Production 212: Want to be My Intern?

Production-212-Logo-1By Dave Foxx

This column has been running for over 10 years now. That’s 120+ times I have sat down and spewed a thousand to fifteen hundred words on the pages of Radio And Production Magazine, all in the hope of improving the quality of radio production. In those years, we’ve talked about the two sides of production, the tech and the art. We’ve spent a great deal of time on creativity and the entire thought process that goes into top-notch production. More than once, readers have taken issue with something I said. Even this magazine’s editor complained about my bias toward Pro Tools. (Jerry is a Vegas fan). The point being that this column has been very dynamic, more of a discussion rather than a rigid, one-sided point of view, and I think that is as it should be. I love writing this column.

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks preparing for a new intern named Becca Moore, laying out the things I want to teach her, processing how I want to spin her up into a first class producer. With all of that fresh in my mind, I sat down to write this article and thought, “This intern is going to get all the stuff I’ve been writing and thinking about in RAP Magazine over the last ten years, all wrapped up in a few weeks. How cool is that?” Of course what she’s going to get will be presented in a somewhat linear fashion, unlike what you’ve been getting here. Plus, she has all the advantages of being in a one-on-one situation, so if she struggles with anything, we can always break it down further -- a process that can last minutes. If you struggle with anything I say here, it could take days, or even weeks, to break it down to that level.

Then I had a stray thought: I wonder how many readers would like to be my intern? After I slapped myself for having such a big ego, I decided that maybe it was time to hit the reset button. I’m pretty sure most of you have not read every one of my columns. In fact, I would wager a substantial sum that the vast majority of you have not even read half of them. Rather than have you all order every back issue of RAP Mag (sorry Jerry), I’m going to give you my intern syllabus, serialized over several months.

Yes, if you are one of the exceedingly rare individuals who have read all of my columns, you will see a lot of repeated material. However, it will be presented in a cogent, point A to point B direction, covering everything. And yes, you will find some (perhaps a lot) of the material to be very elementary. But, despite your already vast experience, sometimes it is very beneficial to review some of the things you might take for granted. I can pretty much guarantee that viewed through my prism, those “facts” will look a lot different, and you will likely gain some insights of your own.

By the time we finish with this Intern’s Syllabus, Becca will probably have graduated, but she’s getting me for 4 or 5 hours each session, 3 or 4 times a week, this is still a monthly magazine column. To make this totally work, I need to open our lines of communication, so if you have a question, any question about the material we cover, you need to email me. My address is dave@davefoxx.com. I will answer you directly before the next column is published. Even if it takes two or three exchanges of email, I want to make sure you understand everything before I begin the next phase.

Part of this long-distance course will include a bit of homework for those who want to really get the most of this process. Don’t worry… this entire exercise will be pass/pass. Just reading the column is all I really want you to do. If you do accept the writing and producing homework, it will totally remain between you and me. Nothing will ever be published without your complete permission.

My new intern starts on Monday and frankly, I’m a little nervous. I usually try to do a face-to-face interview with all prospective interns, but Becca lives in Michigan and is going to school in Idaho, so the interview was impractical. Through email, a couple of phone calls and some backchannel chatter with her school, the internship is on and ready to start Monday.

As is almost always the case, she is not majoring in radio production. There are just a handful of places you can even get such a degree. Her major is related though, and over the next several weeks I plan to push her boundaries in radio and teach her how to be more creative. Hopefully, by the time she heads back to the Rockies, she’ll have a better appreciation for our medium. She will most definitely have something nice to add to her CV, including recordings of a promo and several sweepers that have actually run on Z100/New York. Plus, she will also have a letter of recommendation from one of the leading dopes in the industry… uh, me.

One of the ways I always begin an internship is to challenge the intern’s understanding of what radio is, how it is used and why it is still a viable medium, in spite of it being periodically assaulted by the latest, greatest craze in mass communications. I will break down what we do into its component parts, analyze what makes each work and then rebuild them into a personal model that will serve the intern throughout his/her career.

Finally, we will tackle the toughest part of what we do, being creative. Creativity is the lynchpin of great radio. This is why I spend so much time talking about it here. Having mad skills on Audition® or Pro Tools® will cover a lot of ground in radio, but it’s what one does with those skills that make radio so resilient. Using those skills to craft messages that inspire and move people to do something beyond the obvious is what makes a truly great producer. It’s true in any field. A good photographer is completely at home with f-stops, focal lengths and shutter speeds. A great photographer knows how to use those things to communicate on a completely emotional level. A good cook knows his or her way around sauces and seasoning, skewers and saucepans and can make most anything without setting fire to the kitchen. A great chef can make the palate cry out with pleasure.

When Becca leaves Manhattan she will have a lot of experience in production. She’ll know the difference between level and gain, when hi-pass or comb filters are appropriate, and she’ll be able to build a session from scratch and deliver the final mix. More importantly, regardless of whether she ever opens another session, she will have a good understanding of the process of creativity, allowing her to challenge the mundane in any field she decides to go into.

When you and I finish this Intern’s Syllabus, you will be in the same position as Becca, or even better. Hopefully, you’ll know more about your own strengths and weaknesses and we can then really get to work on making you a superstar of production.

My sound this month is a lot of fun. It’s the latest “Benchmark Image Promo” for Z100, highlighting one feature on each of the four main dayparts. Phone Taps in the morning, a noon countdown show, a 100-minute commercial free segment in the afternoon and the countdown feature at night. My favorite part is a total non sequitur. I’m sure you’ll spot it. I laugh every time I hear it.

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