By Hailey Krueger
Oct. 27, 2017
Lincoln musician Mike Semrad’s short film, “The Ballad of Leslie Arnold,” will premiere at 6 p.m. on Sunday at The Zoo Bar.
The film is a music video for the song of the same name written by Semrad, who also directed and produced the film alongside cameraman Rhett McClure. It is the first single from Semrad’s upcoming full length solo album, Cloud or Mountain, which has an expected release in February of 2018.
The song is about Leslie Arnold, a 16-year-old from Omaha who shockingly killed both of his parents in 1958. The bodies were found three weeks later and Arnold was sentenced to life in prison at Nebraska State Penitentiary. A decade later, the seemingly obedient inmate successfully escaped the prison and is missing to this day.
“Back then even if you murdered somebody you could still be up for parole,” Semrad said.
Arnold was a model inmate who tutored others, had a job, and even had a band. He is the only escapee who has never been caught from Nebraska State Penitentiary.
Henry Cordes at The Omaha World-Herald picked up on the legend and produced a detailed four-part story that ultimately took 25 years to write. The story is interlaced with interviews featuring Arnold’s orphaned brother, his captured co-escapee, neighbors and others, giving insight into the troubled boy’s home life and temperament. Semrad wrote his ballad after reading these articles, and encourages anyone interested in the real-life crime drama to read it as well.
“The story hit me hard because here was this young, naïve kid who does this terrible thing … but at the same time you want to feel sympathy for him,” he said.
After reading Arnold’s story, it took Semrad just 20 minutes to write the song and only two weeks to put the video together thanks to help from the local community. He had neighbors and friends who took great interest in being part of the project, and even starred in the video itself.
“My main objective in this city is to get the community involved in art events … I think my purpose in life is to do that.”
Semrad is an above and beyond participant in Lincoln’s creative scene, organizing events such as Sowerfest and Nebraska Folk and Roots Festival to name a few, giving a platform to artists from all walks of life. Creating this video was indeed a communal effort and the premiere itself will be, too.
The event will double as a potluck, so guests are free to bring a small dish and can enjoy others’ cuisines as well. The potluck begins at 6 p.m., and the music video will play for the first time at 6:30PM. All of the actors will be at the premiere where they will talk about their experience filming, and Cordes will open a Q and A to the audience about the peculiar case of Leslie Arnold after the video is shown. Afterwards, there will be live comedy by Brad Stewart and Zoolarious.
The premiere will be fun, casual, and a perfect start to the Halloween weekend. The video is black and white, and is meant to give off a Hitchcock murder movie vibe. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.
Hailey Krueger is an intern with KZUM.