Jeff ThoniSouth 40 Creative Pro
Let’s Meet Jeff!
Creative People usually have some of the most interesting stories. Let’s delve into what makes Jeff tick.
Jeff, what is your favorite set or prop on South 40 and why?
Jeff: My favorite prop here at South 40 is the Gas Pump Island at the barn. Our kids knew I always wanted an old gas pump, so they surprised me one Christmas. They contacted one of my close car friends and talking him into selling one to them. Once I got the pump, the fun began. I had to decide what brand I would restore the pump to represent. After pondering the options, the green roof on our barn provided the inspiration: Sinclair was the choice. I had a vision of the gas island and an old garage sign in front of the old barn, transforming it into an old country garage. Since its completion, this set has been used for tons of photos, music album covers, and recently the gas island and the barn garage were the focal backdrop for Donavan Lee Carpenter’s music video. One of my favorite photos, hanging in my shop, is a shoot Ann did with my dad’s modified race car sitting at the gas pump. It really brings back childhood memories!
What was the first set or prop you created?
Jeff: I guess the first sets I created are found in courtyard at the end of our house. We had an in-ground pool for 17 years and decided to fill it in. Already having a privacy fence there, we wondered how we could use the new space. Ann and I explored several options and settled on the idea of designing different sets in one area, like a film studio. We found room for 6 sets, and they have been used a lot. We continually upgrade the sets, from decorating, painting, or other ideas we hear from professionals who use it.
How did you get into this business?
Jeff: Ann led me into the industry, having been a professional photographer for so long. We knew we had a unique location and what better way to keep the rural atmosphere alive than by preserving it. Growing up on a farm, I learned early on the value of craftsmanship. My father and grandfather both worked this land, built and repaired equipment, and passed on to me the skills and knowledge to do whatever needs to be done to keep everything running smoothly.
Do you have a funny story to share about a mishap with one of South 40’s sets or props?
Jeff: The funniest story I can think of involves the creation of “Tater,” the old tow truck sitting at the farm entrance. I was looking at Facebook Marketplace and came across a great deal on an old wrecker boom and thought it could make a great prop for the country garage theme. I knew I had an old Ford truck at the old tobacco barn; it had quit running 15 years ago and was left for dead here, then moved behind the barn, where it sat for years. My vision was to drag it up with the tractor, put the wrecker boom in, throw a little paint on it, and have an *easy* prop, perfect for the country garage set. One night in the middle of this process, I had a dream of getting the truck up and running. So, I got up that morning and went out to see if I could get it to run, unsure of what would be involved to get it back in running order. After several different diagnostics, it turned out that the only thing wrong was that the truck had run out of gas–there was absolutely no gas in the tank! In a store, I saw the windshield shade with the eyes, and only having to make buck teeth for the grill, Tater was born! Kids love taking pictures with Tater.