| April 8, 2004
A Sense of Responsibility
This last week has been extraordinary for me.
Some months ago, Jon Alpert, a multi Emmy Award winning producer,
asked my help on a project.
Two young film makers, Craig and Brent Renaud, who worked
with his group down at DCTV [a non-profit production company
housed in New Yorks oldest firehouse], had approached
the Arkansas National Guard and been given permission to cover
the story of their call up to Iraq and to go with them through
training and deployment. With their own money, followed on
by some from NHK, Jon and the Renaud brothers began their
To finish, Jon needed more partners. As I viewed the footage,
I thought of Discovery Times, particularly since I knew the
New York Times, a 50% partner in the network, was carefully
following the status of several Guard units as they were moving
through the call up. Discovery Times bought in; I organized
an international sales partner.
With the clock ticking on all fronts, the project was a roller
coaster of a negotiation, with a need to finish the deal before
Brent Renaud got on a plane to Kuwait to join his brother
Craig. At 4:00 a.m. Craig managed to crawl around his desert
base and find a working fax machine to get back to us a document
that was needed while in New York Brent was packing up their
bullet proof vests.
As all pressured negotiations are, this was fraught with
emotion, slips from speed on all sides, tangled communications,
days of cell phone calls at odd hours, while people worked
through sickness and through hours when they should have been
But we got it done.
I wrote a thank you note to all the people involved, on every
side; everyone of us worked like hell to get this done because
as people got deeper and deeper into this everyone knew that
this was going to be an important film because it shows us
the faces of the men and women who are paying the price for
our involvement in Iraq.
The morning after I sent the thank you, I got one back from
Brent, now in a desert camp in Kuwait, waiting to convoy up
to Baghdad, using a few precious minutes of internet time.
He thanked me for everything I had done to get him there.
I had heard from Jon the day before that he and Craig were
excited, pleased, delighted to be there, their cameras at
the ready, in the middle of their story.
When I finished reading Brents note, I put my head
down on my desk and cried.
When my friend Joe came back from Iraq in the fall, I breathed
easier, thinking [I now realize] that I felt I was off the
hook. No one else I knew and loved would be going.
But now there are two young men in Iraq, not soldiers but
journalists, met as they scuttled back and forth from edit
rooms while I was visiting DCTV at various times, soft southern
voices, well-mannered, at the other end of phones, breaking
backs and nearly necks to get me what I needed to get the
Now they are there. As Brent walked through camp, a mortar
shell landed and killed a soldier a hundred yards away.
I am not responsible but feel so because I have come to respect
two young men who are literally risking their lives to tell
their story and are feeling joyously, passionately, fiercely
alive in the doing. I have been a participant in their adventure.
While I have not practiced Catholicism for decades, I stopped
at St. Anthonys and lit two candles, one for each brother
and one for the ANG. I have come to know some of them through
the footage I have seen.
We should all know these people; they are the ones on the
line for our adventures.
Part I will premiere on Discovery Times on April 20th. Two
more hours will follow as soon as events permit. Watch and
meet your countrymen.