“Any man can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad.” ~Author Unknown

A few months ago, I had one of those pleasant Twitter exchanges that led to a discussion and, in turn, a relationship. Giacomo (“G”) Knox was tweeting about his project, “A Week with my Father” (abbreviated as AWWMF from here down).  The project is a reality-based series of episodes where a grown man is reunited with his estranged father. They share a week together, and the film makers provide them with some planned activities. The two men have an opportunity to meet, with the intent of learning about one another, and potentially rebuilding a relationship.

AWWMF was particularly moving to me because my parents divorced when I was young.  Unlike G, I had the miracle of my stepfather enter my life. AWWMF addresses the void that boys have in their lives when they grow up without a father. Why is this important? Consider the statistics compiled by the staff at DadsWorld.com:

63% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes. That’s 5 times the national average.  (SOURCE: U.S. Dept of Health )
90% of all runaways and homeless children are from fatherless homes. That’s 32 times the national average.
80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes. 14 times the national average. (SOURCE: Justice and Behavior)
85% of children with behavioral problems come from fatherless homes. 20 times the national average.(SOURCE: Center for Disease Control)
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. 9 times the national average. (SOURCE: National Principals Association Report)

The first series of AWWMF episodes feature G reuniting with his father. G was kind enough to answer some questions on AWWMF, his experience, and his plans.

AWWMF series creator, Giacomo Knox

Nick Kelly: Welcome, G, and thank you for taking the time to chat. We’ve had the pleasure of a few short conversations, and you know how fascinated I am with the subject matter of “A Week with my Father.” When did you first have the inspiration to turn such a personal story into a video project?

Giacomo Knox:  I guess it was around 2004 when my first Reality TV project failed to get off the ground at all.  I had already spoken to my father via phone, and we planned on meeting up at some point.  I was heavily influenced by other Reality projects, and I still wanted to do my own.  But I wanted to do something different, something significant.  As a screenwriter I was taught to “write what you know”, and I knew I had an opportunity to share myself and my story with a Reality TV series.  I created the show in 2005, which coincidentally was the year that my inspiration fr the entertainment business, my uncle Daniel Whitner, passed away from Pancreatic Cancer. In the final analysis, I guess, I knew that I had something significant to share with the world, a sincere desire to see a restoration of the concept of fatherhood and to reunite other fathers and sons.

NK: In one of the first episodes, you tell the story about almost killing a man in front of his child during your deployment for Operation: Desert Storm. How heavily did that influence your desire to reconnect with your father?

GK:  Wow…to think that was 20 years ago this month!  Semper Fi!  I don’t know if it had a direct influence, but in looking back at my service and my life since I created the show, I’ve been more aware of fathers in general.  I can’t go a day without looking at a father interacting with his kids and smiling.  I’ve also inspired many friend of mine in the Christian community to analyze their relationship with their fathers; I had no idea that the show would have that kind of impact!

NK: The series has a seamless connection to the communityofveterans.org site. Can you discuss what inspired that particular relationship?

GK:  (Executive Producer) Julie (House) can probably discuss the particulars of who community of veterans came to be added to the show’s opening segment.  But in my case it was “accidentally appropo.”  As a veteran of Desert Storm, I can identify what today’s veterans are going through.  The only difference is that most of the Vietnam vets that I met over the years have been unwilling to talk about their experiences.  My generation and this generation behind me seem to be more wiling to open up and allow the healing to begin, so to speak.  I thought it was a nice touch that the first person that returning soldier meets in the commercial is a man in a Marines t-shirt!  I’ve certainly had a chance to speak with many OIF and OEF veterans lately, and I appreciate being able to share experiences with them.

NK: Episode Two opens with you meeting your father for the first time in 30 years. Can you take us back to that moment? Does it still affect you now when you look back?

GK:  Sometimes it seems like one million years ago, and when first time viewers see it, it feels like it was yesterday.  What you probably didn’t see behind the scenes is that I was petrified!  I had no idea how he was going to react, nor how I was going to react!  If I had one emotion to narrow it down to, it would be Relief.  I was glad to be getting past the uncertainty, glad to be getting past the fear of meeting him, and since I was Producer as well as star, to finally be able to let the project into the hands of my crew!

NK: You guys covered everything from cars to boxing to your time in the military. One of my personal favorite scenes was the RC Quakes baseball game. I loved the way you captured your experience there, juxtaposed with the other fathers and sons in the crowd. Maybe it’s more of a behind-the-camera question, but can you share with us how that scene came together?

GK:  Well I’d never call any of our get togethers, “scenes”!  It’s supposed to be Reality TV (laughs!).  Since I didn’t want to spoil any of the meetings or any of the energy with any pre-production mumbo, the baseball game – as with many of the meetings – were my idea in pre-production.  I figured, what would any guy want to do more than anything with his father, aging or young, but watch a baseball game on a Sunday afternoon?  Field of Dreams, anyone?  I didn’t know if my dad at age 62 would want to have a catch as in the movie, but we certainly caught a great game.  Sadly, if I’m not mistaken, the Angels pitcher who was killed in a drunk driving accident, pitched the game that we filmed…

NK: One of the experiences you share with your father is your visit to your friend, Peter, and your exercise session with him. How has your relationship with him shape your expectations of your own dad?

GK:  I guess I can’t put any expectations on Peter or my dad at all, but living in Southern California, I’m exposed to a lot of men over 60 who are still active.  Peter before his stroke was still building houses, and unfortunately took a bit of an emotional nosedive afterward.  He is doing better now, and has more self confidence. I guess I have a fear that my own father’s health will endure a similar crisis, and I want to do all that I can to encourage him to take care of himself.  I think you may have seen that in the “boxing gym episode” when he hurt his back on the speed bag!

NK: The format of the series was interesting. The episodes are each around six minutes. I thought this was perfect, because each episode made you want to watch the next, but there were times when that just wasn’t possible at that time. Being able to break away and return was a nice convenience. Were there specific obstacles to telling the story that might have been created by this format?

GK:  If I can think of one specific obstacle is the quite common misconception that AWWMF is meant for the web only.  I wonder if that scared off any potential networks? (Laughs!)  When most people think webseries, they think “one shot charlie”, or even worse, that the show will not translate to a fully fledged series.  Most people aren’t aware that the edited show is actually 43 minutes long, and set up for commercials!  But the web format was designed for our famous Internet Short Attention Span, via YouTube.com.  We figured that folks wold be more apt to watch one or two shows in the six minute format, than to sit for 43 minutes in front of a PC, Laptop, or even a web phone.

NK: From our conversations, you mentioned that AWWMF isn’t just the story of James and Giacomo Knox. Can you explain to readers your vision for the project in the long term? What’s the ultimate goal for AWWMF?

GK:  My ultimate desire is to see the show on TV.  Network or Cable, even the new DTV format or HD networks might be an option.  But I’ve always thought big, so anything less than a major cable network would be a disappointment to me.  Not that I’m opposed to a smaller network, but our ability to reach out to an audience that needs to see the show will be hampered if it’s buried on a network that has a smaller audience. One of the ways we plan on doing the above, is to gain a corporate or individual Sponsor.  My biggest fear is losing my or our place on the show when a network takes over the project, and of course, losing creative control over the format.  I’ve had nightmares of what an out-of-control network executive would do in order to “spice up” the show and get more viewers! If we were to obtain a sponsor who loves the show like it is, we’d be able to shoot 26 episodes and sell the project as-is to a network or cable outlet, with the hopes that they will fund additional seasons of the show.

To view the pilot and first series of AWWMF, please visit A Week With My Father.