Hollywood came to Clinton Sunday night when cameras flashed as stars and community members walked the red carpet.
The world premiere for “Tarnished Notes” was held at the Agri-Exposition Center. A sold-out crowd was the first to watch a movie based on the true story of Dan Arnold, a minister of music who was killed because of an affair. It’s based on the upcoming novel written by Sampson Independent publisher Sherry Matthews.
Many were thrilled to watch it on the silver screen, but for Dana Arnold, Arnold’s daughter, it was surreal. The names were changed for entertainment purposes, but to her it was real with moments that changed her life forever.
“When I watch that, I’m seeing things that happened to me in real life or to my family,” Arnold said about watching the trailer, prior to the showing. “Part of it is fictionalized because it is a movie and there has to be to keep interest. There were things added that didn’t necessarily happen or things are spun a different way.”
But according to Arnold, a lot of the story was accurate and was captured through words by Matthews, editor and publisher of The Sampson Independent.
“Those moments are going to really hit home for me,” Arnold said about growing up in a church.
Arnold admits there’s parts that are going to make her smile, too, when her father’s love for his daughters is portrayed. For several years, Arnold worked with Matthews on a series of interviews for the soon-to-be published book about her late father, a minister who was setup to be killed by his wife and their lover.
“It’s crazy to see that from all of the conversations that she and I have had over the years,” Arnold said. “This is what has come from that.”
Many conversations took place when Carl, the murderer in the case, was up for parole. For Arnold, a lot of emotions were involved during the process. It’s been more than 30 years since it happened and she expects it to bring back memories for community members who were tuned in to the scandal.
“They’re probably going to see a whole other side of the Arnold Family they didn’t really know,” Arnold said. “They may not believe it, when they see the movie and different parts of it, they may believe that’s fiction. It’s hard to say how people are going to react.”
Personally, it’s been a roller coaster for Arnold. As a child, she lost her dad tragically at the age of 7.
“That was very hard,” she said. “I essentially lost my mom when she was convicted and went to prison.”
Arnold was forced to live without her parents and as a child, she really didn’t understand a lot of things she was subjected to.
“They just didn’t make sense to me,” Arnold said. “Although I remember things vividly, I just didn’t understand the meaning behind them.”
When she became a wife and a mother, a lot of those memories came back. She gained a better understanding of the past.
“There’s been a lot of eyeopening experiences for me and things that have raised questions for me,” she said. “I now have children and I’m married, so I just relate to it all differently now.”
“I hate to say I’m numb to it, but it’s been my reality since 1984,” she said. “There are still questions that are still unanswered for me.”
One of her goals is to sit down face-to-face with her father’s killer. It’s what she wanted from the moment she picked up the phone and spoke with Matthews.
“It’s not happened yet and I would still like that opportunity,” Arnold said.
With not answers from her mom, she hopes that he can shed light on questions.
“But I also want him to face me and tell me why,” she said.
But in the meantime, Arnold will have to wait while she re-lives it through “Tarnished Notes.” The made-for-TV movie was directed by Mitchell Maxwell, a Tony award-winner, and stars “One Tree Hill” alum Cari Moskow, Elijah Chester, a Grammy-award recipient, and Greenville newcomer Ryan Joyner. It also includes actors and actresses from Sampson County and eastern North Carolina.
“There’s a lot of people who’ve put a lot of time and talent into making this happen,” Arnold said. “I think it’s phenomenal for the town and everyone involved. I’m proud of Sherry, she’s done a great job and been a friend throughout all of this.
“She’s not just a reporter, who’s trying to get the dirt on a story, she’s very dear to me and she’s gone to great lengths to protect me all these years,” Arnold said. “This is her night and I’m glad I can be here to support.”
Matthews said it was unbelievable moment and was thrilled with the turnout. She said it was “icing on the cake” to have Dana present during the sold-out premier.
“That’s humbling and a little scary at the same time,” Matthews said about people seeing the work for the first time. “It’s like a dream come true in a lot of ways and I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people.”
The red carpet event also featured assistance from cadets at Tarheel ChalleNGe and ambassadors from Sampson Community College.
“It truly is a community project and a lot of people have come together to make this happen,” Matthews said. “This is not about Sherry Matthews, this is about a whole lot of people who did a whole lot of work and tonight is their night.”
As a native in Clinton, Matthews was proud to have the premiere in her home town.
“It’s absolutely amazing that we did this whole thing in our community,” she said. “I love this community to death. We were able to do this together and put money back into this community. Doing all of those things were wonderful.”
Gloria Edwards, a co-producer, added that it was a cooperative effort between community members, friends and family.
“It’s been an amazing effort,” Edwards said about the red carpet event. “I can never thank the community enough.”
Edwards believes the movie benefited Clinton by bringing jobs, lodging and food purchases.
“The crew was very acceptable to the town and the town treated them very well,” Edwards said.
Updates about the movie are available on the Tarnished Notes Facebook page or on the film’s website at www.TarnishedNotes.net
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.