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Lashunda Rundles becomes the World Champion of Public Speaking. Photo courtesy of Joshua Pickering

It is widely held that the fear of speaking in front of a group of people provides our species with more apprehension than almost any other endeavor. Most of us would probably concur with that assessment except possibly those who have spent time honing the craft of public speaking into an art form.

And this brings us to the buzz-generating documentary film "Speak", which, under the joint auspices of the Park City Film Series and the Park City Toastmasters, will have an exclusive free screening on Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. at the Jim Santy Auditorium.

Following the on-and-off-stage emotional roller-coaster ride of six individuals as they contend for the title of "World Champion of Public Speaking," the film provides the viewer with a peek inside the world of the Toastmasters International Speech Contest finals, replete with its inherent anxiety-ridden lows and ecstatic highs.

It's that same part of the human condition that informed Jerry Seinfeld's muse in his famous stand-up comedy routine where he points out that people's number one fear is public speaking and their number two fear is death. Which means the average person who goes to a funeral would rather be in the casket than give the eulogy. The irony is overwhelming.

For two-years, filmmakers Paul Galichia and Brian Weidling filmed hundreds of individuals up and down the public speaking food chain, probing the collective angst that goes with the territory. Many, of course, succumbed to their fear, while others, those who conquer the "butterflies," are able to continually fuel their self-esteem. And therein reposes the crux of the tale.


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Galichia and Weilding, utilizing their own collective expertise as storytellers and documentary filmmakers, carefully selected their six protagonists to give more of a macrocosmic feel to their film. Bringing unique personalities and backgrounds to the table, the six are nevertheless similar in their drive to become the next World Champion of Public Speaking.

Within the confines of their competition speaking windows of between four minutes, 30 seconds and seven minutes, 30 seconds, each competitor attempts to flaunt a spoken-word virtuosity that is singular enough to impress the judges as to their worthiness to the title, the holy grail of public speakers everywhere.

As they say in the press release, "What is at stake in this competition is more than just momentary success and a trophy; it is a life path. With their futures on the line, each takes the stage to speak. As they begin, you quickly realize that what you are about to experience is not a lecture - it's a one of a kind, passionate performance that they hope, on that day, will be the best performance of their life."

You get the sense that not only does one need to shed performance inhibitions to arrive at this level, but also actually achieve some kind of zenith in scriptwriting. Maybe it's more like the talent level of a successful playwright who writes material for his or her self or like that of a standup comedian. A certain brazenness or flamboyance probably doesn't hurt. You wonder if there's a "Gong Show" component in things don't go well.

The folks at the Park City Film Series, as part of their ongoing attempts to engage with local non-profits in the utilization of film to further their ends, were eager to get involved with Toastmasters in promoting "Speak."

According to Executive Director Katy Wang, "This film is a perfect fit for us. We hope other non-profits approach us more often as partners rather than just for technical support. We'd like to become more engaged in the community conversation than just as a "hired gun" to provide projectionists.

Park City Film Series and the Park City Toastmasters present the documentary film "Speak" on Thursday, May 16, 7 p.m. at the Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave.

There will be a filmmaker Q&A following the screening and admission is free.