From Anne B. Pope, Executive Director, TN Arts Commission –
Recently, the Memphis and the State of Tennessee lost two of their greatest champions of music, film, and the arts. I knew Knox Phillips and Rudi Scheidt for more than 20 years. They were dear friends and mentors to me, and I am heartbroken. Linn Sitler wrote this fine tribute to both of them as well as to their friendship.
In life, both Knox and Rudi were always striving to travel the high road and I like to think they’ve finally made it. They are together there now.
Now that Knox has departed, I feel compelled to tell the apparently little-known story of the two as close friends and important players in the world of Memphis film.
Knox was a natural to be on our Film Commission Board – formerly called The Memphis & Shelby County Film, Tape and Music Commission. In 1988 after the Orion feature, “Great Balls of Fire!” came to town, Knox became a familiar face on the set. His father, Sam, was strongly portrayed in the film.
Knox and I became fast friends and Knox, always a favorite no matter which Mayor was in power, quickly became a board appointee. Then cancer intervened.
Wanting to show Knox that people believed he would recover, I suggested to the Board that they nominate Knox to be the next board chairman.
And recover he did.
With Knox as Chairman, we traveled together to Hollywood on recruitment trips for Memphis. And what an ambassador for Memphis he was – whether calling with me on the head of 20th Century Fox, Bill Mechanic, or glad-handing all visitors to the Film Commission booth at the annual film commissions trade show.
Back then, during the Golden Age of Memphis Film, movie stars shopped at the then-grocery store Seessel’s and lawyers played hooky from courtrooms to appear as “extras” in John Grisham films. The world of film and film commissions was exciting. Dr. Richard Ranta of the University of Memphis encouraged me to bring Memphis philanthropist Rudi Scheidt into our world.
Rudi was an eager initiate. He loyally attended our local Film Commission Board meetings up until a year ago. Together with Knox, Rudi served as a Board member for years on the TN Film and Entertainment Commission Board.
Both Rudi and Knox quickly became invaluable in Tennessee
Both were called on to settle disputes between the sometimes conflicting Memphis/Nashville entertainment factions or to inject their business insight into the newly important area of film incentives. They both quietly financed local recruitment and marketing events. Most importantly, they acted together as kind of “Showbiz Uncles” to us all, judiciously giving advice.
As the years passed, I saw their friendship deepen- as both perhaps sensed their own mortality, Rudi for reasons of advancing age and Knox for reasons of worsening health.
Whenever Knox was at an event at which he was to be honored, I could count on always seeing Rudi and Honey seated at his table as guests of honor.