And The Winner Is...
from Kathy Morgan, Production Director, WKMQ-FM/WNTA-AM, Rockford, IL
Looking for a new way to spark creativity among your production staff? Something to give recognition to those who go "above and beyond the call of the 4-track?" Ladies and gentlemen of the Production Manor, I give you the Golden Reel.
The premise is simple. A traveling award that recognizes the most original/effective/outstanding production done in-house. Make it fun. We actually had an old take-up reel painted and mounted on a trophy. The trophy has a changeable name plate for the winner, with nameplates of all the producers ready. Pretty campy, but it has an offbeat sort of charm.
Come up with whatever guidelines you think are appropriate to your own situation. Ours are pretty general -- any piece of production can be nominated, from specs to actual spots to special features and new capsules to promos and imagers. Anyone can nominate -- a sales rep who wants to recognize a sale-closing spec, for instance, or the jock who spent all night working on a killer contest promo. We've found that anonymous nominations lead to more entries.
Get the GM to spring for some worthwhile prizes -- maybe a weekend at the local resort trade, or dinner for two at the classy client restaurant. Don't forget -- cash works nicely, too!
Decide on your frequency and judging criteria. We have a "secret" panel that listens to the nominees and picks a winner each month. The panel changes each time, and is made up of representatives from each area of the station: engineering, sales, production, programming, news, etc..
You'll be surprised at how some people will get into the competition. It has given some of our lesser experienced jocks something to experiment and reach for, and brought a little fun back for some of the "old pros" who were getting caught in a rut. We've even had weekenders spend extra time in the studio on their own to have something to submit! The quality of production has jumped to an even higher notch as everyone keeps an ear out for "The Reel."
Another subtle benefit has been the interest the contest generates among other areas of the station. Everyone wants to judge, and the judges really pay attention and listen closely. It gives them a better idea of what goes on down below the stairs in our "production cave." They come away with a new respect for the producers and copywriters.
Best of all, it gives recognition and a sense of accomplishment to the winners, plus actual prize perks. Sure, for many of us -- especially in smaller markets -- production is part of the gig. And while we love what we do (or we wouldn't/shouldn't be here), it's always great to hear that extra, "way to go!"
Give it a try. Who knows, your Golden Reels might even lead to next year's Clio and Radio Mercury winners. And if you're really lucky, next year's RAP Awards!
TV In The Car
from Steve Wilson, Production Director, KNIN-AM/FM, Wichita Falls, TX
Here's a little tip I use from time to time. I passed this along to all the producers on staff, and it seems to work.
If you live in a market that broadcasts television audio on the FM band, try, for a week, to listen to the television in your car. Many times, when you watch television, you get wrapped up in the visual aspect of the medium. Find a time when they are running some "real life" drama (Cops works best for me) and just listen to the people. Hey! Wow! These people sound soooo real! No announcer voices, and no snappy lines. Just people using incorrect grammar, lots of "ahhs" and "humms." You gotta love it!
You know from just the sound and delivery that these are real people. This is what people really sound like, relaxed and natural. It's real! Listen to the delivery, concentrating only on the audio portion of the television. Why do they sound different, so real?
Now, after a week or so of this, go into the studio and act. Use your body. Clench your teeth. Double over with laughter. Jump up and down. Act it out! When you listen to "real life" television, you can tell when someone smiles. You can tell when someone is uptight or angry. You can tell these things from the voice. We all do it every day. The whole trick of it is to fake it when you need it! Feel it, and you can hear it!