Friday, August 03, 2007

about A. L.

You are reading

I've worked, for many years, as a psychiatric nurse's assistant as an assistant/attendant for the disabled. I'm very comfortable, dealing with people with alternative mental states, disabilities, brain disorders, etc.

I approached you, several months ago, about this project. This was a conversation in your office, and I don't expect you to remember it. So, this is a reminder.

Ali and I had discussed the possibility of a nindependent producer's grant, in order for him, primarily, to produce a program on TBI, with my assistance. He had energy for content, but had no idea how to deal with the technicalities of such a production. He also made it very clear he had no interest in involving himself with UNM HR. He's concerned about the impact a grant would have on his eligibility for human services, disability insurance,etc. I told him I would be willing to executive produce the project, deal with the financial aspects,editing, recording/engineering, etc., if he would actually conduct interviews and establish the contacts. HE has with the TBI community in Albuquerque. We agreed that I would pay him half the IP grant, in exchange for his work. He has never been interested in the money; his primary motivation was the production and its potential educational value.

That part, you knew.

Here's what you didn't know.

I suggested that Ali and I meet, for about two months, every Monday evening at 6pm, at the station, for preproduction meetings. My purpose was to familiarize him with the application process, production requirements, interview skills (we invited Paul Inglesto that particular meeting), and all aspects of how such a program might work.

I had another purpose, as well. I was honest with Ali about this. I wanted an opportunity to assess Ali's capabilities, interests, levels of ability. I wanted to know if he would or could follow through on any aspect of the production, if there might be roadblocks we could overcome to make it happen, and if or whether he really had interest in following through on the project, or was just "pipe dreaming." I did not want to get involved in a cooperative project if it meant my partner could or would not meet his obligations and responsibilities.

Much has changed in Ali's personal life, since we began meeting. He's now involved in Vocational Rehabilitation, where his skills were assessed as he temporarily worked for Goodwill Industries. He will now be given training and employment options, based on their assessment of his skills and limitations. His life is in more serious flux than even he can appreciate, as a result.

In our most recent meeting, he suggested that he cannot be as involved in such a project as he'd previously believed. I found this a relief. Based on my experiences with him over the prior months, I'd concluded that some of his expectations of the project-- and of himself -- might not be realistic. I was planning to have a very uncomfortable (for me, anyway) conversation with him, during that meeting, about what I'd observed from him in the past, two months. Fortunately, he beat me to it, and bowed out of co-producing the project.

We have renegotiated the roles we'll be playing in the production, as a result. He still wants to conduct interviews, when he can. He still wants to provide me with contacts. And he's interested in editing some sound, in order to lay music beds in parts of the piece. But he is no longer interested in producing or directing it. This is totally fine, by me. I can edit interviews into cohesive segments, easily. I can schedule studio time, call interview subjects, investigate the piece, etc. I was pretty much planning on doing all of that,anyway.

Ali's life experience, as a TBI survivor, is important to the production, in my opinion. I'm hoping to contact another KUNM volunteer who survives TBI, as well.

I don't expect anything from Ali. I will use what I can of what he brings to the project, if anything. He can interview; whether he will or not remains to beseen.

As with most of the projects I've produced (with the possible exceptions of radio plays), not much about them looks, in the final production, like the application I put forward to you. Things change, as I contact people who may or may not follow through. I can afford to be flexible. In fact, I find it interesting, to watch a piece I produce begin to evolve over time. It makes for much better radio, than expecting everyone and everything to follow my directions in lock-step. And it's very satisfying, creatively.

Even one of my radio plays evolved in such a way: I had to edit down the original script from nearly 2 hours to 58 min. At first, the play write, who's pretty famous, was miffed and threatened by my editorial decisions. But he came to believe -- and still does -- that my edits actually improved the script. That piece, "Epilogue," is now in the Museum of Radio and Television. I'm pretty damn proud of that.

So, Ali is no danger or threat to the completion of this project. He's an asset to it. Don't worry about how or whether he'll screw it up. He's only interested in producing an educational, evocative, informative piece of radio. He's absolutely not interested in getting in the way of the production, just to salve his own ego.

I picked a good guy to work with. I just need to let him be Ali, and not someone he can't or won't be.

I can do this, with or without his help, support or input. And it'll be good radio.

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