by Dennis Daniel
What is a Production Director? What are his/her responsibilities? Well, from station to station, they can vary greatly. For the ten years I was at WBAB, I basically wrote and produced most of the in-house stuff. Over the years, I had various part-time assistants (in my last year at the station, they finally made the position full-time). I didn't allow the disc jockeys to cut any commercials because they all basically sucked at it. They just didn't sound believable! To me, it sounded like a guy/gal who was just fulfilling their production obligation. I wanted the commercials to be read by people who truly cared, who knew how to sell something!
Consequently, I was the one who ended up doing ninety percent of the work! This eventually drove me nuts. I started to hate the sound of my voice! It lead to a lot of psychological problems! In the end, I brought it all upon myself because I was searching for perfection. By the time I had realized the mistake I made by not allowing jocks to cut commercials, it was too late! Everyone was so used to not doing it anymore (plus, they were way out of practice) that even if I wanted their help, I didn't dare ask for it.
This was pure hell on earth, a hell I created for myself. Now, the poor guy who has taken my place at the station is living in the hell I created. He can't believe that the jocks don't cut spots!
Has this ever happened to you? Do you do everything to make sure it's done right rather than assign reads to jocks? Take it from me, in the long run, you will regret it!
When I moved over to WDRE, all that changed. Now, I have a staff of eight people who are more than willing to cut commercials. And, they do a great job to boot! These days, if I cut six or seven spots a week, that's a lot.
So what do you do with your time, Dennis?
I write, produce and voice all of the morning show comedy, legal ID's and station promos. With the help of my partners, Steve Morrison and Barbara Grant, my department is responsible for overseeing all the many facets of radio station production. This was a whole new ballgame for me. At WBAB, I used to produce comedy bits whenever I had the time. I committed myself to doing at least two bits a week for the Friday afternoon "Happy Hour" show, plus any other bits I could think of to give to the morning man. The people at WDRE used to hear these bits all the time, along with my radio commercials; it eventually led to them hiring me away.
So, here I am in a whole new world. One of the most interesting and rewarding projects that I've inherited is the daily production of a Morning Show Legal ID. Instead of just saying the call letters and the frequency at the top of the hour, WDRE used to have morning man "Larry the Duck" produce quick little drop-ins promoting the next day's morning show. This was a new concept to me and my team. Since we were also hired to create comedy for the morning show, we decided that a comedic legal ID would carry over what we did in the morning and would give the listeners who normally didn't tune in to the morning show an idea of what kind of zaniness they were missing.
For the last five months, we've been producing these bizarre little skits that run all day long. The listener response has been very positive. The key for us is to be different. Really different. So many radio stations follow the same kind of "Morning Zoo" format, filled with very obvious jokes and topical mainstream humor. We want people to hear our stuff and wonder, "What the hell was that?" Whether they get it or not isn't the point. As I said before, I wasn't familiar with "produced" legal ID's before, so I was a mere babe in the woods when I started to attempt doing them.
Now that I've been at it for a while, I believe they are a wonderful outlet for the creative production person (granted he has the time to do such things). As long as you say the frequency, town and call letters, you can do just about anything you like! It's total freedom! And, it's heard all day long at the top of the hour! If you've never done produced legals before, check out the selection of work I've chosen to put on this month's Cassette and play them for your PD. It's a great way to let that creativity loose and help give the listeners a chuckle during the day. It also adds tremendously to the entertainment value of your radio station. Many WDRE listeners have commented on "those weird morning show things" that run during the broadcast day.
This kind of left of center approach to legal ID's has also influenced the way we produce station promos. Most station promos I was used to hearing consisted of slick sounding VO's with really hip sound effects and sweeps. I don't believe we ever ran a comedic promo at WBAB. There's probably a good reason for that; comedy is very subjective. You can't please everybody with comedy. What makes one person laugh can make another person take offense. That's why I like it! It's dangerous! It's daring! It adds a little zing to our mundane lives!
Once again, you're dealing with total freedom here. As we all know, a promo is a commercial for your radio station. If they don't allow you to let loose on something like that, they're all just anal retentive fuddy duddies. Some PD's are just too afraid to take a risk once and a while. WHO WANTS TO PLAY IT SAFE? After all, in most cases, a station promo doesn't fall under the watchful eyes of anyone but the station itself. They don't require client approval. They're our babies! So, go for it! Try something wild and different. It's the perfect opportunity. As I've mentioned before, I'm new at this sort of thing. I'd love to hear what you think.