Evan Weinstein's notes from TAR 1.https://www.facebook.com/notes/evan-weinstein/the-start-of-a-great-adventure/10151817484747785
Twelve years ago today, a group of 22 anxious people stood in a semi-circle in the middle of Central Park. There was snow on the ground and Bethesda Fountain was still "off" for the Winter. They were smiling, hopeful, and completely unaware of the extent of what they were about to experience. Their heads were filled with the rules of a game they didn't know; terms and phrases like Detour and Roadblock. It would be at least a week before they could really play with any confidence -- by then some would already be done and sequestered in Paris. But for now, they faced a Man they'd hardly met, who was himself struggling to remember the words he'd been given only the night before. This was a pattern this Man would repeat every day and night for a month, memorizing hastily jotted, too-long speeches inside chilly vans and on blistering street corners, in the moments before sunrise or sunset, always waiting for, or racing against, the light. But for now the Man and the 22 were locked in nervous anticipation: were we really about to do this? Do what, exactly? To the side someone's noticeably trembling voice asked on a walkie, "is there anyone who has any reason why we cannot start this?" Silence was his answer, and he gave a thumbs up to the Man... who turned to the 22 and said, "on your marks... travel safe..."
Behind the cameras a cadre of producers and executives stood smiling and excited. I counted more than 22 cameras, including the jib and the helicopter buzzing above. We didn't know that we were truly just as unaware of the extent of what was about to happen, truly as unsuspecting as the 22. Oh, we had planned. Planned like crazy. Planned as best as anyone can when planning the unknown -- like "planning" your Freshman year of college or "planning" how you'll raise a child. We planned that the Race would last at least six weeks, but it lasted barely 28 days, and the phrase uttered most often by everyone involved was, "oh shit!" We had planned to sleep, but we rarely did -- just like we rarely showered, rarely ate anything other than Pringles or Kit Kat bars, rarely really knew anything more than 5 minutes before we absolutely had to know it. We had planned that our state of the art world phones would work, but they rarely did. We had planned that the 22 wouldn't be able to get on flights we knew to be sold out. We had the very best laid plans -- and you know what happens to them.
As the helicopter buzzed and the jib swung, I thought of my father. He had died only 3 months before. He had been Mr. Supportive, and he had gotten to see a little success, but nothing like this. He would have loved this. He would have been proud, I thought. "You went too soon, Dad," I said out loud... But there wasn't time for these kinds of thoughts. There wasn't time for the tears I felt or the hitch in my voice. And others would be gone too soon. Others who were there that day but are no longer here 12 years later. Margaretta and Nancy of the 22... Bozman of the Cadre. But we didn't know that then, just as we didn't know very much at all about anything we thought we knew. In truth, on that sunny, chilly day, we were all so very innocent about oh so many things. A few miles South, the towers were still standing, though they would have to be removed from our opening montage before we relaunched two weeks after our original September premiere, when the normal TV schedule resumed. Interesting that we had very seriously discussed the possibility of our Finish Line being on the observation deck. Turns out our scout 2 months earlier to ascertain the logistics of just that possibility was the last time I would stand atop those mighty buildings.
"Is there anyone who has any reason why we cannot start this?"
72 hours from then we would no longer be innocent. We would be running for our lives, just as the 22 were running for a million bucks. They were racing for the fun, the excitement, the chance to be rich -- we were running to stay ahead, to make sure things were ready, to make sure nothing went wrong, to just be sure we were there at all. The 22 somehow always managed to talk their way onto those sold out flights and that fact would cause many of us to bolt up in our beds months later, genuine victims of PTSD, thinking we'd overslept, thinking we were late, and scaring the crap out of our wives. We called them Race Dreams, and they are still a right of passage for each first-timer on the staff. But we didn't know any of that on March 15, 2001. -- and 72 hours later we finally knew that we didn't know anything. As the last charter flight tipped upwards into the skies over Zambia, Rick Ringbakk, the man responsible for producing the first episode and a half in Africa, sat on the airport steps, exhausted, sunburned and broken -- not forever broken, but for the moment. He dialed his faulty world phone and finally managed to connect with Michael Norton, the producer waiting for the onslaught to arrive in Paris.
Clean, rested and naively excited, Norton was casually running through things at the Arc de Triomphe, and until that moment had no idea that France was about to experience the reality TV version of World War Three. The conversation with Ringbakk was short and to the point. He told Norton one thing... he made one statement that has remained legendary among the people who have been lucky enough to be a part of this crazy dreamscape of a show. With exhaustion weighing like a slab, Ringbakk calmly said two words to Norton: "Hire everyone."
Of course we survived. After doing it, we finally really knew how to do it. By comparison, it's easy now, though never truly easy, always truly hard work... but to be there in 2001... well, it's like having been anywhere at the start of something great, and not many of us get the chance to have something great be part of our lives. We are lucky.
"Is there anyone who has any reason why we cannot start this?" Silence was his answer, and he gave a thumbs up to the Man... And the Man said, "Go."
And the rest truly was Amazing.shared with permission