Bill Smith: Lasting Impressions
By Sarah Lauch
Comcast SportsNet Producer
When a one-of-a-kind story like Bill Smith’s comes along, it is a bit overwhelming to produce and edit such a complex, inspirational tale. Photographer Mike Cappozzo and I started sifting through the interviews and honestly we didn't know where to start. Even host Chuck Garfien chimed in saying, "Wow ... this is a lot." Besides having absolutely unbelievable content to work with, this is a story that was also emotionally exhausting. We all just wanted to hit the nail on the head with it, because it means so much to so many people. It is a lot of pressure on us to pull the best content and, since we are all so close to the story, we had to make sure we presented it properly to our viewers.
When we sat down with Bill over five years ago, his story was already amazing, but the new developments of how "A New Day Cambodia" came to life are even more incredible. When Mike and I sat with Bill and Joe O'Neil, Bill's longtime friend, to talk about the piece, we knew it was gold and a few times in the meeting we were simply shocked. After the initial meeting, we planned our questions carefully with Chuck and made sure we had everything mapped out before the interview. I don't want to give away too much here, but as I sat on the United Center court, listening to Bill and Lauren Smith tell their unbelievable story, I have to admit I really got choked up. It is pretty special to think that someone's vacation in 2002 turned into a journey that no one could have predicted.
The editing process took over a month. A few times, I actually had to walk out of the room because it was a bit too upsetting for me. To see such horrible despair is painstaking. It definitely has always been on my mind since the interviews initially took place. One of Lauren's sound bites really resonated with me: "When you go to Cambodia ... you see the life there and it is so simple and so happy. The world is so materialistic. It's not about all these things we have, it is the people that make it," she said. And when the cameras stopped rolling, we learned that Bill and Lauren contemplated quitting their jobs here in the United States to move to Cambodia. Lauren even applied for a principal job near Thailand.
This is a story that belongs on Oprah, but we at Comcast SportsNet could not be happier to bring it to our viewers. No matter how many times I hear the stories and see the video, it hits a nerve. It is a story that truly makes you re-evaluate your own life and self-worth. I have been involved with stories on Wilt Chamberlain, Brett Favre, Allen Iverson, Walter Payton and Michael Jordan, but this is by far my favorite. All Chicagoans should be proud to call the Smiths their hometown heroes.