by Dennis Daniel
I've been looking back at some of my previous columns and was taken aback by my obvious pomposity. "God, what an asshole" may be the thought that rings through some of my readers minds. "Who the hell does he think he is? What's he trying to prove?" Well, I'll tell ya gang, my message is simple: THE PRODUCTION DEPARTMENT RULES! And I know there are hundreds, nay, thousands of production brethren and sistren out there who are getting their behinds kicked up to their earlobes every day of the week. I've been there. I didn't like it. What's more, I didn't under-stand it. How could any sane human being treat the person who is trying to help him make money like a pubic hair in a cup of coffee? We are overworked, underpaid, unappreciated and worst of all, understaffed! How many of you out there are taking on the entire burden of your department? BURN OUT TIME! You can only do it for so long. Mind you, this is not the case with everybody. As previous interviews and articles in RAP have attested, there are lots of happy people out there (myself included). But, I'd bet even money that not one of those happy people just walked into a dream job in a dream working environment. (If you're out there, if you do indeed exist, write me, please! I'd love to hear your story.)
The truth is, most production people have it tough, in many different ways. I hope my column gives you the feeling that you are not alone. That your problems (and triumphs) are a shared experience by many.
Pompous? Maybe. Proud? You bet!
Faith in oneself is truly the highest state of existence that you can achieve. Without it, you're just treading water waiting to go down. It's due to my personal faith that this column appears each month. Look, I admit that it gives me a bit of a high to be writing a column about production. It's kinda hard not to let your head expand a bit when you know that there are a few thousand people out there reading your words, maybe even agreeing with what you have to say. Every time I sit down at the typewriter to write Tales of the Tape, I sweat bullets wondering if I'm getting my point across, hoping I've picked a worthy topic of discussion. I'll tell you why, because I'm sure that I'm not always right! We all have a lot in common, but we also have various ways in which we do things that may not jive with someone else. I'd hate to think I'm pissing anybody off (although I'm sure I do).
The power of the printed word is awesome, no? I mean, many of us believe (whether consciously or unconsciously) that a lot of what we read has got to have some validity because someone decided to publish it (not a cheap proposition). Of course, we can agree or disagree with what we read, but the fact that it saw print definitely gives it some kind of credibility.
So, here I am, once a month. My words. My thoughts. My experiences. Does anybody really give a turd? (God, I hope so.) You see, Production is my life. Truly. I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life. I feel pretty good about it. It's a feeling I'd like to share with all of you who do what I do for a living. In my time, I have had some degree of success at it. I feel it gives me the right to be here. At the same time, though, I feel a sense of loneliness (get out your Kleenex). Yes. Loneliness. For my ideas are truly my own. They may be derivative of many, but in the end, they belong to me. I have to live with them. When you're sitting at your desk staring at a blank piece of paper that has to, yet again, be filled with brilliance to satisfy the demand of your job, you can't help but feel alone. That's why the sense of triumph is so great when you've done the deal. Do you know the feeling I'm talking about? The butterflies in your stomach that dance through your colon as you listen to a spot you just cut, by yourself, that makes your heart sing, "I can't believe I did that! It really sounds good! Almost like I didn't really create it. Like I was possessed by the creative production nymph who took over my brain for a few minutes." No amount of praise or condemnation can take away that very personal feeling of pride and satisfaction.
And so, we suffer alone and triumph alone. Once the spot is done, we get the chance to share. Only then. You want to know why we suffer? Because we're artists. Oh yeah, artists baby! We are creators. Sure, a lot of what we create sells something but, so what! Art is created to be sold, isn't it? What good is art if it just hangs somewhere for no one to see or appreciate? I hate to admit it because it sounds so cliché, but the so called "tortured artist effect" applies here. We want to be liked (pretty much the theme of this month's column), and at the same time we want to be true to our own visions. The trick to it all (a trick I'm still trying to master) is to produce quality work, learn to love ourselves, and not worry too much about the opinion of others. It's not an easy trick. It's a trick I may not perform too well every time I write this column, but I promise you this: I write from the heart and with the express purpose of touching a familiar chord with a certain number of you each time I pick a topic.
Enough preaching! On to a quick suggestion.
As you know, this nation of ours is suffering through one mother of a recession. Business is bad. Real bad. Take a look at any of the radio trades and you'll see that stations are suffering through tough times. When business is slow like this, it's real easy to get lazy. My advice to you is don't! Use this extra time to do better specs, better promos and better spots. Now, more than ever, quality is the key. In the New York market that I work in, people want more for less, and they're getting it! For example, I did a commercial for a car stereo place called Maximum Sound and Security. I was feeling in a particularly creative state of mind and took the extra time to do a blow-you-away commercial. The client was so pleased with the results that he is now going to pay me for the ad to run on another station! When he wanted to know how much I needed, I charged him $150 (half of what I'm used to getting). My reason was simple. I'd rather make $150 than have him balk at a $300 price and refuse to buy it. It hurt a little to charge him less, but it felt great that he was so happy and wants to use me again.
If you ever find yourself in the same situation, be smart. Lower your price a little. Something's better than nothing, especially these days!