Reflecting Your Life

Twenty plus years ago I made a series of continuing education tapes for real estate license renewal in California. I got studio time only after the "big names" in real estate got their shot. The problem was simply that none of them had ever done live to video before and they sucked at it. The studio tech staff went crazy dealing with the prima donnas and incompetent speakers. Then they decided to give others a shot. I was one of the "others."

I brought coffee and pot for the crew and told them just to turn on the cameras, I would start talking and we would put in all the graphics and low-lines in post-production. In other words, we would shoot the tapes they way they were meant to be shot.

After my first day of shooting I took 150 raw minutes of tape home to watch over the weekend and dream up appropriate visuals to edit into the final product. You see unlike those "real estate professionals" I had actually taught before; so I knew that all the notes in the world only meant confusion on the screen. My system was to just talk for 50 minutes (end of tape); then talk for another 50 minutes and repeat. Then I would watch the footage to see what I said and write an outline to fit what was on the screen. Seemed like a good plan and it worked but there is one more part of the story I wanted to tell today.

The next day I popped the first tape into the VHS player and sat down with a pad of paper. A couple of minutes into the lecture I thought: "Now that's a really good point, I should write that down, so I don't forget it." About half way through my note taking I stopped, looked up at the screen and realized I was taking notes on myself. I had impressed me! Talk about a mutual admiration society.

The other story comes from the writing of Check Raising the Devil. Our process was to get all of the interviews and research done on a chapter, then to rough draft it and then to read it out loud to Mike to get his comments and corrections. I have mentioned before that some of the best scenes in the book came from Mike adding some juicy tidbits during this reading of the drafts.

This one time, Mike had wanted his manager and another person to sit in on a reading to get their take on how the project was coming along. My co-author Amy was in town for this session, it was really a litmus test of whether or not we had captured Mike's authentic voice. This chapter was about a particularly dark and difficult time in Mike's life, it had taken several interviews sessions and a few different approaches to get all the painful details out of him.

I was reading the pages out loud and about mid chapter I began to feel the gravity of what we were disclosing. I paused and glanced over at Amy, I could see on her face she was feeling it as well. She nodded towards Mike as if directing my attention. I looked at him and saw he was in tears, not the only tears in the room as it turned out.

Imagine the darkest time of your life, then imagine having those scenes, those dark times you lived through, having them read to you with professional setting, timing, scene structure and dialogue. Imagine having your life reflected back to you in word, deed, voice or videotape. I can tell you it's a surreal and profound experience no matter which side of the screen you occupy.