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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

November 30, 2006

When I last reported, I was writing from the Congress of Science and Factual Producers in Manchester, England. Following that, I journeyed down to London for the World Congress of History Producers, which, while less intellectually stimulating than Science and Factual, was actually better for networking, meeting people, having conversations about the art of producing History programming.

The History Congress was more programmatically disorganized than Science and Factual; physically the venue worked much better.

The stress of the Iraqi war on relationships between Americans and citizens of virtually any other country are palpable. On the Saturday night of the Congress, my friends Ruth and Drazon, took me out to dinner to celebrate my birthday and we had a wonderful, long evening together, including a frank conversation about the feeling of Brits that Tony Blair dragged their country into the morass with America, hence his impending departure from Number 10 Downing Street. They are angry with us and angry with themselves. Not unlike many Americans.

Too many times over coffee breaks the French, Germans, Swedish, Dutch, Rwandans, South Africans, Canadians, etc., etc. etc., looked at me and asked: what were you thinking? At times it was more personal than was comfortable; it is a sad fact our world image has sunk dramatically and the post 9/11 good will exhausted.

At Science and Factual this was discussed from the podiums; at History it was discussed at the coffee breaks. It was easier to deal with as an anonymous member of an audience than in one on one conversation.

All of those conversations reverberated in my mind upon my return to the States for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Interestingly, I found that over that whole long, languorous, lovely weekend, more fall than winter in upstate New York; I did not turn on the television once. It was not that I was cut off; I read newspapers, listened to the radio, checked my e-mails and checked out the headlines on Google News on a semi-regular basis – it was just I felt no need for video diversion. I had houseguests; we commented at the end of the weekend that it was calming not to have been blasted with images and sound from the box and that we had not been cut off. We knew the situation in Iraq was turning worse; instead of passively listening, we actively discussed and respectfully disagreed on a number of points.

It also pointed out to me that the media evolution continues; the big box is less my constant companion than my trusty laptop. My media habits have been evolving; while I was not paying attention my PVR quietly recorded programs I might want to watch later – allowing me not to miss BATTLESTAR GALACTICA or STUDIO SIXTY ON THE SUNSET STRIP.

While my PVR whirled, saving my pre-selected favorites, NBC News made news itself by announcing that it was re-categorizing events in Iraq. As far as they were concerned Iraq had now officially descended into Civil War. Several other news outlets followed suit or pointed out they had been calling events there just that for some time now. But for many it was a defining moment in the events of the last three and half years. Insurgency had become Civil War, officially, in the minds of average Americans if not in the minds of policy makers. Some pundits declared it the contemporary equivalent of Cronkite declaring Viet Nam unwinnable.

Against the backdrop of two major intellectual Congresses, where the ebb and flow of events across history were major topics of conversation, I spent a long, media contemplative weekend, recognizing that while I do not know or see where the historical road is leading, I am acutely aware history is being made and we are living in one of the great fulcrum points in time.