Towanda grad makes a career in the movie business
TOWANDA - Eric Hendershot, Towanda High School Class of 1965, got a teaching certificate from Brigham Young University in Utah and started working as a teacher and coach at a high school in a suburb of Salt Lake City.
But Hendershot said that when he saw his first paycheck, he realized it wouldn't support his family of five.
So he began writing movie screenplays on the side, two of which were optioned by film companies, but were never made into movies.
He said he got his big break seven years after he began his teaching job, when his screenplay for "The Imposter," was bought and made into the ABC Movie of the Week.
Realizing that his payment for "The Imposter" was more than his annual salary as a teacher and high school coach, Hendershot quit his teaching job to focus on writing.
He said he has since written 16 to 17 screenplays which were made into movies, including the 2005 movie "Down and Derby," which starred Pat Morita, who was well-known for playing Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid." He said he had co-writers on only two of the screenplays.
Hendershot has also worked as a director and in May, had his second novel published, called "At Season's End."
The novel is about two children growing up in the Great Depression, and is based on a true story, Hendershot said.
It's about a girl named Sal, who is a member of a family of migrant workers and who dreams of a future with a boy named Ben, whom she meets up with every year at the end of the picking season, according to Amazon.com
Jared Hess, who wrote and directed "Napoleon Dynamite," which was a huge success at the Sundance Film Festival and was widely seen by children, wrote an endorsement for At Season's End, which appears on the book's cover, Hendershot said. According to Amazon.com, Hess' endorsement reads: "At Season's End is funny and heartwarming. It made me want to quit my day job and live the adventurous life of a seasonal laborer."
Hendershot had actually had a screenplay made into a movie before he started his job as a teacher, but said he decided to get his teaching certificate because he wanted a career with financial stability.
Hendershot was on the varsity wrestling and track teams at Towanda High, and he said it was his experiences on the wrestling team that were an inspiration for his first screenplay, which was turned into the movie "Takedown," released on 1979.
Hendershot said his wrestling coach, Ed Branish, allowed Hendershot to use his name in the movie.
Hendershot's said his first published novel, "Jimmy Stillman I Will Always Love You," is set in Towanda.
Part of the novel is based on a true story involving his brother Chris, who had found the body of a woman who had disappeared when the vehicle she was in crashed through the ice of the Susquehanna River in Athens. In the novel, Chris' name was changed to Jimmy Stillman.
Hendershot said he loved reading literature while a student at Towanda High, including "The Scarlet Letter," but said he didn't read that much because he was involved in athletics and was pursuing girls.
Hendershot said he set a school record for the high jump while at Towanda High.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.