NYF’s Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews Ljudevit Grgurić award-winning journalist and HRT Croatian Radiotelevision talk show host. Mr. Grgurić earned the NYF Radio Awards Bronze Trophy/Best Director for “Hungry Ears: Branko Lustig, The World Would Not Exist Without Miracles.”
Ljudevit Grgurić initially intended to give the award he won at the 2017 New York Festivals International Radio Awards in New York, “Best Regularly Scheduled Talk Program” category, to his guest Branko Lustig. The renowned producer thanked him for the idea, only to give the award back to the radio host.
“Mr. Lustig, it is my heartfelt hope that a Holocaust Museum will be opened soon in our capital city of Zagreb. I promise before all present that I will keep this award in my home and give it to the museum the first day it opens its doors,” said Mr. Grgurić, expressing his hope that multiple Oscar award winner and his radio guest Branko Lustig would be present at the opening of the museum. The Croatia Holocaust Museum will open next year in Zagreb, and the NYF Radio Award will be displayed.
Ljudevit Grgurić began his radio career in 1980 at Radio Zagreb. He is a prominent media star of Croatian radio and television. His programs have always had the hightest listener’s ratings, including “Retrovizor,” his show on Zagreb’s Radio 101 which aired during the 1980’s to his present award-winning program of 7 years running, “Hungry Ears.” “Hungry Ears” airs on HR2, and to date there have been 375 riveting interviews broadcasted featuring eminent guests from the world of entertainment, culture and politics.
NYF spent a few minutes with Mr. Grgurić as he shared the inspiration for his award-winning program, the preparation involved prior to production, the unique skills required to achieve success in the world of radio, and much more!
NYF Radio: How did your Bronze Trophy winning program “Hungry Ears: Branko Lustig, The World Would Not Exist Without Miracles” come to be produced? What was the inspiration for the creation of this program?
Ljudevit Grguric: Hosting Mr. Branko Lustig, the only Croat to win two Oscars, on my show Hungry Ears has always been a great professional desire due to his miraculous childhood, during which he barely survived the Auschwitz and Bergen-Bensen concentration camps, as well as his brilliant production work on Schindler’s List, for which he won his first Oscar for best film in 1993 together with Steven Spielberg and Gerald R. Molen.
I always believed the day would come when we would meet one on one in my studio.
NYF Radio: How did you recruit Branko Lustig, the producer of Spielberg’s Schindler’s List to come onto your show?
Ljudevit Grguric: When the 83-year-old producer returned to Croatia in his old age, to his home town of Zagreb, and when he was named the honorary president of the Festival of Tolerance Jewish Film Festival, the opportunity presented itself to ask him to appear as a guest on my show just before the start of the festival. I let him know that I not only wanted to talk about the festival, but about his unbelievable life story, which I was sure would fill our listeners with optimism, motivation, and strength in these difficult times.
I was unbelievably happy when he accepted and confirmed that he would be coming to my show.
NYF Radio: What did you hope to achieve by inviting Branko to your show to discuss his experience in the camps during WW2?
Ljudevit Grguric: I must admit that I was concerned as to whether I would be able to create a relationship of mutual trust with Mr. Lustig during our show, which is broadcast live.
It was our first meeting, and the hour ahead of us would face us with unpleasant topics and unpleasant memories of the difficult and painful days of World War II, which I would have to remind Mr. Lustig.
Everyone who does this job knows how difficult it is to explain what sometimes happens in the studio and what energy it is that helps your interviewee open their soul to you. During this conversation, some miracle (that word again) turned our conversation into the intimate memories and the great, great sorrow of a good-hearted man. It was an emotionally charged conversation that brought tears not only to my eyes but, I believe, to those of all of our listeners, even those lacking in empathy.
NYF Radio: After interviewing Branko, and hearing him recount the “miracles” he said he experienced, do you believe in miracles?
Ljudevit Grguric: There is only one word to describe Mr. Lustig’s life path from the Nazi concentration camps to the stage on which he was twice awarded the most prestigious film award, a word Mr. Lustig himself clearly emphasized during the show – MIRACLE!
However, to experience a miracle, you or someone who loves you unconditionally must have a good heart! I believe that everyone who listened to Mr. Lustig that day will remember this forever! Yes, I do believe in miracles!
NYF Radio: What sort of research and preparation was involved for you to conduct this award-winning interview.
There have been 375 episodes of Hungry Ears to date, and just as many various themes and guests. The first episode of Hungry Ears was broadcast seven years ago.
I prepare for each guest thoroughly, I read everything that has been published about them in the media, and I often consider interesting details from their lives with their acquaintances or good friends, within the boundaries of good taste, of course!
This is how I prepared for my conversation with Mr. Lustig. And when you are well-prepared, you can be creative when running your interview!
NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter during the production of this program and how did you overcome them?
Ljudevit Grguric: I wanted to put Mr. Lustig and his moving, emotional story on air in our country, which is still questioning its role in its peculiar history today, to provide our listenership with striking proof of how cruel and brutal humanity in this part of Europe was at one point in its history.
However, after this part of our conversation, during which we spoke of the senseless human crimes of this time, Mr. Lustig voiced a thought I deeply wanted to hear from him: that, in the early 1980s, he mustered the strength to forgive all young people living today in this world as the descendents of his enemies in the name of love!
History is life’s classroom, and Branko Lustig, as a surviving witness of a dark period in history, has made it his life’s mission to remind everyone that forgiveness has miraculous power!
I was especially surprised by a series of telephone calls at the end of the show in which veterans of our own Homeland War tearfully thanked Mr. Lustig. These painful conversations gave me comfort in knowing that empathy still lives among the common people of our country.
NYF Radio: As Editor and Host of the programs, what unique skills do you need to achieve the level of success that your programs have garnered?
Ljudevit Grguric: First and foremost, you must be as curious and playful as a child, as understanding, eloquent, and well-read as a wise man, and if God has also granted you a pleasant voice and a feeling for the rhythm and melody of spoken thought, you can bravely set sail on the waves of radio.
NYF Radio: Where did you first develop your passion for radio?
Ljudevit Grguric: I began in the 1980s as a DJ in a disco club. In those days, DJs announced the hit of the evening and ladies’ choice dances. Shut away in my glass aquarium, I often wondered when I would be able to say something wiser than those few sentences.
When I was named the best DJ in Zagreb, I was invited to audition for a job at a radio station in Zagreb that was just forming – Student Radio 101. After passing the audition, I was immediately tasked with coming up with a show on music history… I called it Rear View Mirror. After looking back, I bravely moved forward, and made it all the way to New York in the end!
NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for young people who want to find their place for a career in the radio industry?
Ljudevit Grguric: My advice to all young people who dream about the appealing profession of radio or television host is, before making their final decision, to ask themselves a simple question – do they see themselves in the job, or do they see the job within themselves?
If the answer is that they see themselves in the job, I strongly recommend they begin thinking about another job immediately!
NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?
Ljudevit Grguric: Of course, I believe that everyone has their own professional dream, and I am no different. But I’m afraid to reveal it to you, because, in my country, we believe that dreams don’t come true if you reveal them.
But if we see each other in New York next year, then the doors to that dream will be open… Oh no, I’ve said too much…
For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/