Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Mister Rogers, Chef Brockett & Me

Moment to moment, day to day, my confidence as to whether we're gonna' finish this documentary in time for the March 15th Nantucket Film Festival deadline changes. At this moment, on this day, confidence is high.

This week's progress has been measured in inches, not feet (let alone miles). I finished Marc Brown's segment over the weekend. He tells a sweet story about first meeting Mister Rogers, then goes on to illustrate just how aggressively advertisers market to kids.

"Each year they see 40,000 commercials about fast food and candy, and there’s over $10B spent each year on making those commercials," he told me last December. "Now that is a stacked deck.

"Right now the Federal Trade Commission has decided that these fast food places should really police themselves. And I don’t think that’s working so well."

Fred Rogers, of course, agreed.

We have to remember to whom the airwaves belong, and we must put as great an emphasis on the nurturing of the human personality as we can. I believe that those of us who are the producers and purveyors of television -- or video games or newspapers or any mass media -- I believe that we are the servants of this nation.

Marc Brown's segment will lead nicely, I hope, into Linda Ellerbee's. Ms. Ellerbee -- who was an absolute firecracker -- speaks of meeting Mister Rogers as well, and of how his values influenced her Nick News.

"One of the leading principles of Nick News is that we are all more alike than we are different. It’s only that our differences are easier to define. The second rule is, wherever in the world you find bad things happening, you always find good people trying to make it better. The third rule is keep it simple. And the fourth rule is that simple is not the same as easy."

Then she goes on to explain the primary reason why television is often so shallow and complex. The program isn't the product; the audience is.

"The product is the audience. The consumer is the advertiser. The program is just the means of acquiring that audience."

Ah yes, the Almighty Dollar.

Remember what Bo said? "The way Jesus puts it in the West is, 'Lay not of your treasures where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break in and steal.”

I've also begun drafting a list of the photos and footage we need to licence, like "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" Episode #29 (the one that takes place in Nantucket), and his 1997 Lifetime Emmy Award acceptence speech.

Meantime, some early bits of media are coming in. Amy Hollingsworth (bless her heart) secured a deal with CBN on our behalf so that we're able to use her intire 1996 interview. And Day Rothbart sent this photo today. I quickly emailed him. "Do you have that other photo? The one without the dude in the leopard-skin Speed?"

"Ha!" he wrote back. "That's Don Brockett, who played Chef Brockett on the show!"

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