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Behind the Scenes Again!

Books-StandingWhen the chance came to produce a story for public TV, we grabbed it. A half-hour program for animal lovers? Move over, NBC peacock. There’s a new kid shaking his feathers!

Public TV (which is a broad term meaning everything from your local cable station to the mighty PBS) is “the original form of television.” With that in mind, and armed with a healthy entrepreneurial spirit, we set out to find stations that would broadcast our television production. The road to success in public television can be risky and confusing. After all, this isn’t something the typical high school teaches us how to do. And very few of us have an inside connection at a TV station to show us the ropes. In our case, although we had experience in the production of a TV program (Lights! Action! Camera!) and buying air time, we had no experience whatsoever in the process of getting our program on independent stations around the country. In other words, we were official TV producers … without a clue how to be what we were supposed to be.

Our team consisted of an experienced camera man, his wife, graphic designers, the staff at our studio (who believe anything is possible, but what they like making most is the collectible Hevener figurines), and a cheering squad of our kennel and stable help. Truth be told, a lot of people thought we had finally gotten ourselves “in over our heads” and we’d never be able to pull it off. On the other hand, there were a few who knew better.

One of those was my publicist, who is the original “Do It Yourself-er.” Single-handedly, she found the kind of public TV stations we liked. She wrote personal notes to them, introducing herself and our idea. During this phase of our production (establishing the stations that might broadcast our program) there were many distractions and emergencies. In spite of them, she stayed focused and kept working. I was not quite so disciplined. Mid-way into our campaign, my father (a self-made businessman) was in a serious accident. He was in critical condition and the family was calling for me, but I was stranded at the horse farm in Michigan, where my partner there was also in the hospital. I couldn’t go to my Dad. Through all this, my publicist kept working – vowing that, when (and if) he recovered, that he could see that we had made the quantum leap into the TV business. It was one of the greatest risks I had ever taken.

(NOTE: Readers may remember Mr. Hevener’s 78 year old father falling off a ladder last year and landing on a concrete patio. Readers responded with an out-pouring of support from all around the world. After a lengthy hospital recuperation, including delicate brain surgery, his father is alive, happy and, now, fully recovered. “I can never thank my readers enough,” says Mr. Hevener. “I will always remember their love and understanding. No one understands healing power better than animal lovers do”).

Our first production was based on my novel, “Fate of the Stallion.” Originally published as a 300 page novel, but subsequently re-written and illustrated as a general interest story, the book was in its third printing. Based on the true story of “Nahgua,” an Arabian racehorse and the people who brought him back to glory, it was an ideal choice for TV production and everything could be done within our budget for the film.

For this film, we called on the photography talents of Arabian horse breeder, Rick Fett. When filming animals, it is always prudent to select photographers and editors who understand your subject – and Rick understands Arabian horses intimately. We also called on the still photography talents of animal photographer Maxine Bochnia, who has taken thousands of pictures for our studio, kennels and farms. These two artists kept things lively, spirited and their suggestions were almost always “right on the mark.”

Naturally, you can’t have a film without music and the composer for the film was David Giro’ (who came to our attention by composing the score for the award-winning documentary, “Mystery of the Nile”). Mr. Giro’ lives in Barcelona, Spain, and if you don’t think it was a challenge working long-distance like that, well, let me assure you it wasn’t easy. Fortunately, we were able to translate our conversations and a beautiful song (“Never Let Me Go”) was brought to life as the story’s theme.

Songs have a life of their own. One of my greatest friends of all time was a struggling record producer from Philadelphia named Bolden Abrams, Jr., and it was Bolden who taught me the importance of a song. The idea of the song is beautifully relevant to the story of anyone searching for love – and the passionate words (by three horse lovers) invoke the high level of emotion that only animal lovers can understand.

We produced “Fate of the Stallion” as a 30 minute documentary made for TV. The film was embraced by animal lovers everywhere … and, suddenly, we became real TV producers.

Our next project was about dogs, and it was called “Almost Perfect” … Some of you will remember reading my column about the puppy that wasn’t quite perfect, but, neither were those who loved him. It’s a happy story and we had lots of footage to edit. The program takes place in my art studio, where the story unfolds as I work on a collectible figurine of “Annie and her Puppies.” This was the real pilot for the TV version of “On With The Show” and viewers took it to heart. We had developed the concept for a public TV series and we were ready for business.

Every project like this requires funding and (especially when there are so many laws being made against dog lovers) we hoped the AKC would endorse a program such as ours, which presents animal lovers in a good light. But, that didn’t happen.

Today, we have a network of more than 500 public TV stations broadcasting our programs for animal lovers all across this country. In addition, there are stations broadcasting our productions in Canada, Australia and Europe. It didn’t happen overnight. But, one thing is certain: Animal lovers have a show produced by dog show people, and (maybe for the very first time) the public will see us and our way of life in a clear and beautiful light.

I hope you have enjoyed your glimpse “behind the scenes” as you travel your path and bring your own stories to life … Remember, no matter what happens – good, bad or never understood – you are the one who directs your life … You are the one who goes On With The Show …. – RH.