Production 212: Pay It Forward

Production-212-Logo-1By Dave Foxx

I’ve been stewing about this month’s column for several months now, mainly because it’s about something that really needs saying, and I’ve been trying to come up with just the right way to say it. A couple of emails, both in response to my last column, “Sex And Production,” finally got the ball rolling. For that I give a big thank you to Matt Damrow at Entercom/Denver and Robbie Green, an engineer with Cumulus in Midland/Odessa, Texas.

Robbie reminded me that I’ve been doling out free advice for several years now. In fact, it was 12 or 13 years ago that he and I had a regular email dialogue going about his production skills and whether he should pursue a career in production. He even began his email with the statement that “…this email is probably going to make you feel a bit old.” He was right. It did…a little. Of course, it didn’t help that it was early on a Monday morning when I got his email and I always feel old, early on Mondays.

Matt’s email reminded me of why I give free advice to people like Robbie, all the time – mainly to give back to an industry that has been extremely good to me. It’s also to help make up for the absolute lack of information out there about how to do what we all so brilliantly do, week after week. Is there any producer out there who had a ready reference to the finer points of EQ and compression? I think not. To this day, I feel obligated to do a ton of research on every topic I discuss here each month, simply because I still don’t know everything there is to know.

But, my main reason is to Pay It Forward. If you haven’t seen the movie with that title, you owe it to yourself to rent it. It’s a story about a young boy (Haley Joel Osment) who decides he wants to make the world a better place after his teacher (Kevin Spacey) gives him an assignment to think of something to change the world and put it into action. His idea is to do a something nice for three people with the idea that they NOT pay him back, but do completely new favors for three new people. It ends up changing the lives of his teacher, a drug addict (James Caviezel) and his mother (Helen Hunt.) Jon Bon Jovi even puts in a really nice small appearance as his abusive father. It’s a movie that can make a profound difference in your relationships, especially the important ones, if you let it.

This movie had a very strong impact on my life because of something I learned from my mother when I was still in High School. She was an actress. According to some, she could have been an immensely popular actress had she decided to pursue that career. At one point, I’ve been told, she had pen in hand, ready to sign a contract with one of the major Hollywood studios, when she decided she wanted to raise a family outside that industry. Naturally, she ended up doing a lot of community theater work as my brother, sister and I grew up. She was amazing to watch on stage, but even more amazing to watch as she would work with other actors to improve their performances. I clearly remember the day when she was rehearsing A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee at the Scott Theater in Fort Worth, Texas. One of her co-stars was having a difficult time crying on cue, and she took her aside and talked with her for a few minutes. The very next run-through, the woman amazed everyone on the set as she simply turned on the spigot – on-cue – and cried her eyes out. Once the applause died down, she stood up and thanked my mother in front of everyone saying, “How can I ever repay you?” Quietly, my mother smiled and said, “Some day, some young actor is going to have a problem that you can solve. Give the help freely and consider your debt to me paid.”

So let me dedicate this column to the late Al Casey and Walt Soper, J. R. Nelson and Eric Chase. Each of them has taught me invaluable lessons about production that you won’t find in any textbook. There are others, to be sure, including many of you dear readers, who have shown me dozens of new and wonderful ways to do things. This column is my way of Paying It Forward. Jerry Vigil, I owe you a special debt of gratitude for giving me this forum to do it in every month.

With that, let me make another payment on my debt with a quick tip I recently picked up from Doc Adams at KHPT/Houston, who also images KKBQ, the Cox Country outlet there. I’m always looking for new and better ways to make the listener a part of the equation, and I think Doc hit upon the perfect solution. Now, before you hit play on your CD player, let me say that I’ve heard similar ideas before, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone allow the listener to take ownership of the station the way Doc did. Now, put on your Tony Lama boots and hit play.

Isn’t that just plain brilliant? Ginger’s New 93Q just does it for me. For those who aren’t regular subscribers, (c’mon, pony up so you can get the CD every month!) a quick explanation: Doc had “Ginger,” who is probably one of the women working there in the office, explain how she would program a country station if she had the chance. She’d name an artist and a hook would play, then she’d say, “I’m just crazy about Jason Aldean, so I’d put some of him on too.” Then, finally, at the end, she says “Ginger’s New 93 Q.” My hat is off to you Doc! (It’s a Stetson, naturally.)

Lot of words here for one silly little tip, but I had to say it all. Next time, I’ll explain less and give more. K?

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