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Abandoned Homes

Empowerment Zone

When the Mayor of Detroit Called, He Left an Impression.

Several years back, Detroit was one of several cities in the running to receive an Empowerment Zone grant worth $100 million. I was an Executive Creative Director at a large ad agency with offices across the street from the mayor’s office in downtown Detroit. Believe it or not, what followed those years ago helped me formulate the idea for Your Video Memoir.

“The mayor wants to meet with you,” is not something you hear every day. But that’s the message that my boss delivered to me.

When I went to Mayor Archer’s office, he had a binder with a four-inch spine on the desk in front of him. It was chock full of manilla dividers and between each of them was page after page of economic charts, urban history, and demographic information. “We need to win one of these grants,” the mayor said. “Now this humungous binder has all the facts and figures in the world to demonstrate that need. But guess what? Every other city in this competition will have a similar litany of facts and figures.”
I wondered what I could possibly add to that huge amount of data.

Mayor of Detroit city in background

“We’ve got all the data,” the mayor said, “what we need is to put some heart and soul into this application.”

The Hunt for a Heart and Soul

So it was that two others and I took a camera and a microphone to some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. In a block full of abandoned houses and burnt-out structures, we found the one remaining home and interviewed the elderly couple that had lived there for over 50 years. In a row of abandoned and shuttered businesses, we found the one small restaurant that withstood the odds. The owners took pride in their business – and in their city.

After three days of interviews, we put together a video that, when Detroit won an Empowerment Zone grant, the mayor credited with pushing Detroit’s application over the line. That $100 million lesson has stayed with me over the years. When I interview people for a video memoir I want to get all the pertinent facts and figures, certainly – when they were born, how old were they when they got married, what they did for a living – but much more than that, I interview people with the goal of having them reveal their heart and soul. Because that, far more than facts, is what they will truly leave behind for their family to enjoy.

If you have a family member with a great story to tell, let’s dig in and get to the heart of the matter! Call now: 248-568-8460.

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