I have said on more than one occasion that everything I needed to learn about television, television production, and the TV world, I learned in radio. While tongue in cheek, it’s actually very true. I started out as a board operator on the overnights at a radio station in Southwest Florida. It was the graveyard shift, and when I say overnights, I mean you get in at 10 o’clock at night, you essentially babysit the station to make sure that the entire station doesn’t go down for any crazy reason. At eight in the morning, you’re done. So around this time I met my first mentor, his name was Nick, and Nick had a unique way of looking at things. So the first thing he sees is this kid who comes in the whole overnight, and then I’m waiting for him and then I stick around, and he liked it. He liked seeing someone interested, and I genuinely was, I mean, for me, radio was, entertainment or the closest I was going to get to the entertainment business, if you will. TV, at that time, was so far away from my thinking. What he did was he started showing me little by little all that went into making these things, writing scripts, voicing them, sound effects, producing it. In those days we used cool edit, today it’s, Adobe audition.
One day he said to me “Hey, do you know how to write a radio commercial?” I said, “Well, who doesn’t? How hard could it possibly be?” You have to know the location, whatever you’re going to be selling, and some catchy phrases, right? Everybody thinks what I thought, but the truth was he said, “When you’re writing a radio script, you’re telling a story…” That was something I keyed in on because, in another universe, I wanted to be a comic book artist. So I learned a lot about the business and part of that was telling stories through pictures, a skill set that serves me well even todayl. I suddenly realized that storytelling regardless of medium, is really all the same thing.
Mind you, it’s radio, so it was a 60 second chunk or 30 second chunk, but you essentially have a character, they need a thing. You go through the threads or the plot of what’s going on, and at the end of the day, there’s a resolution of some sort. So it has all the basic elements of an actual story. Then, it becomes a matter of being able to use those things, make them engaging, make them interesting. Then on top of that, being able to produce or create, we called it, theater of the mind, because essentially, since you’re in radio, it’s all audio. People listening in their cars, so you had to use sound effects as a way of playing the whole thing off and really portray it. So it was never just voice music and done. Those I think are honestly the first steps or pieces of what would eventually become my understanding of how to tell stories. So yeah, again, everything I needed to learn about the TV business, I really believe the foundations were laid back then when I was doing radio.