Production 212: Balancing Karma

Production-212-Logo-1By Dave Foxx

I’m a very lucky man for a lot of reasons. First, my wife actually agreed to marry me, in spite of everything she knew. Second, I’ve been gainfully employed, doing something I really love at the world’s best, and arguably biggest radio station, for over 16 years. Lastly, according to my doctor, I just hit on 10-thousand-to-one odds with surgery for cancer. (It was totally benign.) I figure my chances of ever winning the lottery just dropped to zero. Having said all that, I feel an absolute need to pass along at least a small piece of my good fortune. Since this is a forum for radio production, I’ll confine my advice to that area. (Besides, I still haven’t figured out why my wife said yes.)

So how to pass along some of my production karma has become one of my driving urges for the last few years, and aside from writing this column, the best means I have found is with internships. Now, at most radio stations, internships are a stint of filing papers, fixing coffee and otherwise doing “busy work” in the hopes that something about production will seep into the intern’s mind. A lot of interns are willing to put up with this because having the station’s call letters on their resume will look good. What a huge waste of time and energy, for everyone.

I require a bit more than being able to brew a killer cup of java. Before they leave, all my interns are required to produce at least one promo from scratch that actually airs on Z100. Along with that comes a number of other responsibilities, all designed to make sure that the intern walks away with some real knowledge of both the science and the art of image work.

Hopefully, the student will come to the table with at least some of the science already under his or her belt. A working knowledge of digital editing (preferably Pro Tools) and a good grasp of the English language are two of the skills I really want in an intern. Other things would include some technical understanding of music and sound, but these can be taught as we go.

So what does an intern do at Z100? Well, last week, we wrapped up the internship of Brian Fitzsimmons who is now going into his junior year at St. Bonaventure in Olean, New York. (It’s up near Buffalo.) He turned out to be one of the top two interns I’ve had the pleasure of working with over my long career. (Brian Mack, from Cornell was the other and he’s already created quite a name for himself in the business.) No… I don’t require that an intern sport the name Brian, it just worked out that way.

In the weeks Fitz was here, he made a huge impact on Z100. He ended up producing several one-hour shows called “Reality Radio.” He produced the promos for the show. (You’ll find one on this month’s RAP CD.) Plus he produced a daily promo for the “Interactive 9@9.” (You’ll find one of these on the CD too.) I think you’ll agree that his work is as good as it gets.

Now, Fitz is back in upstate New York jocking and producing for Star 105-7/Binghamton, wondering what he’ll do for a summer internship next year. Frankly, I think he’s ready to jump into the business, but he’s intent on finishing his degree (NOT in Radio/Television) and completing the learning process — exactly the right thing to do.

How much impact did I have on Brian? Probably not as much as I’d like to think, because he brought a lot to the table to begin with, but I’m still proud to have had a part in his education. He wanted to know how he could ever repay me, and I told him this: “Someday, when you’re a superstar in this business, some kid is gonna come to you asking for help. You will give it, gladly. You will do everything you can to help him or her achieve greatness.” He said he would.

I think he will.