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Charlottes 60 Seconds

by Winn Maddrey

April 9,2010

Today I went to a production house to create a one-minute radio spot for a client. The setup: you have the voice talent across the hall, who gets their own padded room with microphone and headphones and on the other side; while we – the technical supervisor, copywriter/producer and the account rep (me) – sit, listen, coach and review the audio from the talent.  During the process, the talent records several versions of the spot, then we pick the best one, re-cut any portions that need better tone or inflection and then the talent, after 15 minutes or so, departs. Then the three on the other side of the hallway tweak the audio, removing breathing, patching in re-cut versions, and then adding accompaniment to the piece. We try five to six different selections of music, different start melodies, and trim the tracks to fit the piece, then wrap it up. The whole process from start to finish took one and a half hours to produce, or a ratio of 90:1 – 90 minutes of time to produce a single minute ad.

This process started me thinking about how much effort goes into sixty seconds, with the impact yet to be determined. Will the spot garner attention? Will people act? What will the takeaways be? And to think of the amount of time and effort that are poured into this production – at a 90:1 time investment ratio, not including planning and other time involved – that led to today’s studio time.

So what? To me this is akin to the efforts that others invest in their pursuits, personal and professional. And the passion that goes with pursuing dreams. During the winter Olympics I was struck by the sheer determination, endurance and stamina of the biathletes. I was often amazed – and sometimes not – at the luck of the short-track skaters. And the alignment of so many moving parts to form one unit in the four-man bobsled impressed me.

All of this training, what ratio is that? 10,000 to 1? 100,000,000 to 1? More? All of this effort for a shot at seconds, minutes, or accrued points. It’s a huge investment, no doubt. At the same time, the athlete and the voice talent are focused on one thing: the goal in mind. Take focus and add skill, a dash of exertion, a taste of "stick-to-it"-ness, and a dollop of guts, and talent steps up and delivers. Sure, it’s not always the goal, but most efforts are more than worthy.

With this in mind, I transitioned to: what if Charlotte is that voice talent, that Olympic hopeful? What’s our event? What’s our focus? What’s the race worth running?

Not sure those are answerable, yet here are a few ideas to add to the dialogue:

· Could Charlotte be the most art-integrated community in the Southeast, East Coast, U.S.?

· Could Charlotte become a model of how to reform education, make it work for every student and improve test scores?

· Could Charlotte be an example of a community that successfully transitioned from agriculture to industry to financial services to _______________?

· Could Charlotte change the Raleigh-Charlotte dynamic to one of progressive partnership?

· Could Charlotte inspire a community engagement level that embraces, rather than hides, behind neighborhoods and/or fences?

· Could Charlotte be the place in the Southeast where people come to start a new business?

· Could Charlotte escape and redefine the vocabulary that involves comparisons to Atlanta?

· Could Charlotte move to a place where public service, here or in Raleigh, is held in higher regard?

· Can Charlotte find comfort in uncertainty?

There are so many paths that diverge ahead, so many tough paths trod recently, and yet I believe that we are in a great position to be able to forge ahead and create a new space, a place that cherishes the past and embraces the future.

My wife and I have a six-year-old and a seven-year-old. We don’t have that long to make major strides in this community so that their memories of growing up here give them many reasons to want to come back.

What’s your sixty seconds?

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