Cooper Fox [cooper[at]conwaymagic .com]: It all depends on what type of production we’re talking about. Imaging? Well, most of my ideas come from pop culture or voice talent demos that I am often inundated with. Most of our morning show imaging has a TV/Movie tie-in. When writing and producing comedy bits, all of it comes from Hollywood and pop culture. For example, there’s now a cell phone walking tour service called talkingstreet.com They offer tours of Manhattan, then East Side, and Boston with each tour being narrated by a celeb. We came up with our own for North Conway. Ours is narrated by none other than Bob Dylan and his Victoria Secret models. I attached it for reference [on the RAP CD]. And, of course, I get a lot of ideas from the stuff that other RAP members do. I love my RAP CDs.
Sean Bell [seanbell[at]nypd.uk.com]: There are various approaches I take to get my ideas. For a start, I listen to everything I can from around the world (the beauty of the RAP CD), and read as much about production as I can. I’ve emailed many RAP members who have kindly sent me recordings of their stations output (more always welcome). I also have a collection of around 150 voice-over demo CDs on the shelf in front of me, and sometimes I’ll just pick one at random and have a listen whilst I’m writing. A word, a line or a particular delivery will just spark the idea. I have a few books that I refer to, some with facts and figures, others with jokes categorized by subject, which always come in useful.
I also realize that I always work better under pressure. If I only have a few pieces of copy to handle, then I sometimes find it hard to focus. However, if there’s a mountain of work in front of me, I seem to apply myself much better. I’ve also found over the years not to worry too much if I hit writing block, ‘cause I know something will come along; and most often if I read a problem brief or two before settling down to sleep, I usually wake up with the solution the next morning. But most recently, and what has been by far the most influential “tool” I’ve ever had, is a book called “The Imagineering Way - Ideas to Ignite Your Creativity” by the Walt Disney Imagineers. Back in February, I was starting work on a sound design project for a theme park here in the UK, and I looked on the net for background information on the Imagineers, and in particular Animal Kingdom. On Amazon, I found loads of books, which have all been of great interest, but the Imagineering Way stands out from the rest, as it really makes you step back and approach your problems and direct your creativity from another angle. I highly recommend it!
Drake Donovan [drake[at]drake donovan.com] WZPT-FM/WDSY-FM, Pittsburgh, PA: My idea bank is everyday life. I’m attaching some examples to illustrate my points [on the RAP CD]. For instance, I was trying out a new image for our Hot AC, “Your life and the music that marks the times.” Now what would that sound like? Since I’m very big on “Theater of the mind,” I took a car horn and a baby crying with the script reading “From your first car to your first born... and all the firsts in between.”
I also take things I observe on the way to and from work, on TV, or from my own childhood. For a twenty-something single guy with no kids trying to relate to a thirty-something woman who is married with children, I really have to use my imagination. What is this person encountering in her daily life today? For anything to do with kids (and we do a lot of kid-themed promotions), I think back to what my brother and I were doing to please/irritate my mom and dad at a certain age.
I actually have used some sweepers as a catharsis to vent my own aggravation at daily life. From being on hold with the credit card company to rush hour traffic, I’ve used them all in lifestyle sweepers and promos. One time on the road, I wished I could tell that idiot yammering on his cell phone to pay attention to the road, or the hump who doesn’t use his turn signal, that if he did maybe his bumper would still be there and the huge dent in his fender wouldn’t be. So I wrote a bunch of things for our morning show in a ‘50s cartoon-y vignette style. Whether or not those people heard them and thought, “Hey! I’m that idiot and/or hump!”, it made me feel a whole lot better and I got some cool ideas out of it.
Ian Fish [Ian.Fish[at]chrysalis.com], Heart FM, United Kingdom: That’s a tough question. I’ve never really analyzed where the ideas come from but it includes movie/TV trailers and programs, the RAP mag CD, and radio stations from all over the world via the Internet... along with all those conversations amongst my friends that turn up great phrases, character ideas, and settings.
But fairly recently I’ve really started listening to and breaking down production trends in the new songs we play each week. Things like EQ filter effects are commonplace in current tunes, and in radio we’ve been using them on voices in imaging for a long time. But there’s a lot of production value in the record industry, and occasionally I hear an effect/sound/edit/style that can really give my production a bit of a boost, and of course tie it in a little closer with the songs we play.
Tim D. McKee [Tim.McKee[at]cox. com] KISS-FM & KSMG-FM, San Antonio, Texas: Gees, at times I feel like I am overdrawn from the Idea Bank. I learned an important message August before last when I was fortunate enough to attend the Dan O’Day/Dick Orkin “International Radio Creative and Production Summit” in Los Angeles. That message is “PEOPLE BUY BENEFITS NOT PRODUCTS.”
With that in mind, I start every script with “why would I buy that product or service”. In other words, what’s in it for me! The idea bank opens with many options when you start off like that. Selling the product isn’t hard. Getting the customer’s interest in that product is the hard part. That’s what we do in production. It’s up to us to create the excitement, the want and the desire to seek out our clients.
The idea bank comes from real life situations. Being as old as I am (or feel like I am), you’d think I’d have a lot of “real-life” situations in which to draw from. Not so. When I run low on the idea funds, I head to the nearest idea ATM... my colleagues. They are a world of information and great stories. I try to incorporate their real life situations. Example: one of our Account Executives’ father is an alcoholic. Yet he denies he has ever had a problem and will not seek out the help he needs. She opened up to me about how it was to grow up in a household with her father who is always drinking. I used so much of what she told me in an ad for a research facility here in San Antonio that conducts studies on alcoholism. That spot really came from the heart. The AE’s not mine.
When you see or hear something you think might be great in a spot, then it’s time for a deposit so that it’s there when you want to make a withdrawal from the “real life” bank.
Berlin, Jeff [JeffBerlin[at]clear channel.com], Kiss108, Boston, MA: My best ideas hit me when I’m not trying to come up with my best ideas. Typically when I’m riding my bicycle, taking a shower, or in and out of sleep in the middle of the night. To remember ‘em, I either stop and write it down, or phone into my voicemail. While I do draw inspiration from other people’s production work, they’re not “my” ideas, just an adaptation of someone else’s brilliance.
Rich VanSlyke [richvs[at]bellsouth.net], Rich VanSlyke Productions, LLC, Suwanee, GA: The calendar. Everybody loves things that are timely. And it always seems fresh, because it’s been a whole year since those things have been done.
Laurent “Kiwi” Boulet [kiwi[at]choi radiox.com]: Beer! hahaha