Monday, August 22, 2011

More Energy

I didn't grow a legion of 4 readers and achieve 13 page hits a day by not doing my homework. Oh no. I study the Google analytics, pore over the charts and confibulate the html seo-optimized flik-flks to get a clear picture of my audience, their preferences and their hot buttons.

Did you know that my Filthy Cock posting on April 20 is still one of the most read pieces? So I'm well aware of your prurient inclinations.

The postings that bring second highest traffic are usually stories about advertising. That's no surprise either since many of you are friends and colleagues hoping I'll dish some dirt and name some names. Of course, that's not going to happen but I do like to skate perilously close to the edge.

Years ago, I was hired to write a radio campaign for a Mexican restaurant. After dozens and dozens of scripts, I got a call from the Creative Director. He liked one direction in particular and sold the idea to his client over the phone. Great, I thought. (Though in reality as a freelancer you'd like the client to keep rejecting the work so you can ride the day-rate gravy train.) Nevertheless it's always a good feeling to sell some work.

Then he surprised me with another tidbit. He wanted me to produce the spots. Great, I thought, because, I like to have control over my own work. Not so great when I heard the client will be at the voice over recording session.

That's where this train went off the tracks.

In general clients don't have a healthy understanding of production. Hell, I didn't feel comfortable with it until I had been on the job for 7-8 years. And this client, let's call her Ms. Shitforbrains, was no exception.

With every successive take she would ask, "Can she read it with more energy?" She could but that wouldn't make it better I replied. By Take 21, she stopped asking me to relay the direction and grabbed the box that allows the engineer to talk to the talent and shouted, "THIS TIME, MORE ENERGY!!!"

Apart from her unprofessional demeanor, this client was completely unsophisticated. Asking for "more energy" is perhaps the least constructive direction one could possibly give a performer. It is, as my friend Claudia puts it, "the last refuge of an idiot."

The two-hour voice over session turned into a six-hour battle. Fatigued and at my wit's end, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Upon my return I saw something I had never ever seen before. The client took my momentary exit as her cue to leave the engineer's room and enter the recording booth, where she literally gave the talent a line by line reading of how she wanted the spot to sound.

When it was done, the engineer played back her 60 seconds of non-stop, highly ENERGETIC screaming into the microphone. The client, quite pleased with herself, turned to me and said,
"what do you think?"

"Perfect," I said, "just perfect."


geo said...

I had pretty much the same experience recording some spots for a major telco.

I couldn't make the announcer gush enough to please the client.

Ultimately, they had someone else re-record the spots.

Taste is such a liability in this business.

John Maxham said...

Ha! Rich, your storytelling is so vivid I almost feel like I know this woman.

Last I heard, she'd become a voice coach working on Dora The Explorer.