Daniel Junkins Lights Up "Amistad"

The following article was written by Daniel Junkins and published in JFA newsletter no. 12, March 1999

In March of 1997, I received a phone call from one of the company's satellite stores in Newport, Rhode Island, said Daniel Junkins, a museum associate at the Yankee Candle Company in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. They were inquiring if I could make some beeswax candles for a customer. In light of the fact that making beeswax candles is part of my job at the company (specifically, two co-workers and I recreate the setting, mood and atmosphere of an early 19th century candle shopped in New England and we perform daily presentations of candlemaking and produce candles from that era, within the confines of the Yankee Candle Store), I inquired as to how many candles the customer was asking for. I was told 300 twenty inch tapers!! I replied that that would require a couple of weeks before they could be done. I was then told that the inquiring customer was, in fact, the head of the film production crew of the movie "Amistad." A controversial movie directed by Steven Spielberg based on the story of African slaves who stood up for their freedom by taking over a slave ship called "Amistad" and the ensuing court battle where they eventually gained their freedom. The man was looking for authentic lighting that would be consistent with the mid 19th century of the United States.

After some discussion and a few deep breaths of nervous excitement, a few samples were sent to Newport. They approved of the size and shape and color of the candles. I then spent the next two weeks producing (and sweating!) the rest of the 300 candles ordered. Having some idea that the creation of any movie always encounters thousands of changes every week, I waited anxiously for the opening of the film in early December to see if my candles actually were in the movie. Then, eight weeks before the movie's grand opening, a charge of plagiarism had been issued against Steven Spielberg, the director of the film, and his production crew. The courts were going to decide whether the film would open or not, basing their decision on whether the accusations were true or not. I followed the story in three different newspapers every day - the Daily Hampshire Gazette, the Boston Globe and the New York Times! I wanted those candles to be seen in Hollywood, dammit!! Eventually the courts found the charges baseless and the film was released on December 12th, to my great relief and satisfaction. So, when you go and see the film, (which by the way is well worth watching - it's now on video cassette), cheer when you see the candles knowing that one of your cousins made them!!!

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