Philippe Boucher's Rendez-vous with . . . Melissa Havard
about the video Secrets Through the Smoke
Rendez-vous with . . . Melissa Havard
Entertainment Liaison/Health Communications Specialist
Office on Smoking & Health
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Atlanta, Georgia, USA
By Philippe Boucher
Tuesday, March 27 , 2001
PB: Thank you Melissa for accepting our rendez-vous.
May I ask you to introduce yourself?
Melissa Havard: I was the project manager for development of Secrets Through the Smoke, overseeing the production and distribution of this video.
Q1. Can you tell us about the background of the making of this video with/about Jeffrey Wigand?
Why was it made, when, how?
MH: Secrets Through the Smoke was made because our state partners came to us, stating that because of the visibility of the film The Insider, many health departments and schools had interest in hearing more from Jeff Wigand directly. Given he couldn't be in more than one place at one time, they asked that CDC develop something that they could use as an educational tool. Therefore , OSH developed Secrets. Jeremy London (from Party of Five) had a particularly creative and youthful approach as to how to make something like this interesting enough to keep the attention of young people, but still impactful enough to make hard hitting points for the adult audiences. That is why OSH chose him to write/direct..
Q2. Despite the fact that Jeffrey says he does not want to be considered a star or a hero, I have the feeling the producers did want to portray him as such.
The problem I have with that approach is that it glorifies one person, makes success an individual story when -in my opinion- successful tobacco control is so much a collective effort, so much about building and operating coalitions. What is your perception?
MH: OSH is very appreciative of our working relationship with Jeff Wigand, his expertise and experiences have been very helpful in our research and mission. We needed to be sensitive to HIS concerns about how he wanted to be portrayed. While, indeed, tobacco control progress is the result of many people's efforts, clearly Jeff Wigand's courage to come forward and testify, despite the possibility of jail and threats to his family, paved the way for not only the FIRST and largest financial settlement of the tobacco industry, but provided legal means for obtaining long-held documents that show a history of denial and obfuscation of the truth. As far as the public health community is concerned, Wigand is truly a hero for his willingness to come forward--considering the many personal and financial risks involved.
Q3. One moment I particularly liked is the segment about the twin sisters from Denver. One smokes the other doesn't and the experiment checking their respective capacity to recover from putting one hand hand in cold water is great. How did you find them? Who got the idea of this very visual experiment with the scanner?
MH: It was Jeremy London who decided to use this piece. Jeremy is a twin, and his brother, actor Jason London smoked. The piece came from Arnold Shapiro's documentary: Smoking Truth or Dare.. OSH provided tech assistance to Mr Shapiro, and he therefore allowed us usage rights
Q4 . The video shows a number of powerful TV ads, the aorta (from Australia), the quest for the Marlboro cow-boy at a Philip Morris's plant (from Florida?)... would you consider producing a video devoted exclusively to TV ads, with a larger selection? that would show different themes and eventually discuss them with media/communication experts?
MH: We may at some point. The ads are most impactful. One health department that already does something similar to what you are describing is the British Columbia Ministry of Health.: it's called Critics Choice, and the entire video consists of a selection of hard hitting ads. School children rate their top ones, and the number one vote getter is then shown on tv, as a paid tv spot.
Q5. Another strong moment is when a student wonders about a cigarette-induced fire that kills several of her relatives. I felt somewhat frustrated that this issue was not more developed. Do you eventually intend to produce more educational videos? that could focus on different issues?
MH: There are entire documentaries (ie the Canadian Broadcast System) that have devoted at least an hour to just firesafe cigarettes. We agree the firesafe coverage was emotional (coming from the young African-American girl, juxtapositioned with the images and music of burn victims).
Q6. Is there anything else you would like to add?
MH: to order a free Secrets Through Smoke video, go to www.cdc.gov/tobacco and click on Secrets, or email a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. We've made approximately 35,000 copies. They are available until supplies run out...
PB: Thank you Melissa for taking the time to be with us today.
Rendez-vous is supported by a contract from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
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