Memory Keepers

The Owners of Upshot Video Productions Have Started a Podcast to Honor Their Customers

David and Lani Helms create lasting relationships with their customers, who come to the couple to help preserve precious memories but often become friends.

By Kim Doleatto July 27, 2023

In a world where tech moves fast, David Helms and his wife and business partner, Lani, help local businesses keep up thanks their Upshot Video Productions, which transforms dusty VHS cassettes into CDs and reams of tape into clickable links.

Sometimes that gets complicated, like when a woman came in with a Ziploc bag full of two feet of tangled audio cassette tape inside. “She said it was all she had of her dad, who died when she was a child, and she hoped his voice was on it,” Helms, 42, recalls. He put it together in a new shell and the woman's father’s voice came alive. 

After Hurricane Ian, Helms taught people how to dry out precious tapes that had been flooded so he could then convert them into digital files—often saving priceless moments for people who had just about lost everything else.

Lani and David Helms

He and Lani have been giving memories new life and the chance to outlive their makers since 2016. They meet “local, everyday people who have amazing stories,” he says. 

So the idea of a podcast to document them made sense. The first episode is with a "soul channeller" named Mark Valentine. Another features Robert Tauber, who hand-makes books, from paper to ink. Future episodes will include Paula Benshoff, a Myakka Park ranger who has been interviewing locals for 30 years, and Daryl Casio, a retired Guantanamo Bay school teacher now in her 80s.

Then there’s 86-year-old Joe Panichello.

A few years ago, the former Riverview high school coach and teacher came to Upshot with an old, rough demo audio cassette of his original music to see what he could do with it.

After 58 years of marriage, Panichello’s wife, Jeanette, passed away. But before she did, she told Joe to pursue his music, which he had always shelved because, well, life got in the way.

Helms was “the first person who got me going,” Panichello says. “I called six or seven places that shooed me away or charged an awful lot. He was the last on my list. He answered the phone and told me to come on down.”

What became evident—beyond needing to turn an old audio cassette digital—was that Panichello was grieving the loss of his wife. Over time, business talk blossomed into conversation and company. Panichello shared his story and how just about every song he wrote was about Jeanette, including the first time he met the Southern belle whose family shunned him for being an Italian Yankee. Joe and Jeanette wed in 1961.

“I didn't know it at first, but he had this big hole in his heart,” Helms recalls.

Joe and Jeanette Panichello.

What stood out to the Helmses was Panichello's dedication to Jeanette—but also the fact that Panichello “couldn't tell you a note from a knuckleball,” he admits. “I never took a music lesson. I don’t know how to play an instrument or write music, but I do it in my head. I write the lyrics and melody.” His style ranges from romantic crooner to Italian folk to relaxed old country.

The momentum he got from bringing his old music back to life at Upshot made him start calling recording studios across the country to take his music to the next level. A studio in Nashville, owned by Billie Anderson, now helps produce all that pent-up music in Panichello's head. He sings into the phone because, Anderson says, “We want to hear it from [him] to get the progression and passion.” The music is then put to professional musicians and vocalists and recorded in the studio. Finally, it's sent to Upshot, where Helms makes CDs for Panichello.

“My amateur attempt at music passed the test,” Panichello says. So far, he's recorded almost 60 of his songs; 17 are on YouTube. To this day, Panichello has never been to the Nashville studio.

Many of his favorite people have a copy, from servers at one of his favorite restaurants, Der Dutchman, to his cashier at the grocery store. Panichello's accountant plays the CD at his office.

“I was offered an audition from Marina Jack after they heard a CD, but I had to tell them I don’t play,” Panichello says. “I just have a love for it. I get so much satisfaction from giving CDs to people and hearing how they enjoyed them.

 "Even though Jeanette never heard it, I'm grateful she pushed me,” he says.

The look into some of the most personal moments of people’s lives creates connections that outlast and outweigh the client’s initial needs. “We’ve been invited to eat with quite a few of our guests. We love to take them up on that," says Helms.

“David and Lani have become good friends," Panichello says. "They’re part of the family.” 

Upshot Video Productions is located at 627 N. Shade Ave., Sarasota, and can be reached at (941) 549-2823.

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