by Sterling Tarrant
Last month, we asked Program Directors what they looked for in a good Production Director. Here are some more of their responses, once again, obvious answers that shed new light on our jobs and provide a checklist to see if we're the best we can be at our jobs. If what you do matches up with these responses, take heart; you are something to be valued.
Jim Hampton, Program Director, KKIQ-FM, Pleasanton, CA: Well, of course, the first thing I look for is creativity. But then, of course, to go along with that I look for someone who is extremely organized. In our situation here, the Production Director, besides assigning and doing production, also has to keep track of where everything is in the loop. Extremely organized on the verge of anal retentive is what I look for in a Production Director. And they have to be three quarters crazy to want to do all that work for what they're paid. We're lucky to have a real good Production Director (Mark Davis), and I plan on hanging on to him.
Randy McCarten, Operations Director, WIIL-FM/WLIP-AM, Kenosha, WI: I think writing skills are the most important thing that you can get out of a Production Director. They need to be able to handle stress and all kinds of personalities as well. Also, they need to be a good delegator because no matter how good you are and how fast you are, you can't handle it all yourself. We're not necessarily looking for someone who can do a thousand voices, just a real natural delivery that fits the type of station we are. If they can do different styles and characters, that's an added bonus, but it's not necessarily what makes a good Production Director. One other thing that's important for a Production Director and that's for them to be able to teach the staff and bring them up to the "next level."
David Pierce, Program Director of the K-LOVE Radio Network, Nashville, TN: I do think that with production there are certain things that you can learn. Seeing things in the big picture is one. I look for a Production Director who can see production in layers. You have to look at each part. You look at how writing, voicing, and producing can come together to get a particular point across. At the same time, while you need to know how to bring all your resources together to create the best production you can, you have to balance that with the limited amount of time that you have to do production on a daily basis.
We look for vocal ability as well. We hire out a lot of voices, so our Production Director has to bring to the table certain qualities that will set the station apart. When I say vocal ability, it's really understanding communication. For us, it's someone who can deliver the read in a real and natural way and have the ability to really bring the copy to life.
Technical ability and a multitrack mind-set are also important. Most of us started layering audio on cart machines and cassette decks and 2-tracks. Then we moved to 4-tracks and 8-tracks, and so on. In that realm there was almost a forced learning of how to blend elements to make something come together. I think there really is a mind-set that comes from that, and that mind-set is one of the most important things in a Production Director. A lot of people can get up to speed pretty quickly on a piece of gear, but finding a person who has the understanding of what's critical in building a spot or promo is probably the biggest hurdle.
Tom Richards, Operations Manager, KRTS-FM, Houston, TX: I look for someone who is good with the details, someone who will worry about the details so that I don't have to. Also, I look for someone who has a big picture view of the radio station, someone who understands the role that the production department plays between programming, sales, and promotions, and how in a way the production department ties them all together. And, also, someone who can deal with the sales department, deal with clients, and who's got a cool head as far as that goes.
I look for someone who is literate, who can write, who can organize their ideas well into thirty or sixty seconds. Beyond that, someone with some versatility in terms of how they approach production, someone who can give you wild and zany production and then turn around and give you a concert spot with a lot of needle drops or a sincere soft sell, someone who doesn't give you the same type of production or promo every time.
I'd say that the good Production Director can come up with these killer ideas and can brainstorm all day long. At the same time, they can turn around and be a bean counter and understand the dollars and cents in sales and the importance of keeping track of everything in traffic, a combination right brain/left brain person. Because of that, I think good Production Directors are hard to find and should probably be a little more valued at radio stations than they are.
Right brained, left brained, bird brained. We're all of that. Hey, that reminds me. Pick up a book called Jump Start Your Brain by Doug Hall. You can often find it in the Business or Marketing section of your favorite bookstore. Doug talks about how to become a "trained brain" creatively speaking. Since I started this column with trains on the brain, I guess I've come full circle and this is a good place to quit. Until next month remember...you are your station's value priced leader.