Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Speak To The Heart

How I came to understand that you have to speak to the heart...

In 1999 I was asked by a producer if I would take part in a History Channel series.  I had worked with him on an A&E Biography and he was really impressed with what I had done, so he thought of me for this series.

I asked him what the series was about.

Everything, he said.  The best, the most, the biggest, the tallest... throughout history.  The series title was The Most and it would cover the biggest disasters and the greatest battles throughout history.  Mike Rowe was to be the emcee host.

I said that maybe he needed a team of experts for this.  You know, I taught at a college and we had these divisions of knowledge...

He laughed and reassuringly said that he thought that I knew everything and that he liked how I said things.  He promised to mail me the scripts and the background info and all that.

That was in August.  Taping was to be in October or November.  I watched the mail every day.  My airline tickets arrived.  Still no packet of scripts.  I kept watching for them.  The night before my flight I received a HUGE -- you might call it ginormous package.  In it were sheaf after sheaf, page upon page of just about everything in history from Alexander the Great to the Second World War and from the Antipodes to the Azores.  I don't recall whether I slept.

On the airplane, I studied and read... How was I supposed to speak on all of this?  It was way too much!  I started thinking that my moments would be brief on air, sound bytes of only a sentence or two.  The narrator would have all of the details and facts.  So, then and there I decided that I would not relate facts, I would explain the heart.  My mantra became "speak to the heart."

For example, when I was asked about Sir Richard Burton and the quest for the Nile, I said, "There had to be some value higher than life itself -- a quest for glory or fame -- that would compel a man to risk certain death, something that made certain death worth doing."

It made it into the program and on the air.

I knew nothing about the explorer Richard Burton, and I still don't, but I got fan mail -- yes, fan mail and congratulations from two authors of books about exploring the Nile congratulating me for what I said.  I have some other stories like that from that series.

So, I learned to speak to the heart.