Monday, November 26, 2012

SPEAK film review

Three months ago I blogged about SPEAK, a film about the 2008 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. (Don’t try to look it up on Wikipedia, which only has a page for another 2004 film titled Speak and starring Kristen Stewart). I just borrowed the DVD from my local public library and enjoyed watching it. Speak is a good film, if not a great one. Watching the finals of that contest behind the scenes is fascinating. The film may become a cult classic at Toastmasters District Conferences, as their analog to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The synopsis on the film’s web site and back of the DVD box says that:

“SPEAK is a documentary film about the fear of public speaking, and the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. Filmmakers Paul Galichia and Brian Weidling embarked on an almost two year journey collecting hundreds of interviews about public speaking anxiety, and capturing every stage of the tense, highly competitive World Championship of Public Speaking. It all culminates in a week of fascinating human drama in Calgary, Alberta, after which one person is crowned “World Champion of Public Speaking.” Funny, inspiring, moving, and utterly absorbing, SPEAK follows the trail of those brave souls who take on the fear of public speaking - the world’s #1 fear - and live to tell the tale.

Come find your voice.


That description is somewhat misleading. Only the first 12 minutes of this 89 minute film actually is about fear of public speaking. Most of it is about the 2008 contest, including the varied backgrounds of the finalists.

The description lists actress Caitlin Upton before the two directors. Caitlin was interviewed about her infamous brain freeze at a question-and-answer session in the 2007 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant. Readers of this blog already know that I disagree with that world’s number one fear claim. About ten minutes into the film, in a speech talking about his heart attack, Robert MacKenzie says:

“You know, we hear that the fear of public speaking - what I am doing right this moment - is greater than the fear of death. Not even close!”

 One of the surprises for me was finding that two of the finalists had previously come in third in earlier contests - Jock Elliot in 1994 and Rich Hopkins in 2006. Jock had been a finalist four times, and then won the 2011 contest with this speech. (Rich reviewed the SPEAK DVD back in January).   

I think many will enjoy this film, and seeing just how much can be packed into a roughly six-minute inspirational speech. If you like seeing contests, then put the DVD on your wish list of holiday gifts. (Toastmasters clubs definitely should consider adding it to their libraries).

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