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Published on July 20, 2021

How I ended up approving movie scripts for Texaco

By Janice R. Edwards
The Bulletin

Recently, a new Netflix series about Tejano legend Selena Quintanilla–Perez’s life came on TV.

I mentioned to John Toth (Bulletin Co-Publisher) that when I worked for Texaco, one of my jobs was to approve movie scripts utilizing Texaco product placement. One of the two scripts I approved was the original “Selena” movie.

John said that my readers might enjoy a story about that, so this week I’ll give you a window into the circumstance that led up to it.

I’ve wanted to write since I was a kid, and Mom “suggested” that we write a journal of our day trips in the spring and summer. After graduating college, I wanted to be a reporter, but that wasn’t going to be. I taught English and Journalism for three years. That was not what I wanted.

I moved on. I worked in a stock brokerage, and then a geological services company locating surveys, oil wells and spinning shot points. (Shot points are the locations of seismic tests.) I kept looking and wrangled an interview at KHOU for a news writer.

The news director wasn’t there for the interview, so they substituted Ray Miller, the man who used to do “The Eyes of Texas” show years ago. I was starstruck.

I had sent in a sample of my writing, and I remember him telling me that I could write, but I had no camera presence.

I was so young and green, weighing in at about 98 pounds soaking wet and still wearing braces; he was right. He thanked me for my time, and I left.

I didn’t want to present the news on TV – just wanted to write it.

When the geological services ob went south, I somehow got the same kind of a job for Getty Oil, which was gobbled up by Texaco after my first six months there.

I stayed in the drafting bull pen for years until finally, there was a job opening in advertising and sales promotion. I applied for it and got it.

My job there was to create a writing style for their sales brochures, proofread them and route copy to the various departments, legal, and back to the advertising firm for final work.

I got to take a couple of trips to New York City to visit with Texaco Corporate and the advertising firm they used. I got along well with the corporate lawyers and because of that, I got a very neat perk in my job.

When movie companies wanted to use Texaco’s logo in a movie in exchange for something, like free gas for the vehicles, someone had to approve the movie. For a while in the late 1990s, corporate legal gave me that task. It was one of the best parts of my job.

For a movie to be considered, it had to be family oriented and show Texaco in a good light.
I started reading a pot-boiler for Burt Reynolds, “Wolverton Mountain, based on the 1962 hit song of the same name. In the first page of the script, I counted the “F” word 27 times. That was a big, fat NO.

“Dancer, Texas” was another, among several other films, not approved.

However, I did approve two scripts – “The Spanish Prisoner”, starring Steve Martin and “Selena”, featuring Jennifer Lopez.

In the case of “The Spanish Prisoner,” it was a movie about a con game. It was interesting, and Steve Martin was cast as the heavy. That was the one script that I could not figure out the plot by the end of the second page. It had more twists and turns than a snake. And it was clean. It comes on cable occasionally. Look for it and watch it if you get a chance.

The most memorable script I approved was “Selena.” I had to sign a non-disclosure contract before I could read it. I couldn’t even let my boss read it. I locked it up when I went home at night.

The producers wanted to put a Texaco sign in the beginning of the movie, and I think they wanted gasoline and some toy Texas banks in exchange for product placement.

The toys, which were for the segment showing when the Quintanilla family lived in Lake Jackson, ended up on the cutting-room floor.

The movie script had two endings. I had to read and approve both. They met Texaco’s requirements, and I was totally immersed in the life of someone I had not known until I read the script.

I didn’t like either of the endings or the end of Selena’s life, either.

I’m especially glad I had the opportunity to read this script – I would have missed out on something special.

(Write Janice in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)