The title “producer” is pretty nebulous to anyone who isn’t already a radio producer.
Broadway producers are not like TV or movie producers, and music producers aren’t like radio producers, even though we have some things in common. I’ve already blogged before about what exactly it is that I do as a producer at KNOM, but what I didn’t explain was how my job shape-shifts according to the seasons.
For the last few weeks the programming department has been in Christmas-prep mode. Kelly, our brave and fearless leader, took us out for coffee one day so we could brainstorm and figure out what to do. December is a very busy time for us second-floor folk and it takes organization and teamwork to get everything done. But, oh wait, that’s right, only one individual can accomplish the biggest task of the season.
This year, I am that person.
The annual KNOM Christmas radio drama is a long-standing tradition that goes back to KNOM’s first Christmas in 1971. Our radio dramas are pretty popular in the region. I get calls in the mornings from listeners asking when we’re going to start playing them already. Every year volunteers write, voice, and produce a radio drama in-house, though in recent years this task has fallen more and more in the laps of our producers.
Through the month of December, we air as many of our past radio dramas as we can, from the oldest to the newest. Some of them are heartfelt, some are silly, some are both. The one I wrote last year, “The Elements of Christmas,” will play the day before Christmas. This year’s will debut on Christmas day.
The thing about producing a KNOM radio drama is that it’s impossible for one person to do everything, but for the piece to sound cohesive, someone has to have their hand in every step of the process. It’s kind of like being a film auteur: you have writers, actors, technicians, a crew, but in the end the project looks like one person did it all. The director has final say and everyone else is there to help achieve the director’s vision. Think of Hitchcock, or any Hitchcock movie you’ve ever seen. If you didn’t know who Hitchcock was, could you watch his movies and know they were all made by the same person?
Yes, auteur theory is flawed, and no, I am not Hitchcock, but ideally when people listen to the final radio drama they will say, “Yes, that sounds like Daynee.”
I remember one of my college professors once described me as a “mood writer.” I start with what I want my story to feel like and then I fill in the plot. That helps a lot writing for radio, since your audience relies on you to set a scene when they can’t physically see the story in front of them.
This whole process can be a little alienating, especially the writing. Writing is a lonely job. It requires you to remove yourself from your surroundings and put yourself in another world, one that you are creating, one that people will eventually see and judge based on their personal taste.
Last year we got lucky. Lucus – the other volunteer producer at the time – and I practically shared a brain. (Think Coen Brothers collaborations as opposed to Hitchcock). We worked together on the radio drama and won a Communicator Award for it. This year I am writing the script, casting it, recording it, and mixing it myself. I am assigning voice editing, cuts, sound effects and some music cues to other people, but it’s my job to piece everything together and have it ready by Christmas. Generations of volunteers have had this task before me and now it’s my turn to take the lead in such a major project.
On the side, Tara and I are still writing and producing spots for the station, hosting The Morning Show, cooking up a storm on Breakfast Wednesdays, and awaiting entries for our Children’s Creative Writing Contest (oh, that’s right. I spent some time this month fundraising for prizes). I have put my World Music Project on hold until after the holidays because, hey, there are only so many hours in the day.
If this sounds stressful, well, it is. But the thing is, I love what I do so much that the hard work doesn’t matter too much to me. I am lucky to work in a creative environment where my boss disapproves of me working over time and encourages me to take care of myself. I studied writing, literature, and music in college. What were the odds that I’d find a job that required me to use all of these skills?
Sorry, stress. Go away, it’s Christmastime. Come back for New Years when it’s time to freak out about the future again. Right now I need to focus.