The Producers

By Albert Berkshire

The other day I was involved in a brief discussion with another writer about maintaining a healthy relationship with your producer. Well, that discussion, brief as it was (about the length of a king-size cigarette), got me thinking about how I approach my day to day life as Creative Director.

First off, I have to admit that having two full-time producers, plus a floater utility guy (for three stations) at my disposal is a true luxury. These producers, who produce for three writers, two Program Directors, and a Promotions and Marketing Manager, are always busy.

That is one of the key things as Creative Director I acknowledge…they are busy. But it doesn’t dismiss the fact that advertisers want to be on the air “yesterday,” and the product has to kick ass. So, I make every effort to give the producers as much lead-time as possible, without rushing the writing and jeopardizing the final product.

Direction is the biggest help you can give to your producer. Freedom to “wow you” is the second most important. I have on several occasions written a script with the only instructions attached (apart from the music selection and voice talent requested) is “GO MAD!” I don’t think there is a producer out there that doesn’t love the opportunity to take ownership of a project. Just like we writers, the producers have things on their mind that they want to try, sound effects they’ve stumbled upon they want to use, and voice effects they know will stand out.

“Standing” out is another thing my relationship with the producer utilizes. Apart from writing (collectively as a writing team) almost everything (for local clients) that is on the air, it’s the producer who knows what’s being used creatively by the PDs and Promotions Department. While we share our information, neither the other writers nor I have the time to listen to everything on the air at every given moment of a day. The solidity of the relationship with the producers is essential to ensuring there is a collection of distinct commercials, all fitting into the format of the stations. Having three stations under the one roof is a lot to track. I rely on my producers to tell me if a piece is too similar to existing creative.

After a while the producers learn your way of thinking. They understand your use of instruction. It’s a survival method for their workday; after all, they don’t want to reproduce the com-mercial…or the whole campaign for that matter. Take into account the number of people for whom they are producing (six in our operation), and you have to be confidant in their abilities, not only as a producer (that’s never questioned), but as a communicator and interpreter. They decode so much instruction in a day it would make any spy organization envious. Just like me as a writer, the producers love to have as much information to work with as possible. I find when they know what you want and they understand your way of thinking, you are an unstoppable team. And as always, I tell them when a last minute is coming. I know before I start to write it, so I let them know what can be pre-empted and what has to be finished ASAP.

My advise as a writer, producer, voice talent and manager? Talk with your producer. You may have nothing in common (actually impossible for people in radio), but there is a need to appreciate those who come in early and stay late. They are your last line of defense. They may not always get the joke or like the music bed, but they can turn a “client hacked” script into a golden egg. Every once in a while let them go wild; you’ll get something you never even thought about. Tell them when the client liked, loved or hated the commercial; but always tell them why. Don’t BS them. They’re not your producers because they failed the Bar exam or were stoned during the S.A.Ts (well that one could be true). They’re your producers because they have a true talent for producing, a keen sense of attention to detail, and a love for radio.

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