by Don May
I recently attended Dan O'Day's and Dick Orkin's "International Radio Creative and Voiceover Summit" in L.A. with many of you, and, of course, the Summit was excellent. Of course, Dan and Dick really gave us our money's worth. Of course, we learned a lot. But the one thing that really sticks with me is a sense of..."Identity" (dare I say?) amongst the attendees. Am I the only one who felt it? Could be. I don't really get out much and "Mingle," but I guess that's my point: Not many Production Directors do (at least not the ones I've known or have read about). We're perfectly content to be left alone in a windowless room for ten-plus hours at a time taking "Incoming" from all departments at the station, perfectly happy to leave all of that "Glory" in Radio to the jocks, just for the chance to make... commercials? What is wrong with us? When I tell non-radio people that I worked at Blah Blah Blah and was a "jock," I get their attention. Tell them you made the commercials and they think you probably cleaned the toilets as well. I'm serious! (Bare with me while I make analogies and tell stories. Dan O'Day told many at the Summit, and man, I loved those stories. Dick was having his patience tested.) "Production Director" is about the most un-glamorous position in the on-air chain that there is. So why do it?
I talked extensively with a lot of people at the Summit, great people like Greg Schweizer from Huntington, N.Y., Ross McIntyre of 100.3 "The Q" in Victoria, B.C. Canada (Ross confided to us at dinner one night that it was very unlike him to be as "social" as he was...well, I know I was thinking the same thing about myself), Garry "D" of KISS FM in Dallas, TX, Randy (I'm so bad with names) "Mr. Un-Stumpable" when it comes to music trivia (great song parody comes to mind using "Unforgettable"..."Un-Stumpable...that's what you are...") and Kathy Morgan of KOSP in Springfield, MO (who suggested that I write this article), etc., etc., excellent and skilled talent from across the country and the world. It wasn't the "Gripe-a-thon" of a bunch of haggard Prod People that you might think it would be, as we know about the stress factor involved in production and how no one really seems to know what goes on in that radio biosphere known as the production room. But, rather, I found a lot of very friendly, serious radio people who love their work and wouldn't trade the stuffy prod room for the PM drive slot, people who have the temperament to be "Switzerland" (as Kathy Morgan puts it)...the calm and levelheaded mediator between the often chaotic departments at the station.
Meeting all of these people was like..."seeing an old friend." Cliche, but true. And I tell you, radio production people are GREAT people--kind, considerate, intelligent, creative, patient and down to earth. No out of control egos, no glory seekers and no stand-off-ishness. I definitely sensed that something was up after the first day, and the only conclusion that I can arrive at is this: There is a "production personality" type. I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but I think it's a good one (of course I do, what else would I think?). Dan and Dick have touched on something more than just a workshop here. Half of the people there were Production Directors. If you exhibit the following traits, I advise you consider going to the next Summit.
1. Finding (or creating) a music bed that happens to punch your copy at strategically perfect points excites you the way other people get excited about Friday Night
2. You love the smell of "Head cleaner" in the morning
3. You subscribe to the philosophy "The more buttons, the better"
4. You refer to the equipment in the production room as "Your" equipment
5. You get to work during the midday shift and go home with the over-nighters
6. You find yourself listening more for the "Breaks" than you listen for the music
7. You aspire to produce at least 15,000 commercials alone before you retire (think about it...3 completely new, from-the-ground-up commercials a day, 250 days a year for 20 years...to quote the California State Lottery campaign slogan..."It's doable")
8. You can spot a particular company's production library music under a TV commercial (and name the cut)
9. You've met the other people at the radio station, but you've never really had a chance to "get to know them"
10. When R.A.P. comes in the mail, you jump around like Steve Martin in "The Jerk"..."The new R.A.P. Magazine is here, the new R.A.P. Magazine is here!!"
Yeah, you know what I mean. You really do have to be crazy (in a good way) to do this job. And if you've been wondering if you're all alone in your little world, loving that goofy production gig, breathe easy. "La follie des deux" (The folly of two) as the French say, you've found your fellow nut in a fellow Production Director. See you at the funny farm.