by Dennis Daniel
Who would have ever thunk it! This wacky, silly profession of ours actually can be a breeding ground for young talent to expand, grow, get better than we ever were, and far surpass us in the future, leaving a pile of dust in our face as they ascend to the stratosphere of success!
I've seen it happen.
You ever get those "all I do is sell people crap they don't want" blues? Those times when you look at what you're doing with your life and think the key word is "waste?" After selling, selling, selling" all day long...(which pretty much equates to "lying, lying, lying" all day long) you can sometimes feel like a really low-life human being. It's at times like these that I grab for something that will perk me up, something that will make me feel like my life has more purpose then telling people where to go to buy shoes, something that makes me feel like I'm passing on a bit of myself to benefit mankind. In other words, turning other unsuspecting human beings, younger than I, into perverse, grotesque carbon copies of myself, newly transformed creatures who have been purposely and maniacally trained to become the future purveyors of commercial and promotional audio stimulation.
Thank the Lord for "Interns" and "Assistants." They're so starry eyed, aren't they? Oooooo...I just LOVE IT! "Teach me, o Jedi Mixmaster! Enlighten me as to the ways of the mic. Transform my dull life into an audio jubilee of joy!"
Hey, no problem.
I love to find new talent. I think back to the days when I was young, pimply, and restless...and allowed myself to fall under the wing of others who taught me the way. Now, here I am passing on the sickness. The way I see it, it's my responsibility.
Take Gabrielle for example. Gabrielle is my new assistant. I found her one night at WBAB, my old alma mater AOR where I do a Sunday night shift. She was board-opping their AM station. We kinda met each other, said, "Hi, how are ya," and left it at that. Then, one evening, she stumbled in on me teaching one of my students and became transfixed. She watched, mouth agape, as I rattled off commercials and wrote one in particular right before her eyes in about two minutes. She had "the look," that one-of-a-kind expression that says, "I want this to be my life. Teach me...teach me...TEEEAACCHHHH MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!"
In short order I discovered that Gabrielle (who is a mere eighteen years of age, folks) has been blessed with natural talent. This is, indeed, a rare phenomenon. The girl can cut spots with a beautiful, natural reading quality that takes others years to cultivate. She has the ability to pick up on what she's taught with speed and agility. She is to the manor born. And yet, she is a kinda blank canvas, a computer that has a lot of space on the hard drive, but needs lots of software to make her a super computer. That's where I come in.
I love working with Gabrielle. She reminds me so much of me, it's weird! I also got started when I was eighteen, so you can see why I'm intrigued. I guess it's just human nature to want to be around someone who is sucking up everything you've got to give them like a sponge. It makes you feel like you've done something with your life, that you actually have a skill that can be taught and learned. What can I say? It's very...uh..."refreshing?" So often in our business we're left to our own devices, alone in that box, talking to ourselves all day. Now, with Gabrielle, I have someone sitting in the box with me who loves what she's doing as much as I do. Pretty soon, she'll be off on her own, sitting in her own little box slowly losing her mind like us! Cool.
Let's get back to Gabrielle's natural ability. I asked her to write a commercial for a very big and important client. She looked at me with her puppy dog eyes and said, "But Dennis, I'm not a good writer." "Bah!" said I, "I know you have it in you!" So, I gave her the copy facts, walked away, and hoped for the best! Can you guess? The spot was great! It was funny, to the point, and right on the money. We called the client; they loved it! What a thrill it was for me to see the look of pride on her face, a look that was mixed with bewilderment because Gabrielle, like all of us creative types, finds it hard to believe that anyone likes anything we do. This client approving what she wrote proved to her that I wasn't the only one giving her praise. Someone was willing to pay for her talent. Isn't that what it's all about?
She really cracks me up when it comes to proving to her she has talent. One day, I heard a read she did on WBAB for a huge supermarket chain and, once again, I marveled at her smooth delivery and selling ability. Naturally, when I told her how much I loved the read, she hit me with, "Ahhh, get outta here! It sucked!" As fate would have it, WBAB's Operations Manager, Eric Wellman (aka "The Big E"), walked in the room and said exactly the same thing I said about the spot...word for freakin' word. I proceeded to beat the crap out of Gabrielle saying, "See! See! I told you, you shmuck! I'm not the only one!!! SMACK! JAB! KICK!!" She laughed heartily. Whether she believes either of us, I haven't a clue. But hey, I've been doing this for almost twenty years, and I still say the same thing when I'm complemented, "Ahhh, get outta here! That sucked!"
You see, she's got the routine down already. Always deny your greatness. Be humble. Then, in the privacy of your own room, look yourself in the mirror and say, "Oh, you genius, you!"
What's the point of all this? It's fun to work with a rising star. You can see a lot of your past in the present, and together, become a part of each other's future. I like having Gabrielle around. She gives me faith in myself, as well as a chance to pass along something to someone who will hold it as dear to their heart as I hold it to mine...the gift of creativity.
And so I say unto you, go out there and get yourself a Gabrielle or two! Pass it on, gang. Pass it on!