still photog, Texas prod
Slide prod, Texas prod
Processing by
Moviecam cam system supplied by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst to prod des
Art dept asst
Art dept asst
Trompe l'oeil, Fashion show
FILM EDITORS
2d film ed
Video ed, Wild Wild Life
Generic video ed, Wild Wild Life
Ed, Puzzling Evidence
Ed, Puzzling Evidence
Ed, Love for Sale
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst set dec
Prop master
Asst props
Swing gang
Swing gang
Spec propmaker
Sets constructed by, Love for Sale
COSTUMES
Fashion show des
Asst cost des, Fashion show
Costumer
Asst costumer
Asst costumer
Ward const
Live grass clothing, Fashion show
Bride's headdress des, Fashion show
Headdress ornamentation, Fashion show
Headdress ornamentation, Fashion show
Seamstress, Fashion show
Seamstress, Fashion show
Seamstress, Fashion show
Seamstress, Fashion show
Seamstress, Fashion show
MUSIC
Nine songs rec by
Mus ed
Asst mus eng
Back-up vocals, Wild Wild Life
Back-up vocals, Wild Wild Life
Back-up vocals, Wild Wild Life
Back-up vocals, Wild Wild Life
Back-up vocals, Wild Wild Life
SOUND
Sd des
Asst sd des
Boom op
Cableperson
Audio post prod supv
San Francisco
Audio post-prod coord
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec services
A Division of Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Dial ed
ADR, foley and sd eff eng
ADR, foley and sd eff eng
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles des
Title prod
DANCE
Choreog, Texas prod
Choreog, Texas prod
MAKEUP
Makeup artist, Texas prod
Hairstylist, Texas prod
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting dir
LA/NY casting assoc
Texas casting assoc
Texas casting asst
Texas casting asst
Exec in charge of prod
Prod liaison
Asst prod liaison
Texas prod assoc
Los Angeles prod assoc
New York prod assoc
Scr supv, Texas prod
Prod coord, Texas prod
Prod secy, Texas prod
Loc mgr, Texas prod
Asst loc mgr, Texas prod
Prod consultant, Texas prod
Prod asst, Texas prod
Prod asst, Texas prod
Prod asst, Texas prod
Asst to Miss Murphy and Mr. Byrne, Texas prod
Asst to Miss Murphy and Mr. Byrne, Texas prod
Medic
Med-Star
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation driver
Transportation driver
Transportation driver
Transportation driver
Transportation driver
Craft services
Post prod supv
Los Angeles prod affiliate
Photo research coord
Photo research coord
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Accounting asst
Accounting asst
Accounting asst
Des, Opening montage
Archival footage by, Opening montage
Still photos furnished by, Opening montage
Still photos furnished by, Opening montage
Still photos furnished by, Opening montage
Still photos furnished by, Opening montage
Still photos furnished by, Opening montage
Still photos furnished by, Opening montage
Addl still photographs by, Opening montage
Prod mgr, Wild Wild Life
Spec consultant, Fashion show
Frame by, Fashion show
Fashion show asst
Fashion show asst
Fashion show asst
Fashion show asst
Fashion show asst
Montage seq des, Puzzling Evidence
Montage seq des, Puzzling Evidence
Orig footage by, Puzzling Evidence
Orig footage by, Puzzling Evidence
Archival materials furnished by, Puzzling Evidence
Archival materials furnished by, Puzzling Evidence
Archival materials furnished by, Puzzling Evidence
Archival materials furnished by, Puzzling Evidence
Archival materials furnished by, Puzzling Evidence
Archival materials furnished by, Puzzling Evidence
Archival materials furnished by, Puzzling Evidence
Archival materials furnished by, Puzzling Evidence
Archival materials furnished by, Puzzling Evidence
Archival materials furnished by, Puzzling Evidence
Prod team, Love for Sale
Prod team, Love for Sale
Prod team, Love for Sale
Prod team, Love for Sale
Tech assistance, Love for Sale
Tech assistance, Love for Sale
Tech assistance, Love for Sale
ANIMATION
Anim and models, Love for Sale
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
"Road Song," little girl's melody, movement and vocals composed by Meredith Monk ©1985, performed by Capucine DeWulf
"Cocktail Desperado," written by David Byrne and Terry Allen, performed by Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band
"Mall Melodies," written and performed by Carl Finch
+
SONGS
"Road Song," little girl's melody, movement and vocals composed by Meredith Monk ©1985, performed by Capucine DeWulf
"Cocktail Desperado," written by David Byrne and Terry Allen, performed by Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band
"Mall Melodies," written and performed by Carl Finch
"Soy de Tejas," written by Steve Jordan, performed by Steve Jordan y Rio Jordan
"Ze Pereira," arranged by Jeffrey Barnes, performed by Banda Eclipse
"Buster's Theme," written and performed on sixteen accordions by Carl Finch
"Festa Para um Rei Negro," written by Zuzuca, arranged by Jeffrey Barnes for Banda Eclipse
"Wild Wild Life," "Love for Sale," and "City of Dreams" written by David Byrne, Christopher Frantz, Jerry Harrison and Martina Weymouth and performed by Talking Heads.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 October 1986
Premiere Information:
New York Film Festival screening: 4 October 1986
New York opening: 10 October 1986
Los Angeles opening: 24 October 1986
Production Date:
began mid September 1985 in McKinney, TX
Copyright Claimant:
True Stories Ventures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
13 January 1987
Copyright Number:
PA314233
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
89
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28273
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Residents of Virgil, Texas, prepare to celebrate their state’s Sesquicentennial with events sponsored by the town’s leading factory, Vericorp. In the days leading up to the festivities, Vericorp’s computer assembly line co-workers exchange stories. Elsewhere in the building, an executive, “the computer guy,” explains that Vericorp is the epicenter of a changing world. Inside a “clean room,” long-time Vericorp worker Louis Fyne describes his desire to find a wife. Later, at a nightclub, Louis flirts with a woman while his co-worker, “the lying woman,” tells a friend that she had an affair with the “real Rambo” in Vietnam. Another Vericorp employee, Ramon, believes he can telepathically pick up other people’s radio frequencies. Club patrons take turns on stage to perform lip-synch versions of the song “Wild, Wild Life.” The next day, a wealthy Virgil resident, “the lazy woman,” explains her life, which consists of watching television and never getting out of bed. Elsewhere, townspeople gather at Virgil’s new shopping mall, which is filled with twins. Louis arrives to see a fashion show from “the Dream Factory” and reports that its emcee, Kay Culver, has not spoken to her industrialist, Vericorp founder-husband, Earl Culver, in many years. As Kay sings, the show ends abruptly when a model with a towering hairpiece topples off stage. Sometime later, at a bar, the lying woman flirts with Louis, claiming to be a real estate tycoon-psychic who was born with a tail that was later sold to one of President Johnson’s secret service agents. The man intended to sell the appendage to the Smithsonian Institution. Louis is terrified by the lying woman’s ... +


Residents of Virgil, Texas, prepare to celebrate their state’s Sesquicentennial with events sponsored by the town’s leading factory, Vericorp. In the days leading up to the festivities, Vericorp’s computer assembly line co-workers exchange stories. Elsewhere in the building, an executive, “the computer guy,” explains that Vericorp is the epicenter of a changing world. Inside a “clean room,” long-time Vericorp worker Louis Fyne describes his desire to find a wife. Later, at a nightclub, Louis flirts with a woman while his co-worker, “the lying woman,” tells a friend that she had an affair with the “real Rambo” in Vietnam. Another Vericorp employee, Ramon, believes he can telepathically pick up other people’s radio frequencies. Club patrons take turns on stage to perform lip-synch versions of the song “Wild, Wild Life.” The next day, a wealthy Virgil resident, “the lazy woman,” explains her life, which consists of watching television and never getting out of bed. Elsewhere, townspeople gather at Virgil’s new shopping mall, which is filled with twins. Louis arrives to see a fashion show from “the Dream Factory” and reports that its emcee, Kay Culver, has not spoken to her industrialist, Vericorp founder-husband, Earl Culver, in many years. As Kay sings, the show ends abruptly when a model with a towering hairpiece topples off stage. Sometime later, at a bar, the lying woman flirts with Louis, claiming to be a real estate tycoon-psychic who was born with a tail that was later sold to one of President Johnson’s secret service agents. The man intended to sell the appendage to the Smithsonian Institution. Louis is terrified by the lying woman’s tales, but politely confides that he is planning to perform an original song at Friday’s talent show. In response, the lying woman recalls that she wrote Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” as well as “half of Elvis’ songs.” Elsewhere, at the Culver family dinner table, Kay and Earl communicate by asking their children to pass along messages. Earl explains that inventors from large corporations such as Vericorp are branching off to create independent enterprises, but such people must stay in Virgil. He argues that economics has become a new spirituality, and there is “no concept of weekends anymore.” Sometime later, at the Victorious Life Church, the preacher insists that Texas is still suffering from President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. However, the lying woman declares that she had an affair with J.F.K., and it was their love that killed him. Singing a gospel tune called “Puzzling Evidence,” the preacher screens documentary footage and announces that corporations are forming conspiracies against common people. Elsewhere, Earl Culver describes his latest real estate venture, a remote suburban housing community which he terms “the edge of the civilized world.” He says such communities and their “imaginary landscape” of domestic bliss continuously expand the borders of Virgil. However, he notes that fewer people are having children, because the end of the world is looming in the near future. The following day, the lazy woman uses her remote control to click through television commercials and is intrigued by an advertisement in which Louis offers himself as an ideal husband. Later, Louis visits “the cute woman,” who is obsessed with all that is sweet and charming. He performs an impromptu version of his autobiographical talent show song, which ends with the verse, “we just want someone to love.” The cute woman laments the sadness of the song, and tells Louis she cannot tolerate such emotion in her life. That night, at the Mercado Juarez nightclub, Louis asks his co-worker, Ramon, for the address of a voodoo healer named Mr. Tucker, who can help him attract a lover. At Mr. Tucker’s home shrine, Louis receives a medallion for good luck. Tucker tells Louis to drink half of three soda waters each day, and throw the rest of the liquid away. If Louis does what he is told, and prevents himself from entertaining negative thoughts, he will find true love. The next day, the “Celebration of Specialness” begins with a parade down Main Street. At the evening’s Talent Show, Earl Culver kicks off the event by introducing two dueling auctioneers, whose contest ends with the song of a yodeler. As dancers, yo-yo duet players, ventriloquists, and various other performers display their talents, Mr. Tucker creates a spell for Louis, lighting candles and channeling positive energy. As Louis takes the stage, he rubs Tucker’s medallion, then impresses the crowd with his anthem, “People Like Us,” singing the chorus, “we don’t want freedom, we don’t want justice, we just want someone to love.” Watching the television broadcast from home, the lazy woman finally gets out of bed to telephone Louis at the event. They are soon married in the lazy woman’s bed. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.