Bob Chitester, David deVries and Tom Skinner, Producers of "Turmoil & Triumph: The George Shultz Years"
By Tom Skinner, Senior Executive Producer, Free to Choose Media
 
My life’s work has been to create informative and engaging films and TV programs built on compelling stories. My role as Senior Executive Producer for Free To Choose Media  has given me the opportunity to continue doing what I love, long after I could have retired. How long have I been doing this? I first met Bob Chitester when we were both students at the University of Michigan. Let me tell you a little about our first encounter.



Tom Skinner, George Shultz and Marlis Mann (Mrs. Tom Skinner)
Not all our readers know that Bob Chitester has always had a wonderful singing voice. Bob had been a member of the prestigious University of Michigan Glee Club. I needed a lead singer for the children's musical The Flying Beret, which I was producing and directing as my Master's degree television project. So a mutual friend introduced us. Bob auditioned and won the part hands down. It was the first of many successful collaborations throughout the years. (As it happens, I now possess the only existing picture of Bob Chitester in Lederhosen and a flying beret!)

Jump ahead a few decades. It’s a pleasure to continue to work with Bob to create important television productions that help viewers understand what we refer to as “the winning ideas of freedom.” The experiences have led me to view government and its proper role in a different light.

Our latest work together is a three-hour documentary series: Turmoil and Triumph: The George Shultz Years.

Our Producer/Writer/Director David deVries is a gentleman, a consummate professional and a major national force in documentary production. He has also become a good friend. The creative process lasted for over two years and David says this has been one of the most fascinating projects of his career. I can say the same.


Bob Chitester with former Secretary of
State George Shultz


Beyond the creative process, there is also a business side to my role as Executive Producer—monitoring budgets, production schedules and eventually overseeing the distribution and promotion of the program. Perhaps the first and most important question is: Will PBS be interested in this idea? Better find out early. In a preliminary meeting with PBS’s Senior Director of Factual Programming, Sandy Heberer, we got a positive response. Then fundraising was underway. In time, we raised funds for the three-hour project from the Stephen Bechtel Fund, Charles Schwab, the Annenberg Foundation and a number of private donors.

The PBS schedule is full of excellent programs. Some of them are presented on a regular basis such as Nova or Frontline, or The American Experience. The major PBS producing stations such as WNET, New York and WGBH, Boston and a host of independent producers—ourselves included—turn out new programs and series for the PBS schedule. In addition, American Public Television and the Executive Program Service provide a schedule of programs from which local stations can choose. Add to this the local programs produced and presented by many public television stations and you begin to get the picture:  prime time availability for programs like Turmoil and Triumph: The George Shultz Years is limited indeed.



David deVries, Charlotte Shultz (Mrs. George Shultz) and Tom Skinner
That is why we were delighted when, after viewing our first rough cut of the programs, word came back from the PBS programmers that they were "impressed." They wanted to schedule the programs in July on Monday nights at 10:00 following their popular program series: History Detectives. We immediately consulted Robyn De Shields, whose business helps producers like us convince local public television stations of the merits of our productions. (She had done a great job convincing PBS stations to schedule our Milton Friedman biography, The Power of Choice.) Robyn agreed—this was a “very good” time for the series.

And so it is. Turmoil and Triumph should premiere nationally Monday evenings at 10:00 on July 12, 19 and 26. This will be the first of up to three national broadcasts of the series over the next four years. Plans to promote the series are currently underway.

Bob Chitester joins me in congratulating everyone whose talent and hard work has brought this story of a great American to PBS.
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