La Fleur’s Magazine Publisher Terri Markle interviewed the Texas Lottery on the release of its “30 Years of Winning, Texas Lottery Documentary” on YouTube.
Why did the lottery create a documentary to celebrate its 30th anniversary?
“In celebrating a milestone anniversary, I felt it was important to look back in time and share the story of how the Texas Lottery was created, and to also look ahead to the future of the organization,” said Texas Lottery Executive Director Gary Grief. “Our 30th Anniversary Committee, co-chaired by Lauren Callahan and Ryan Mindell, enthusiastically took on this project and I think their total investment in it clearly comes through in the quality of the final product.
“This was a project about the people of the Texas Lottery and our partners, including those in the retailer, vendor and legislative communities. It was certainly special to watch all of the Texas Lottery staff who came together for this project – several of whom I have known since the startup of the Texas Lottery and many of whom I’ve worked with for decades – share their recollections of the earlier days as well as their thoughts about working in the organization today. It was especially meaningful to have the participation of several of our current and former commissioners as well as Texas legislators who have been influential and important to the Texas Lottery’s history; to have them share their memories about how past and present decisions have shaped the Texas Lottery. And I was very pleased that representatives from IGT, Pollard Banknote, and Scientific Games also took the time to reflect on the many projects and initiatives their companies have collaborated on with the Texas Lottery over the years.
The documentary reflected on many of the past achievements of the Texas Lottery– but it also captured the essence of why the Texas Lottery is such a great place to work.”
How did the lottery decide who to interview for the documentary?
“The Texas Lottery is fortunate to have a number of employees who have been here for a very long time – including employees who have worked here since the very beginning,” said Ryan Mindell, Lottery Operations Director, Texas Lottery. “We wanted to talk to every employee who had been here for over 25 years. That turned out to be a significant number, but the time investment was worth it. We also spoke with many key stakeholders over the years, like legislators, former executive directors, current and former board members, primary lottery vendors and current executive staff. In the end, it was hard to trim down the list, but the broad reach made the documentary more inclusive and allowed the documentary crew to be able to tell the lottery’s story better.
How did you manage to have so many historical clips of staff members?
“The Texas Lottery has maintained an internal video production department since inception, so the historical clips of many long-time staff members and memorable events were still with us,” said Philip Bates, AV Specialist, Texas Lottery. “The challenge we faced was converting our video database of analog Beta SP video tapes to digital files. In the summer of 2020, we worked with a vendor to digitize our tape archive, so that future projects, like the 30th Anniversary Documentary for example, could benefit from this wealth of historic material.
Specific to the documentary, many of the archival shots of staff members came from the 1990s. During that time, the lottery would routinely hold end-of-month parties to recognize employees for outstanding work and to communicate ongoing projects and initiatives with the entire staff. Some clips feature employees who took on active roles in training videos or participated in video news releases, which were sent out via satellite feed, before the advent of social media.”
Will this documentary be helpful to tell the Texas Lottery Story?
“In many ways, the documentary IS the Texas Lottery Story,” said Mindell. “As much as 30 minutes can tell the story of 30 years, the documentary highlights the successes as well as the values that led to those successes. If someone was unfamiliar with who or what we are, the documentary would be the single best starting point to understand the Texas Lottery.”
Do you think this documentary is important to the current team as well as future employees?
“Absolutely! On a daily basis, one can lose sight of the greater goals we achieve as a team. Projects like this documentary help staff understand the big picture. We’ve accomplished a lot over 30 years, and any opportunity to tell that story helps. You never know if someone might view this on YouTube and decide to apply,” said Mindell.
How did Philip manage to put all these clips together to create a coherent story?
“It starts with good questions,” explained Bates. “We asked participants very specific questions that pertained to the past, present, and future. Gary Grief and Nora Linares-Moeller gave tremendous accounts of the Texas Lottery’s formation during startup, especially outlining the challenges specific to Texas at the time. Other employees were able to share personal stories about some of their favorite lottery moments over the years, some of which we heard for the very first time.
Our beneficiaries, commissioners, directors, and vendors were able to speak more to the present and future of the lottery. In these interviews, examples of innovation, leadership, and record achievements were continually emphasized along with reoccurring references to ‘the people’ who make the Texas Lottery a special place to work.
Going into this project, I imagined composing a documentary about the Texas Lottery would be a very linear process. All said, the narrative came together simply from listening. Everything else fell into place after that point.”
How many total hours of interviews were logged?
“We had 11 hours of raw interview footage for logging,” said Bates. “Members of our documentary committee did an outstanding job of transcribing interviews, which was a huge benefit to the scripting process.”
Did everyone you interview get included in the documentary?
“We knew that asking people to be part of a project like this was a big ask, and we deeply respected the time each person gave us to sit in front of the camera and answer questions,” said Lauren Callahan, Media Relations Director, Texas Lottery. “Given that time commitment, and knowing how vulnerable it can be to sit in front of a camera, it was important to our production team that everyone who agreed to be interviewed appear at least one time within the documentary. We were grateful to have as many current and former staff, dignitaries and lottery vendors agree to sit down and share their memories, because the project would have been very different without that level of participation.”
What advice would you give other lotteries that wanted to create a long length anniversary documentary?
“The advice I would give other lotteries that might want to create an anniversary documentary would be to focus on interviews,” suggested Bates. “Identify those in your organization who have the most subject matter expertise or historical perspective. It might be one person, but it could end up being multiple people. Don’t be afraid to ask too many questions because most interviews end up being one shot opportunities. The benefit to this approach is that it is fundamental storytelling, and it becomes your central narrative. From that point, video footage and music can be added to enhance visuals and fill in transitions. Be creative and have fun establishing a look and feel that best fits your lottery’s personality.”
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help!” interjected Callahan. “In planning for the 30th Anniversary year, a committee was established to brainstorm ideas. As those ideas started coming into fruition, the committee members volunteered to participate on subcommittees to tackle project work as needed. Ten Texas Lottery staff members served on the documentary subcommittee, and each was crucial to the success of the project. From assisting with interview requests and scheduling, to shooting and editing the documentary footage, and transcribing nearly every interview conducted so that we could create a paper script to map out the flow of each section, we couldn’t have produced this documentary in less than six months without every single person pitching in as they were able to contribute time.”
How are you sharing this documentary? (LC)
“We had a ‘world premiere’ screening for Texas Lottery staff at our February 2022 All Staff Meeting on Feb. 3. That afternoon, the video went live on YouTube, and views quickly skyrocketed!” reported Callahan.
30 Years of Winning, Texas Lottery Documentary